Episode 71: Hierarchy of Angels

This week, we cover things that Amanda loves: angels, organization, and of course, so many eyes. Just. All the eyes. We wax poetic about how the Fast and Furious franchise is clearly an act of God, comment on how Latin is nearly always better untranslated, and ask what the deal is with sceptres, really?



RXBAR: Get 25% off your first order at RXBAR.com/spirits by entering promo code “spirits” at checkout!


Find Us Online

If you like Spirits, help us grow by spreading the word! Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, & Goodreads, and review us on Apple Podcasts to help new listeners find the show. You can support us on Patreon to unlock bonus audio content, director’s commentaries, custom recipe cards, and so much more. Merch is for sale at spiritspodcast.com/merch.


Amanda: Welcome to Spirits Podcast, episode 71, Hierarchy of Angels. Cool title, or coolest title?

Julia: Pretty cool title, if I do say so myself. I did name this episode, so it's a little braggy.

Amanda: I think you did a great job, especially right after Easter-

Julia: And passover.

Amanda: ... where our family tradition- and passover. Absolutely. Middle of passover, I guess. But we talk lots and lots about angels on Easter. And I was just thinking about gigantic spheres full of eyes.

Julia: Lots of wheels full of eyes. Yeah, that's a thing.

Amanda: Yeah. It'll make sense. But first, do you know who has exactly the right number of eyes, Julia?

Julia: I would say that it's our new patrons.

Amanda: Our new patrons. Thank you and welcome to Kayla, Sarah, Charlene, and Jenny. And thank you so, so much to our supporting producer-level patrons: Neil, Philip, Julie, Sarah, Christina, Josh, Eyore, Maria, Cami, Lindsay, Ryan, Shelby, Lynn, Mercedes, Phil and Deborah.

Julia: You guys are amazing. And you do have the right amount of eyes. You also have the coolest title that God could have possibly given you, which is supporting-producer patrons.

Amanda: And thank you, as always, to our legend-level patrons, who get physical stuff from us every single month: Buggy, Sandra, Ashley Marie, Leanne, Shannon, Cassie and Ashley.

Julia: Y'all are great. You're gonna like this month's, I think. I'm pretty ... I think it's pretty cool. I would get excited about getting it in the mail. So, we'll see.

Amanda: I know. Normally we don't sort of order extras of the things that we get for our patrons. But this month, Julia was like, "We want extras, right?" I was like, "Yes. We want extras."

Julia: I was like, "So, we're getting this. I'm gonna order like four extra." And you're like, "Yes, perfect. Awesome. Sounds good."

Amanda: Worth it. Worth it. Write it off on the taxes. Jules, what were we drinking this episode for our angelic chorus of semi-horrifying, semi-interesting information?

Julia: I went a little blasphemous. And we drank some red wine, because the blood of God and stuff.

Amanda: I don't know. I found it funny.

Julia: I hope so. I hope no one's offended by that. But it is what it is.

Amanda: And to pair with your red wine, if you need a little bit of snack before you record your podcast, we are fortunate this week to be sponsored by RX Bar. They are wonderful whole food protein bars, and they are offering Spirit's listeners 25 percent off your first order at rxbar.com/spirits, with the promo code 'spirits' at check out.

Julia: Yeah, get that good, good snack on.

Amanda: Also, if you've listened to every episode of Spirits, and we love you for that, thank you for that.

Julia: You're the best.

Amanda: But you still need to fill your podcast queue. You have so much time to spend, and not enough podcasts to listen to. Why don't you check out Multitude, our production company? Yeah. If you go to multitude.productions, you will have links to all of our shows, to Spirits, to Waystation, our Lost Girl fancast; to Join The Party, our Dungeons and Dragons improvised storytelling show; and to Potterless, where our friend Mike, a 25 year old man, reads Harry Potter for the very first time.

Julia: Yes. It's very funny. And Amanda and I have both guest starred on it before. Not to brag, but people tend to say that we're their favorite co-hosts, guest hosts, what have you.

Amanda: Yeah. You can listen to our episodes, and then all of the other episodes, and tell us that you prefer us. That would be a great tweet for us to get.

Julia: Yes. We would appreciate that because we always rub it in each other's faces when someone tweets about us individually.

Amanda: Yeah. It's super fun. And that link to multitude.productions is in the episode description of this podcast, or that's the URL. So you can just go on into your pod-catcher, click on our little author name list, it's Multitude, and you'll get there.

Julia: And with that, I hope that you enjoy this episode; Spirits Podcast, episode 71, Hierarchy of Angels.

[Theme music]

Julia: So Amanda, I've been listening to a lot of our recent episodes, and also, you know, we've recorded them and stuff.

Amanda: Okay.

Julia: And I've noticed that you and I have been talking a lot about what our personal religious background and stuff is.

Amanda: Yeah, it comes up.

Julia: Yeah, it comes up quite a bit, and I realize that not everyone has that shared experience that we do, so what I wanted to talk about today, and I think is going to be a really interesting topic, is I want to talk about angels.

Amanda: Oh.

Julia: And, specifically, the Hierarchy of Angels.

Amanda: Angels are buck-wild?

Julia: Yeah.

Amanda: And I want to know everything that you know about them.

Julia: I'm 100% gonna tell you everything I know about them, that's what I'm here for my dude.

Amanda: Thanks, babe.

Julia: For those of you who don't specifically know what angels are, whether you were born in a non-religious household or just one that doesn't practice Abrahamic religion, here we go. We're gonna tell you what angels are, they're not just people with wings.

Amanda: You're not missing much, but the hierarchy of angels is probably one of them. Angels are crazy.

Julia: Yeah, crazy motherfuckers. Alright, so angels are basically agents of God, and they act as intermediaries between God and Heaven, and also the Earth. So, depending on the stories, the angels were charged with protecting and guiding human beings, or else carrying out God's tasks on Earth or in Heaven.

Amanda: Yeah, so they're sort of the emissaries when you are depicting like a heavenly vision, right? Like someone communicating with God or getting a message sent to them, or in the Catholic and Christian tradition, Virgin Mary learning she's pregnant with Jesus and etc. It's a long story.

Julia: One second, there's actually a really great story about that. My professor in college, who taught me ... The class was called, "Understanding the Bible". It was buck-wild.

Amanda: Yeah.

Julia: There's a great tapestry, or I guess a mural painting, in Rome, of Mary getting impregnated with the word of God via an angel through her ear.

Amanda: Cool, cool, cool.

Julia: It's buck-fucking-wild.

Amanda: And listen, this is an artistic rendering of a thing that, if you subscribe to this belief system, completely defies human logic.

Julia: Yes.

Amanda: So I don't mean to make fun ...

Julia: Oh no, no, it's the painting itself that is ...

Amanda: Exactly. Exactly, we're not saying that the idea of it is insane, you can make your own conclusions about that.

Julia: Right.

Amanda: Angels are like the thing that shows up when it's not God showing up, or bringing God's message, doing God's work, they are an instantiation of Heaven, in the way that I understand them, to mortals.

Julia: Right, and we should clarify that, in most Abrahamic religions, God isn't showing up a lot.

Amanda: Yes.

Julia: He's not coming down to just chat with folks.

Amanda: And again, our particular background is Catholic, which in the huge pantheon of Christian religions ...

Julia: There's a lot of Christian religions.

Amanda: There's many, many, many, it's been 2000 years, lots of stuff has happened. And in ours, people don't have a very direct relationship with God. That's different in a lot of Evangelical traditions, in most Protestant religions where people communicate more directly with God, in ours it's a lot about ritual and prayer and venerating saints, that was kind of our experience.

Amanda: So that might not be true for everybody, but this is where we're approaching it, as God is kind of like off there somewhere, and you can think about ... And try to do well, and meet Him one day, but in the meantime it's about your church hierarchy and it's about other ways that you can see Divine Influence, but not the Divinity itself.

Julia: Right, and I should clarify when I'm talking about Abrahamic religions, I'm talking about anything that falls under the larger umbrella categories of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Amanda: Yep.

Julia: And some Zoroastrianism, which gets complicated, but we'll talk about it later.

Amanda: Yeah, sort of like legacy of Monotheism.

Julia: Yeah.

Amanda: Yeah.

Julia: There is a hierarchy of the angels with defined roles, appearances and titles.

Amanda: Julia, did you ever read the book Seventh Tower by Garth Nix?

Julia: No, I didn't.

Amanda: I did.

Julia: I know you did.

Amanda: Many years ago.

Julia: That's why you're bringing it up.

Amanda: Maybe 16 years ago.

Julia: Okay.

Amanda: I don't remember much, but what I do remember is it is a series of books, six books. Seventh Tower, I know.

Julia: Gotcha, cool.

Amanda: By the person that wrote Sabriel, so people, pay attention. Listen up. Get your books straight.

Julia: Get your Sabriel books facts right.

Amanda: Like, get your library list prepared, because you need to read the Seventh Tower. It is a ...

Julia: And all of the six books before that.

Amanda: No, the Seventh Tower is a series. It starts with book one and goes to book six.

Julia: Okay.

Amanda: It is somehow, someway about angels.

Julia: I thought that the Seventh Tower was the seventh book in a series.

Amanda: No, baby.

Julia: It should be.

Amanda: That's the umbrella, Seventh Tower is a great book, and it has to do with angels, it has to do with colors, there's like ... You move up a tower as you ...

Julia: Angels and colors?

Amanda: As you get powers ... I cannot emphasize enough I am drinking a gin and tonic, and it's been a long time since I've read these books, but they were so good and they're sitting over there on my shelf. I have a collected two volumes, and they are very, very good. I'm going to re-read them and assign myself that homework, I am bringing them on my vacation. Which I have just come home from, if you are listening to this in the present, and I'm gonna read it and it's gonna be amazing.

Amanda: And, listeners, if you liked Sabriel ... If you like fantasy, magic, angelic things, if you like this episode which we really haven't gotten into yet, you're gonna enjoy the Seventh Tower.

Julia: That's a bold statement, since we're maybe five minutes into the episode.

Amanda: That's all I know of any interest.

Julia: Cool, cool.

Amanda: This has been Angels with Amanda.

Julia: Thanks. So we're actually going to ...

Amanda: It's like Angels in America, but it's a contemporary one-woman show about queerness and being a post-theater kid in 2018.

Julia: Well that's very different from the episode that I had planned.

Amanda: Alright, give it to me.

Julia: So we're going to be doing a deep dive into Angelology, which is the theological study of angels, and the hierarchy of the heavens.

Amanda: You know that I love ordering systems.

Julia: I know you do.

Amanda: Please give it to me.

Julia: You had so many organized binders in high school. So many. So, as a stage manager, you had a binder, which was the If I Got Hit By a Bus Binder.

Amanda: Yes, and actually it's a great way to approach one's profession. You should always be able - this is a little macabre, you're listening to spirits, whatever - if you can't or don't show up at work tomorrow, can someone else do your job? Can someone else run the company? Can someone else make sure that the day operates smoothly, and that's the whole idea with stage management is that you should, at the end of the day, close your binder and someone else should be able to open it up and run the show.

Julia: In case you get hit by a car.

Amanda: Exactly, it's the Hit By a Bus Theory, which I actually hear is a thing that people in startups say. Hit By a Bus Theory? Anyway, it doesn't matter. But I was very organized, and I liked colorful dividers a lot.

Julia: I know you did.

Amanda: I know.

Julia: So first thing we need to establish is that different faiths and sources have different structures for the angels. For example, the Jewish angelic hierarchy is established in the Talmud through Rabbinic literature and traditional Jewish liturgy, but all of them are all slightly different.

Amanda: Alright, so like different sources, different places people are talking about what the situation is.

Julia: For example, Maimonides in his Mishneh Torah, establishes that there are 10 ranks of angels. So meanwhile, in Christianity, the book of De Coelesti Hierarchia, which is On the Celestial Hierarchy, which is a beautiful title for a book.

Amanda: In Latin?

Julia: Yes.

Amanda: Cool.

Julia: Was written in the fourth or fifth century, and it acts as one of the most influential works defining the angelic hierarchy for Christianity.

Amanda: Wow.

Julia: The angels are later organized into orders that are known as Angelic Choirs.

Amanda: Huh.

Julia: Yeah.

Amanda: I always read Angelic Choir in the Bible as like some nice voices.

Julia: No. It's the literal hierarchal structure of the angels.

Amanda: That is wild.

Julia: Yeah. This whole episode is gonna be like that, where you're like, "That's not what I thought it was." And then you're wrong.

Amanda: Jules, you're such a good friend.

Julia: Using the New Testament, especially Ephesians and Collosians, Thomas Aquinus developed a schema that uses three spheres of angels.

Amanda: Thomas Aquinus, he's like, "How can I make sure motherfuckers 300 years from now are still quoting me every day?"

Julia: He wrote a lot of stuff down!

Amanda: He lived his whole life that way.

Julia: Yeah.

Amanda: It is ...

Julia: Bless him. Literally, bless him.

Amanda: I know, I'm making a lot of noises but his writing is incredible.

Julia: Yeah.

Amanda: And I cannot imagine having that much influence over so many people's lived experiences.

Julia: Yes, absolutely.

Amanda: Amazing.

Julia: So we're going to kind of talk about ... Specifically, what I'm going to talk about are the spheres, as defined by Tomas Aquinus.

Amanda: Alrighty.

Julia: So first thing, we're going to talk about the first sphere, and these are angels who are defined as, "Heavenly Servants to God." Specifically, one on one face time with God Himself.

Amanda: Yeah, like the hand-maiden, right? Or like the attendants, the butlers, the dressers?

Julia: Yeah.

Amanda: I've been watching a lot of The Crown season two. What up? They're right there.

Julia: How's it going? How's The Crown season two going?

Amanda: It's a lot darker.

Julia: Okay.

Amanda: World War Two happens.

Julia: I mean, I understand.

Amanda: Yeah.

Julia: At least they know what World War Two is now, because that was a thing in the first season.

Amanda: This is true.

Julia: Okay. First, on top of the sphere, are the Seraphim, which have references in Christian, Jewish and Islamic texts. Traditionally, they are the highest rank in the Christian hierarchy of angels, but they rank fifth of the 10 in the Jewish angelic hierarchy.

Amanda: Interesting.

Julia: Which I think is cool. I'm just like, "Oh, there's some mix-up here. I'm into it."

Amanda: Yeah, I wonder if it's like the different scholars ordering them on importance, or closest to God? Or is it the same sub-type of angel that is being differently ordered, or is it like the name being assigned to different groups?

Julia: In my mind, I'm thinking of it as like the standard in which the hierarchy is based off of -

Amanda: Yeah.

Julia: - is different. So in Jewish angelic hierarchies, going to be holding different standards than the Christian angelic hierarchy.

Amanda: Yeah, like what makes a good servant?

Julia: Exactly.

Amanda: What is God, and when, and how, and where?

Julia: Yeah. So the Book of Isaiah describes a six-winged being that can fly - obviously, it's got wings - with two of the wings said to cover their faces, another two to cover their feet, and then the last two used to fly.

Amanda: Fascinating.

Julia: Their name literally translates to, "The Burning Ones".

Amanda: Oh man, are they like aflame?

Julia: In some imagery, they're portrayed as flying Asps that also have human characteristics.

Amanda: What is an Asp? I'm forgetting.

Julia: It's a snake.

Amanda: Okay.

Julia: So they're like snakes, but they have human faces.

Amanda: That's in Cleopatra, it's in Cleopatra, and I'm terrified.

Julia: Yep. You should be.

Amanda: Nope.

Julia: Modern Christian theology has developed the idea that Seraphim are beings of pure light that directly communicate with God.

Amanda: I mean, fire? It makes sense.

Julia: Absolutely. So the next that we're going to talk about are the Cherubim.

Amanda: Cherubs!

Julia: Yeah.

Amanda: Yo! Pudgy babies.

Julia: No. Incorrect! So they are said to directly attend to God. They have four faces, one of a man, one of an ox, one of an eagle, and one of a lion, which would later become the symbols of the four evangelists.

Amanda: Whoa.

Julia: Yeah.

Amanda: I didn't know any of that.

Julia: They have four wings that are covered with eyes, they have a lion's body and they have the feet of an ox.

Amanda: Okay, I'm pretty sure this isn't true.

Julia: It's 100% true. Don't doubt me.

Amanda: What?

Julia: So the Cherubim, in modern interpretations, are often conflated with the Putti, which are human baby or toddler-like beings that are depicted with wings. So the Putti come from the Renaissance, basically. They're the classic, modern interpretation of what an angel should look like, this innocent, sweet thing that has little angel wings.

Amanda: Not a freaking Griffin-eagle hybrid.

Julia: I love the Griffin-eagle hybrid, though. It has eyes on its wings, like hundreds of eyes!

Amanda: I was blocking that part out, Jules.

Julia: Yeah.

Amanda: Like a scary, scary butterfly. First you give me snakes with human faces, now you give me should-be-a-baby-actually-a-four-faced-monster?

Julia: This is why we did this episode.

Amanda: And like, listen, I don't want to come down too hard on it. It sounds freaking badass.

Julia: Yeah, it does.

Amanda: But that's just very surprising. Also what are the eyes on the wings for?

Julia: Seeing into your soul.

Amanda: Better to see with, my dear?

Julia: Yeah, basically. So, interestingly, the imagery for this angel is said to come from the Hittite Griffith.

Amanda: Hold on, hold on. Now I'm thinking about the wings are like tiled in the eyes, and for some reason my brain just went to like, "How dope would it be if Baba Yaga's house also had like a tiled roof made of eyes?"

Julia: It would be horrifying.

Amanda: Yeah.

Julia: It would definitely fit into her aesthetic.

Amanda: Thank you for validating my idea.

Julia: She has it on a mood board somewhere.

Amanda: It's in her Pinterest.

Julia: Yes.

Amanda: Please continue.

Julia: So the Hittite Griffin is actually a really interesting character, just in mythology in general, and it definitely pre-dates the idea of the Cherubim. It's said that it was the guardian of holy things, which really fits into the imagery for the Cherubim itself.

Amanda: Yeah. Guardian, fierce protector.

Julia: For sure.

Amanda: And also a watcher, speaking to the eyes.

Julia: Absolutely. So it was said that between the Cherub's heads, glowing coals moved between them, could be seen, and their fire went up and down and lightning burst from it.

Amanda: So like the inside of their head is coals?

Julia: No, like between the heads, so like the body.

Amanda: Oh no, it's all four heads at the same time? Oh, man. Oh, no.

Julia: Oh, yeah.

Amanda: I was picturing a cube-head situation, with like the faces rotating, which, arguably, is scarier.

Julia: That's pretty good, too.

Amanda: Yeah. And so I was picturing magma on the inside, faces kind of like glue-sticked to the outside, and when they turn you can see the coals.

Julia: That's amazing, but no.

Amanda: So all four heads, same time, human ... What are they?

Julia: Human, ox, eagle, lion. Yeah. Cherubim were also said to move like flashes of lightning. Which is really ...

Amanda: That makes me think of the Weeping Angels, and that's terrifying, as always.

Julia: According to Thomas Aquinus - cool, cool dude, love him -

Amanda: And like, listen, I love that you chose him to do this lens as well, because he was obviously such a student of history and theology, and so for him to kind of be like, "This is all the stuff that I think probably it is." He's read everything that there is, he's coming up with his own interpretation, and we get to kind of like live in that head-canon for a minute. I love it.

Julia: Yeah, so according to Thomas Aquinus, who is a real bro, Satan was a fallen Cherub.

Amanda: Huh. That's a pretty satanic image. We were raised, in Catholicism, to think of Satan.

Julia: Definitely.

Amanda: I mean, mostly we think of him as - at least I did - as like a humanoid, in the way that we think of God as a humanoid, but if we're thinking about hellfire and creatures and demons, you know? Look at a Cherub in this sort of body, and that's what you pictured.

Julia: It does kind of mess around with later interpretations, where people are like, "Oh, well Lucifer was the most beautiful of all the angels." But we're not talking about Lucifer, we're talking about Satan. Different person.

Amanda: For our listeners who certainly aren't me, who don't understand the difference, what is the difference?

Julia: So, interestingly, in the Bible, originally, Satan is a title, not a person.

Amanda: Oh. That makes sense.

Julia: Satan, in the literal translation, means, "The Advocate".

Amanda: Huh.

Julia: So he was someone who would put people through trials, in order to text their commitment to God.

Amanda: Wow. Like Lucifer-person, Satan-title, originally?

Julia: Not necessarily ... Lucifer, not necessarily in all contexts, was a Satan.

Amanda: Huh.

Julia: Yeah. Sometimes he just rebelled, sometimes that was just a thing.

Amanda: Fascinating.

Julia: It depends on the source, and Lucifer is ... Supposedly, is probably an Etruscan God. He means, "The Light-bringer".

Amanda: Wow.

Julia: It was probably one of those situations where his name was ...

Amanda: Got adapted into, yeah.

Julia: ...was adapted into Christianity, because they were like, "Well, they can't worship him."

Amanda: Let's make him bad.

Julia: So now he's bad.

Amanda: Huh, I really gotta read Paradise Lost one of these days, huh?

Julia: Yeah. The last type of angel in the first sphere are known as either Thrones or Elders. They're first mentioned by Paul the Apostle in Colossians, and are said to be the living symbols of God's justice and authority.

Amanda: What do they look like?

Julia: So they're referred to as Thrones, because that's one of their symbols.

Amanda: Okay.

Julia: It's just a throne.

Amanda: I was gonna say, it's one of their forms. I was gonna be like, "Wow, very specific."

Julia: Well, they're also depicted as flaming wheels at times, even appearing as a wheel within a wheel, and the rims of those wheels are covered in hundreds of eyes.

Amanda: We keep coming back to the hundreds of eyes.

Julia: There's a lot of eyes.

Amanda: And I cannot emphasize enough, Thomas, how terrifying is this?

Julia: Goddammit, Thomas.

Amanda: Thomas, Thomas, my buddy.

Julia: My dude.

Amanda: My dude.

Julia: My real bro.

Amanda: My friend, my good, good friend. Please stop with the eyes. But also, this version of the Thrones - Julia is crying, laughing on the floor - Reminds me of sick rims.

Julia: Sweet rims, bro.

Amanda: Like Pimp My Ride, style.

Julia: Some real Fast and Furious bullshit, here.

Amanda: I mean, I think that's the conclusive proof we need that the Fast and Furious franchise is, at least, one tier of God's will on Earth.

Julia: Okay.

Amanda: Prove me wrong.

Julia: I can't.

Amanda: Mic drop.

Julia: With all of my background in history and religion, I can't.

Amanda: There's sick rims, there's [imitating Vin Diesel] family.

Julia: No!

Amanda: This is a perfect melding of me having an impression, and also me knowing what happened in a movie, and it just took Julia by surprise.

Julia: Oh, no. This wasn't supposed to happen.

Amanda: And to cap off that sentence, there is also an inexplicable jaunt in Tokyo, so ... Fast and Furious. That's me.

Julia: Did we go to Tokyo yet?

Amanda: No, but like we will.

Julia: Oh, okay. Cool. I mean, eventually, on this podcast again, yeah.

Amanda: Yeah.

Julia: Okay, so hundreds of eyes. In modern Christian theology, they appear as adoring, elderly men, who will listen to the will of God and present the prayers of men to God.

Amanda: Okay, alright.

Julia: They are also said to be the carriers of the throne of God, which is another reason that they have the name Throne.

Amanda: Like the physical carriers?

Julia: Yeah.

Amanda: Alright. Alright. I see the wheel, you know? Makes sense.

Julia: So we're moving on to the second sphere.

Amanda: Alright.

Julia: And the second sphere are specifically known as, "The Heavenly Governors of Creation". They guide and rule spirits.

Amanda: I mean, that's a translation that makes sense.

Julia: Yeah, I believe so. So the first one are Dominions, or Lordships, and they are in charge of watching over the duties of the lower angels, and having very little interaction with actual human beings.

Amanda: They're managers?

Julia: That ... Literally, I wrote, "They are the middle-managers of the angels."

Amanda: Nice.

Julia: I love you. So it's extremely rare that angelic lords make themselves physically known to humans, they are said to look like beautiful humans with a pair of feathered wings, but are also distinguished from other groups of angels by the orbs of light that they wield, which are attached to the heads of their scepters, or the pommels of their swords.

Amanda: Sounds like a Shillelagh in Dungeons and Dragons.

Julia: That's correct.

Amanda: Love it.

Julia: The next group are called Virtues, or Strongholds, and they are angels in charge of making signs and miracles known to the mortal world.

Amanda: So the traditional, sort of like heralding of a Divine Pronouncement?

Julia: Yes.

Amanda: Or like a Divine Interaction with the physical world?

Julia: Here is an actual description of the Virtues from the De Coelesti Hierarchia, which is kind of rambly but here we go. It's like all in Latin, so ...

Amanda: Classic Thomas.

Julia: This wasn't Thomas, but yeah.

Amanda: Classic Thomas.

Julia: The name of the Holy Virtues signifies a certain power and unshakeable virility, welling forth into all of their God-like energies. Not being weak and feeble for any reception of the Divine Illuminations granted to it, mounting upwards in fullness of power to an assimilation of God. Never falling away from the Divine Life through its own weakness, but ascending unwaveringly to the super-essential Virtue, which is the Source of Virtue.

Amanda: Wow. That probably was more poetic in the original.

Julia: Probably.

Amanda: But I do like that idea of whether you're talking about power or holiness or magic or whatever, being so powerful that like a puny, human body can't handle it. You know? Like we talk all the time about Ark, and a love of like physical and grounded magic.

Julia: Hell yeah.

Amanda: And in the Dresden Files, or other books where you get completely worn out after performing big magic, I think that makes total sense. And so, to have these angels sort of praised for their physical fortitude, because they are able to kind of go back and forth between those worlds and hold the fullness of God or whatever in their bodies, that's pretty dope.

Julia: That reminds me of the book that I'm reading right now, which is called Children of Blood and Bone. It is excellent, very, very good book. But in that book series, magic is almost like a muscle that you have to keep working and flex, and if you don't use it for long enough, you basically can't use your magic.

Amanda: Wow.

Julia: And in order to refine your magic, you have to use it more and more and more, and practice to make perfect. Which I like the idea of physical exertion the more it works better.

Amanda: Yeah. It's a good example of practice, right? That's a thing that we try to teach kids, but especially as an adult, where I think either I'm good at it or not, that kind of absolute thinking is very easy to do when you fail at a thing once. Like it's just hard for our brains to grasp the idea that we're gonna try and try and try, and fail and fail and fail, and that helps us succeed more, not to fail more. You know what I mean?

Julia: I know.

Amanda: So it's cool that that's kind of reinforced here.

Julia: I like that, that's a good interpretation. Thank you, friend.

Amanda: Thanks.

Julia: So the next and last group of the second sphere is the Powers, or Authorities, and they were meant to supervise the movements of the heavenly bodies in order to ensure that the Cosmos remain in order.

Amanda: I love it, the air-traffic controllers. I love it.

Julia: It's really, really dope. So they are also warrior angels, and oppose evil spirits, especially those that make use of the matter of the universe, and are often cast evil spirits to detention places of sorts.

Amanda: I love that. They're not just the, "Boring, office types that keep everything running on time." Which is like my job as an actual person, but also they are badass warriors.

Julia: Yeah, and that's usually how they're represented. So they're usually represented as soldiers wearing full armor and a helmet, and they're usually carrying either defensive or offensive weapons, such as shields, spears and chains.

Amanda: Amazing.

Julia: Powers are also said to be the keepers of history, and were completely loyal to God, whereas other spheres of angels could fall from grace, Ephesians says that no Power has ever fallen from Heaven.

Amanda: Incredible, yes. 10 out of 10, I am one of them, they are me.

Julia: Me. Yeah, same. I was gonna be like, "We should tag ourselves at the end." Like, "I pick Powers." So they also oversee the distribution of power among mankind, which I think is so cool!

Amanda: That is, especially if you think of them as like ... Picture like a nuclear power plant or something, where someone is sitting at like a big desk with lots of valves and things that they can adjust, and they're making sure that the Cosmos operate on schedule, you know? And that they are correctly distributing energy in the worlds, of course that will translate to power amongst humans as well, because human actors are like little mistakes waiting to happen, and little balls of chaos that you have to kind of keep contained. I think it's so logical that those things would go together.

Julia: Yeah. This kind of reminds me, and again, I'm gonna go on a little bit of a tangent of a really interesting character, actually one of my favorite minor characters in Our Fair City.

Amanda: Yeah.

Julia: Which, if you've heard our episode with Geoffrey Gardner, you know a little bit about Our Fair City, but post-apocalyptic, basically like a business ... A life insurance company takes over a city, and is running it in sort of this dystopian way, and one of the characters is known as The Switcher. So they're having power outages and stuff like that, and there's a problem, and he's this character that kind of takes over and uses his powers for good because he controls where the power goes. And he's like, "You want to take power away from the hospitals? No, we're not gonna do that, and I'm gonna make sure that people get fed in these times of need."

Julia: And it's like just a really interesting character, and that's kind of how I picture the Powers.

Amanda: Yeah, and if we want to get really big about it, and why not? Big wars are fought in small places, you know?

Julia: Yes.

Amanda: And it's like municipal government, right? And local representation, and advocacy, and door-to-door voter engagement that actually wins elections and changes governments, and like changes the way that a country operates, and so it is super not a sexy thing to work in logistics, or to work in management, or to do these things that we think of as just kind of like taking care of themselves, but that's where true heroism and altruism and advocacy happen. Like yes, you have to have figure-heads, yes you have to have big, daring, heroic acts, but lots and lots more people can and do make a difference on the sort of smaller scale.

Julia: Yeah. I think that's a really, really good point, and I think that the Powers aren't the highest in the spectrum of the hierarchy here, but they play a really important role, and they're also the most badass, I think, on this list, but that's just me.

Amanda: I love it.

Julia: We're gonna get into the third sphere in just a second, you want to get a refill?

[Theme music]

Amanda: Let's do it. Julia, this week we are sponsored by Rx Bar, which several of our listeners tried last time, and said that they absolutely loved it, which I'm so stoked about, because I also love it.

Julia: Yes!

Amanda: Actually, today, going to Easter brunch, I was very hungry and I happened to have a coconut flavored Rx Bar in my backpack, which I ate, I didn't get any weird indigestion, I didn't get a bizarre, unsustainable sugar high, because Rx Bars are super transparent, and they are made of actual ingredients, egg-whites, dates, nuts, etc. Cacao, coconut, whatever the flavor is, they just print it right on the label, that's what's in it. No weird stuff, and they're delicious.

Julia: Yeah, I actually, every time I go to the gym, I like to work out with a little bit of something in my stomach, but not a lot of something in my stomach, otherwise I get all nauseous and stuff, you know what I mean? Rx Bar is the perfect pre and post workout snack for me, I just down those peanut butter flavored ones in a heartbeat, they're my favorite thing in the world.

Julia: And the nice part is it turns out real food is actually good for you, and also tastes good. Shockingly, you can actually ... When you bite into an Rx Bar, taste the cacao, taste the real fruit, taste the spices, and that's because they're not hiding behind all of these ridiculous, fake ingredients, they're real and up front.

Amanda: Yeah, just like us, there is no b.s., there's no added sugar, they are gluten-free and soy-free and dairy-free, which is really nice, because I am lactose-intolerant and there is milk and wey and stuff in pretty much everything. So whether you're into sweet or savory, or like chocolatey stuff, or fruity stuff, there are flavors for you. And Spirits listeners can get 25% off their first order at rxbar.com/spirits with the promo code, "Spirits" at checkout.

Julia: Yeah, get a peanut butter one on me, or get a coconut one on Amanda.

Amanda: Yeah, and tweet us and tell us what flavor is your favorite. Like the texture's great, the flavor's great, I'm honestly such a big fan of these things.

Julia: Yeah, they're awesome and we're so glad that they're sponsoring Spirits.

Amanda: Yeah, so thank you again, that's rxbar.com/spirits, with the promo code, "Spirits", for 25% off your first order. Now, let's get back to the show.

[Theme music]

Julia: So Amanda, we're going into the final sphere, and this is the third sphere. Those members of the third sphere act as heavenly guides, protectors, and messengers to human beings.

Amanda: Alright, so the sorts of angels we probably read about in the New Testament.

Julia: Exactly.

Amanda: Yeah.

Julia: So the first one is the Principalities, or Rulers, and they are angels said to guide and protect nations, groups of people or institutions, such as the church. A single Principality rules over abandoned angels, and is the one that gives them orders in order to have them fulfill the Divine Ministry. Do you know what I mean?

Amanda: Yes, like the person issuing what we're gonna be doing.

Julia: Yes, they're the divine administrators.

Amanda: Hey!

Julia: Which is adorable. So they are the middle-managers of angels.

Amanda: Okay.

Julia: They are shown wearing a crown and hold a scepter, and they also are said to carry out orders given to them by upper-sphere angels, and give blessings to the material world.

Amanda: That is very cool.

Julia: Yeah.

Amanda: You know, Jules, I really want to know where scepters came from, like where did this idea come from, power for people?

Julia: I have no idea.

Amanda: You know? Like between Moses, it has often like a stick as he's leading people through the desert, and like parting the ...

Julia: He has a staff, yeah, but that's like ... He's a poor man.

Amanda: And so I understand, from that perspective, that like a walking stick is useful, and that's probably where that comes from, or like a staff for fighting or herding cattle and stuff.

Julia: Yeah, but a scepter is just like ... It's very ceremonial.

Amanda: Elevated staff, like what is the origin?

Julia: I don't know.

Amanda: People who know more than us about this, please email us, spiritspodcast@gmail.

Julia: Jim probably knows.

Amanda: Jim, let us know.

Julia: So they are the educators and guardians of the Earth, and they inspire living things to create both in the arts and the sciences.

Amanda: Oh, man!

Julia: Yeah!

Amanda: Thanks. I like creating stuff.

Julia: I do like creating stuff, that's why we do this.

Amanda: Hey!

Julia: We have a good Principality looking over us. You just did a fist bump to your chest and then peaced at the sky.

Amanda: I did.

Julia: Just for our listeners' sake.

Amanda: I did, and now when I see football people doing that, players, in fact, I will ...

Julia: I love those football people.

Amanda: I will ... Maybe the coaches, maybe the Gatorade boys and girls, I don't know. But I'll picture them looking up at the sky and thinking of Principality.

Julia: Next are the Archangels.

Amanda: Oh, these guys I've heard of.

Julia: I was gonna say, they're probably the most well-known of the angels, but they're actually only slightly above the common angel.

Amanda: Huh.

Julia: In the Bible, the term, "Archangel" only appears twice, in Theolosians and in Jude, and only one Archangel is given a name in the New Testament, and that is Michael.

Amanda: Yes.

Julia: Yes. You were pointing at me, were you going to interject, and say Michael?

Amanda: I was gonna say Gabriel.

Julia: Nope.

Amanda: But then I recovered.

Julia: So later Christian traditions say that Gabriel was also an Archangel, as was Rafael.

Amanda: Yes. One of the Ninja Turtles.

Julia: Yep, one of the Ninja Turtles.

Amanda: As is commonly known.

Julia: There were said to be ...

Amanda: I'm really sorry about the Gallagher. I really tried to listen at the time.

Julia: There were said to be seven Archangels all together, the others included Uriel, who was never mentioned in the western Christian Bible, but plays a really large role in Anglican and Russian orthodox churches.

Amanda: Huh.

Julia: These seven Archangels are said to be the guardian angels of nations and countries, and are concerned in the politics, military-matters, and commerce and trade.

Amanda: It makes a lot of sense that there would be a smaller group, or like round-table, of these Principalities. Of these Archangels, if they are influencing such huge events.

Julia: I agree, yeah, 100%. I should have probably gone into more, you know, Michael is known as the Angel of Death and stuff like that, and I wish I did but I didn't. Sorry. The next are just angels, just plain angels.

Amanda: Common angels.

Julia: So they are the lowest order of angels.

Amanda: No.

Julia: They are concerned with the affairs of living things, and are primarily just the messengers to humanity, appearing to people with messages from the heavens.

Amanda: But those are the angels that human beings talk about and pray for, you know?

Julia: Yes.

Amanda: And like wear necklaces of?

Julia: Yeah.

Amanda: So I think there's an interesting thing to be said here, too, where if you're running a business, you can be in the board room all you want but the way that people form opinions about your business is the folks that they interact with every single day.

Julia: That's true.

Amanda: The cashiers and the bank-tellers and the gas station attendants, those are the people that represent to the average person the sum-total of your entire organization, it's not the CEO.

Julia: Yeah.

Amanda: It's like who you talk about every single day.

Julia: Right.

Amanda: I think that's a valuable lesson that more people at companies should think about. I don't know, like paying your workers fair wages and ...

Julia: Livable wage.

Amanda: Their benefits, and vacation, and maternity leave, and parental bonding leave.

Julia: No one cares that you flipped over your m's to make w's for women, McDonald's. Just saying, just saying.

Amanda: Capitalism's a lie.

Julia: Capitalism is a lie. Personal guardian angels are probably fairly well-known, at least in western culture, these are not any specific order from the plain angels, but rather are given a specific human to watch over their day-to-day affairs.

Amanda: So it's not like a special kind of angel, it's just like, "Hey angel, this is your person."

Julia: It's just regular angel, and then they're like, "Hey, you watch that guy." It is a common belief that they are assigned to every human being, whether or not they're religious in the Abrahamic sense or not, it is never specified whether or not they guard multiple humans during their existence or just one. Which, you'd have to assume that they're ... If their person dies, it's not just like, "Well, I'm done. I don't have to watch any human being ever again."

Amanda: I mean, population is only growing, so I assume they would be given a newborn babe, but eight billion angels is a lot of angels.

Julia: Yeah, that's a lot of angels.

Amanda: At the same time though, you really want to connect ... What if the angel had a really boring person? That would suck. What if a person had a really bad angel? That would also suck.

Julia: Well, can the angels be bad, though?

Amanda: I suppose you're right, it's the whole Christian ...

Julia: Because that's how, supposedly, we get demons. But I'm like, "Whatevs." It's fine.

Amanda: You better ask Dan Brown about that.

Julia: We should ask Dan Brown about that angels and demons specification?

Amanda: Boom.

Julia: I hate you.

Amanda: I love you.

Julia: In Zoroastrianism, each person has one guardian angel, which is known as a Fravashi, and they manifest God's energy and don't convey messages, specifically, but rather just the energy of Ahura Mazda, which is their God-like figure.

Amanda: That's pretty cool though, like you decide for yourself what you do with that energy? They are here to make sure that you are inspired and connected, sort of like plugged into the bigger source of the universe.

Julia: To the Matrix of the universe? I agree. So that's angels.

Amanda: Wow, angels are a lot more complex in the tradition we were raised in than I realized.

Julia: Yeah.

Amanda: I know, I pictured just kind of like in white robes, blonde, male figure, coming down to herald some kind of pronouncement. But I love this idea of angels having managers and meetings.

Julia: Or being wheels with hundreds of eyes?

Amanda: Again with the hundreds of eyes, I'd forgotten it temporarily.

Julia: It's what we're here for. Nope. I'm here to remind you about the hundreds of eyes.

Amanda: Read The Seventh Tower by Garth Nix, it's very important.

Julia: And remember, stay creepy.

Amanda: Stay cool.

[Theme music]

Amanda: Spirits was created by Amanda McLaughlan, Julia Shapini and Eric Schneider, with music by Kevin McCloud and visual design by Alison Wakeman.

Julia: Keep up with all things creepy and cool by following us on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram @Spiritspodcast. We also have all our episodes, collaborations and guest-appearances, plus merch, on our website. Spiritspodcast.com.

Amanda: Come on over to our Patreon page, Patreon.com/Spiritspodcast for all kinds of behind the scenes stuff. Throw us as little as one dollar and get access to audio extras, recipe-cards, director's commentaries and patron-only livestreams.

Julia: And hey, if you like the show, please share us with your friends. That is the best way to help us keep on growing.

Amanda: Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.