Archangel Michael

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Archangel Michael defeating the dragon (Satan)

Archangel Michael (Hebrew: מִיכָאֵל, romanized: Mīḵāʾēl, lit. "Who is like God"; Greek: Μιχαήλ, romanized: Mikhaḗl; Latin: Michahel; Arabic: ميخائيل ، مِيكَالَ ، ميكائيل), also called Saint Michael the Archangel is an archangel in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baháʼí Faith. He is often depicted conquering a dragon and holding a lance or sword.

Earliest textual appearance

The earliest surviving mention of Michael is in a 3rd century BC Jewish apocalypse, the Book of Enoch. This text lists him as one of seven archangels (the remaining names are Uriel, Raguel, Raphael, Sariel, Gabriel, and Remiel), who, according to a slightly later work, the Book of Tobit, "stand ready and enter before the glory of the Lord." The fact that Michael is introduced in both works without explanation implies that readers already knew him and the other named angels, which in turn implies that they are earlier than the late 3rd century BC (the earliest possible date of the relevant passages in the Book of Enoch), but although their origins remain a matter for speculation there is no evidence that they are older than the Hellenistic period.

He is mentioned again in last chapters of the Book of Daniel, a Jewish apocalypse composed in the 2nd century BC although set in the 6th, in which a man clothed in linen (never identified, but probably Archangel Gabriel) tells Daniel that he and "Michael, your prince" are engaged in a battle with the "prince of Persia", after which, at the end-time, "Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise."

Enoch was instrumental in establishing the pre-eminent place of Michael among the angels or archangels, and in later Jewish works he is said to be their chief, mediating the Torah (the law of God) and standing at the right hand of the throne of God. In the traditions of the Qumran community he defends or leads the people of God in the eschatological (i.e., end-time) battle, and in other writings he is responsible for the care of Israel (and he may be the "one like a son of man" mentioned in Daniel 7:13–14) and the commander of the heavenly armies; he is Israel's advocate contesting Satan's claim to the body of Moses; he intercedes between God and humanity and serves as High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary; and he accompanies the souls of the righteous dead to Paradise.

New Testament mentions

The seven archangels mentioned in the New Testament (or four - the traditions differ but always include Michael) were associated with the branches of the menorah, the sacred seven-branched lampstand in the Temple as the seven spirits before the throne of God, and this is reflected in the Revelation of John 4:5 ("From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God" - ESV).

Michael is mentioned explicitly in Revelation 12:7-12, where he does battle with Satan and casts him out of heaven so that he no longer has access to God as accuser (his formal role in the Old Testament). The fall of Satan at the coming of Jesus marks the separation of the New Testament from Judaism. In Luke 22:31 Jesus tells Peter that Satan has asked God for permission to "sift" the disciples, the goal being to accuse them, but the accusation is opposed by Jesus, who thus takes on the role played by angels, and especially by Michael, in Judaism.

Michael is mentioned by name for the second time in the Epistle of Jude, a passionate plea for believers in Christ to do battle against heresy. In verses 9-10 the author denounces the heretics by contrasting them with the Archangel Michael, who, disputing with Satan over the body of Moses, "did not presume to pronounce the verdict of 'slander' but said, 'The Lord punish you!'"

In the Quaran

Michael is called Mika'il in Muslim works generally, but in the one instance in which he is mentioned in the Quran he is called Mikal. The single Quranic mention comes in the QS 2:98, when the Jews of Medina challenged Muhammed to tell them the name of the angel from whom he received his revelations; when he told them it was Gabriel, the Jews said that Gabriel was their enemy, and that revelations came from Michael. The hadith (sayings of and about the Prophet collected by his followers) quote Muhammed mentioning both Gabriel and Michael as two angels who showed him Paradise and Hell, and in the early years of Islam the Muslims recited the names of both in the obligatory daily prayers (the salat). The place of Michael, and some of the other archangels, is not clearly identified in the major sources, and among ordinary Muslims knowledge of them is drawn from non-Islamic sources, notably Jewish.

Occult traditions

Archangel Michael's summoning sigil, made according to Kabbalistic instructions

In occult traditions, Michael's letter is Hod. The direction he rules is south, and his element is fire. In astrology, he is linked to the planet Mars and the Sun as well as the signs of Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. He is the governing archangel of Sunday.

The angelology of Pseudo-Dionysius, which was widely read as of the 6th century, gave Michael a rank in the hierarchy of angels. Later, in the 13th century, others such as Bonaventure believed that he is the prince of the Seraphim, the first of the nine angelic orders. According to Thomas Aquinas, he is the prince of the last and lowest choir, the angels. Robert Ambelain and Robert Fludd place him over the choir of Virtues, which seems to have become the consensus for most occultists.

Archangel Michael is featured as one of the major archangels in the Echols Sigil Oracle.

Testament of Solomon

In the Medieval grimoire, Testament of Solomon, Archangel Michael appears to King Solomon and gives him a powerful ring bearing a seal that will allow him to control spirits, specifically demons. The Seal of Solomon allowed King Solomon to manipulate the goetic demons into building his temple and telling him the secrets of astrology and other forms of divination.

Appearances on earth

John the Apostle foretold the appearance of Michael at Cheretopa near Lake Salda, where a healing spring appeared soon after the Apostle left; in gratitude for the healing of his daughter, one pilgrim built a church on the site. Local pagans attempted to drown the church by redirecting the river, but Michael, "in the likeness of a column of fire", split the bedrock to open up a new bed for the stream, directing the flow away from the church.

There is a late-5th-century legend in Cornwall, UK that the Archangel appeared to fishermen on St Michael's Mount. According to author Richard Freeman Johnson, this legend is likely a nationalistic twist to a myth.

The legend of the apparition of the Archangel at around 490 AD at a secluded hilltop cave on Monte Gargano in Italy gained a following among the Lombards in the immediate period thereafter, and by the 8th century, pilgrims arrived from as far away as England. The Sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo at Gargano is now a major Catholic pilgrimage site.

According to Roman legends, Archangel Michael appeared with a sword over the mausoleum of Hadrian while a devastating plague persisted in Rome, in apparent answer to the prayers of Pope Gregory I the Great (c. 590–604) that the plague should cease. After the plague ended, in honor of the occasion, the pope called the mausoleum "Castel Sant'Angelo" (Castle of the Holy Angel), the name by which it is still known.

According to Norman legend, Michael is said to have appeared to St Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, in 708, giving instruction to build a church on the rocky islet now known as Mont Saint-Michel. In 960 the Duke of Normandy commissioned a Benedictine abbey on the mount, and it remains a major pilgrimage site.

A Portuguese Carmelite nun, Antónia d'Astónaco, reported an apparition and private revelation of the Archangel Michael who had told to this devoted Servant of God, in 1751, that he would like to be honored, and God glorified, by the praying of nine special invocations. These nine invocations correspond to invocations to the nine choirs of angels and origins the famous Chaplet of Saint Michael. This private revelation and prayers were approved by Pope Pius IX in 1851.

From 1961 to 1965, four young schoolgirls had reported several apparitions of Archangel Michael in the small village of Garabandal, Spain. At Garabandal, the apparitions of the Archangel Michael were mainly reported as announcing the arrivals of the Virgin Mary. The Catholic Church has neither approved nor condemned the Garabandal apparitions.