Next up in our roster of holy figures is one of my personal favorites-Archangel Michael-who celebrates his Feast Day on September 29th in various Catholic and Christian traditions, also known as Michaelmass.
Archangel Michael is a holy figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. His name means “Like Unto God” or “Who is Like God” In Catholic and Christian Orthodox traditions he is sometimes known as Saint Michael or Saint Archangel Michael. In the Jewish tradition Archangel Michael is considered to be the closest angel to God—Captain of God’s army as well as rule of all natural elements such as rain, wind, and storms. He is regarded as the angel who foretold Mary, Mother of God, of her approaching death, and he is venerated in Catholic and Orthodox traditions as the patron saint for policeman and soldiers.
Despite Rabbinical prohibitions against seeking the intercession of angels between men and God, Archangel Michael’s mention in the Book of Daniel as “a great prince who stands up for the children of your people” led to the creation of a place for him in Jewish liturgy. Though he is mentioned as leading God’s army against Satan in the Book of Revelation, the earliest Christian shrines and sanctuaries dedicated to Archangel Michael were actually for the purpose of healing. Archangel Michael is mentioned once in the Qu’ran and is believed by some Muslims to be one of the three angels that visited Abraham. In Rabbinic liturgy Archangel Michael is seen as the staunch defender of Israel and his nemesis is the Angel Samael. The enmity goes back to when Samael was cast down from heaven and grabbed onto Michael’s wings, wanting to bring him down as well. Some traditions also say that Michael and Samael are in constant battle over the state of Moses’ soul. Michael’s role as a defender of Jews and Israel resulted in two Jewish prayers composed in his honor.
In the early Christian tradition Saints like George were considered martial whereas Michael was a healing force. When a devastating plague hit Rome in the 4th century Michael was invoked for healing and aid-it was during this time that he also was referred to as “Archangel” and/or the “Prince Among Angels.” In the 6th century a feast was held in his honor and various feasts and feast days have been associated with him ever since. In Roman Catholic tradition Michael is assigned four specific roles:
1.) Captain of God’s army against Satan and Hell
2.) Angel of Death who carries the soul away from the body when death occurs
3.) Weighing the Soul-Archangel Michael, according to this tradition is the one that weighs the soul in perfectly balanced scales-this is why he is depicted as having scales
4.) Patron of the Chosen People (Jews) of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and Guardian of the Church.
Like much of the lore surrounding Archangel Michael-these Catholic teachings are not required beliefs but “strongly encouraged” by the Church. Along with these roles in the Coptic Orthodox Church he is also considered to be the one who presents God with the prayers of the people. Other traditions hold that Archangel Michael is actually Adam from the Book of Genesis or that he is the pre-incarnate figure for Christ.
Working with Archangel Michael
Contrary to his widespread veneration there are not many specific offerings associated with Archangel Michael. When I invoke his aid and intercession I repay his gifts with flowers, Jordan almonds, honey, and donations to battered women’s shelters and/or Jewish charities. In the American folks magic tradition of Conjure, Archangel Michael is seen as a powerful defender of those who are unable to defend themselves, including women, children, slaves, and other minority groups. His association with healing can be seen in his connection to Angelica Root-a root that is used is many peace and tranquility potions and rituals, while his association with martial endeavors and victory can be seen in the writings that invoke him along with the use of Bay Laurel leaf-an ancient symbol of conquest and victory. For those grounded in a specific religious tradition Archangel Michael’s role as a healer and psychopomp are at least as emphasized as his role in military and police pursuits if not more so.
I remember very clearly when Archangel Michael made his presence known to me—I was 7 months pregnant and it was in December. I had a vivid dream of the Angel and he was holding an old fashioned Archangel Michael packet. He told me I needed to start making them and in my dream I thought—”ok, but I can hardly sew!” He told me to learn so I did. I petition and invoke Archangel Michael’s aid for a number of situations-for protection, healing, mercy in the face of sin or error, and of course victory. I find him to be a strong protector not only of women and children but of entire families.
In celebration of Archangel Michael’s Feast Day I will be building an altar in his honor, feasting him (and my family) and also placing petitions, prayers, and intentions before him. This is a FREE service. All you have to do is shoot me an email with your name and your prayer, petition or intention and it will go on the altar!