The word "angel" in English (from Old English and German Engel), French (from Old French angele), Spanish, and many other Romance languages are derived from the Latin angelus, itself derived from Koine Greek:, angelos, "messenger" The ultimate etymology of that word in Greek is uncertain.
In Hebrew & Arabic the primary term for "angel" is "malakh", "malaika", or "malak" derived from the Semitic consonantal root l-'-k, meaning "to send." This root is attested in Hebrew only in this noun and in the noun "Melakha”, meaning "work". Other words referring to angels include “kruv” describing young children, from which the English word "cherub" is derived. Another Hebrew term is Gil-Gulim, meaning "revolving," and these angels are sometimes depicted as wheels with wings.
The Angels of the ancient cultures in the middle Eastern area can be divided into three broad categories. These three categories of “angels/messengers” are easily explained by placing the “angels” in their proper context in the environment as perceived and explained by ancient man.
1. The Seven Arch Angels that reside in Heaven, considered to be second in rank only to “God the Father”.
2. The countless multitude of lesser but still Heavenly Angels that make up the “Host of Heaven”.
3. The Angels that “fell to Earth” or were “cast to Earth” only in this class of Angels is there a distinction between the “good” Angels and “bad” or “evil” Angels. These “fallen Angels” are the only Angels that legends say humanity had any direct experience with. In the Biblical Genesis, this class of Angels taught all the arts of civilization to a primitive mankind.
We will start with number one, the Seven Heavenly Angels, an identification which is easy as long as you remember the simple fact that to the ancients “Heaven” is what we call the Sky. To them Heaven and the Sky Father are identical, in modern terms “God/Deity”= “Sky”= “Heaven”. Now in the blue vault of the Sky Father seven things flew by their own motion, the seven “planets” of the ancients, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. In the ancient Near Eastern Astrology as in Astrology today the movements of these "planets", their alignment and their placement against the background of stars known as the Zodiac constellations, are thought to have meaning. In fact to the ancients these observations had contained in them a “message” straight from the Sky Father that could be interpreted and understood by the wise Astrologer. So in effect these “planets” are “messengers” of the will of “God”, it is on this line of reasoning that all of the beliefs found in Astrology are based.
The second class of Angels, the multitude of the Host of Heaven, are the innumerable stars of a clear night, unlike the “planets” of the ancients, these stars held a fixed position and pattern in the Sky. The star pattern of the night sky as seen from earth changes with the seasons and repeats with clockwork precision. Twelve of these star patterns are in a band called the Zodiac by which the ancients kept track of months through the year, as a new Zodiac Constellation appeared at sunrise every month. So again we have valuable Astrological and calendrical information transmitted by these star messengers to those on Earth who understood how to read the “message”.
The third class of Angels the "fallen Angels" are far more interesting than the "Heavenly” Angels could ever be. Lately many have proposed that these “fallen Angels”stories are based on prehistoric Alien encounters. There is however a more economical and rational way of looking at this class of earth bound Angels/messengers than to attribute them to Aliens.
Native to Earth are various Plants and Fungi containing chemical compounds called drugs which have existed on Earth long before mankind ever stood upright, some of these plants/fungi are and were used for Divination or for promoting “visions” among human Shamans/prophets. Just as the Angels are divided into good and bad Angels, not all drug plants are the same, for some can heal wounds or illness, lessen pain, while others can lead to ecstacy (good Angels), yet other drug plants can create horrible frightening visions and some can leave you blind, crippled or crazy and some very special ones can leave you stone cold dead (all bad Angels). As messengers bearing messages from a completely other worldly realms these drug plants have been sought out by mankind for thousands of years in an effort to transcend human limitations and to acquire knowledge otherwise denied them. Good or bad all these Messenger/Angels were created by the Sky Father and the Earth Mother and all were thought to possess a measure of Divinity, and in skilled hands even the worst of the bad “angels” could still be used for healing. The very ancient story of the fall of the Angels to Earth is an easy way for the ancients to explain why these real and very powerful beings came to be in the humans environment. While the common occurrence of “shooting” stars or meteors provided evidence that “angels” were still descending to Earth to appear as “good” or “bad” Angels in the Physical form of a Magic Plant or Fungi bearing a “message” to those who knew how to read it.
It is not uncommon in areas such as South America where there are many Shamans using many different plants to consider themselves to be the only White Shamans and their chosen plant helper/messenger to be “Holy” while other Shamans using other plants are considered “Sorcerers” and their chosen plants are considered to be “Evil”. In ancient Eurasia (as in much of the world) certain members of a family of plants called the Solanaceae were historically used as Divining plants, as a visionary brew and in “flying” ointments, most recently by the so called “Witches.” These plants all generate similar experiences of very real, dark somber hallucinations reminding one of the Medieval paintings of Hell! The Solanaceae most used in Eurasia are Datura or Jimson weed, Mandrake, deadly nightshade or Belladonna and Henbane. Since the hallucinations provoked by these plants are so overwhelmingly real they have a deep impact on the individual, and on the religions and cultures that use or used them. The Solanaceae were extensively promoted by the Priest hoods of the ancient Middle East, who used their “magic” brews to convince the believers of their own unworldly power and the reality of their “Gods”( and of course the necessity of generous donations to the “Temple”). These select Solanaceae plants were also often burned as an ingredient in Sacred incense in ceremonies of Priest, Sorcerer and Witch alike, the fumes of which daze and confuse the “audience” and vastly increase the susceptibility to suggestion of the onlookers. These same Solanaceae plants have also been used since time immemorial for drugging women for purposes of rape or “white slavery”, for drugging victims before their robbery or as a murder weapon thru poisoning. Given these plants association with all these nefarious human activities it is no wonder that these plants are considered to be “Evil” and they still carry common names descended from the time when they were some of the “bad” Angels that fell to Earth. The Deadly Nightshade’s blue flowers are called the "eyes of Satan”, it’s fruit “devil's cherries”, and the plant the “devil's herb”. The Datura flowers are called “Angel trumpet” or the “devil’s trumpet”, Moonflower (it has trumpet shaped white flowers that open in cycle to the moon), Hell's Bells, Devil's Weed, and the Devil's Cucumber. The flowers of Henbane are called the “eyes of Satan” or “devil’s eyes”. While the fruit of the Mandrake is called “Satan's Apples”and by the Arabs beid el-jinn or "djinn's eggs" in English “Genii eggs”, a very apt name for a fruit that congers up apparitions, or transports the user to otherworldly realms.
The powers found in some green plants by our ancient ancestor was truly amazing and only to be surpassed by the powers discovered by ancient man in the class of life forms now called the Fungi. Fungi are even more wonder inspiring than green plants which have seeds, appear in season and are fairly predictable and most green plants can be cultivated by even primitive man. In contrast to the green plants, those Fungi called mushrooms can seem to appear over night, do not have any seeds visible to the naked eye and unlike most green plants have no roots. In fact the ancients weren’t even sure if Mushrooms were vegetables, animals or minerals or a combination of these three classes of existence in one life form. Mushrooms were a complete and total enigma for our ancestors who could only predict that the mushrooms “may” appear in their season when it rained. The special relationship of the Sky’s rain with the appearance of mushrooms was not lost on the ancients. who believed that these life forms were “sent” to Earth from Heaven in the rain, the thunder or the lightning. Having no seeds or roots they were thought to be the immaculately conceived children of the Sky Father. These mushroom children of the thundering Sky also had strange shapes compared to other life forms many posses gills which appear as spokes in a wheel, when mature many mushroom caps invert displaying the underside of the cap which resembles the wing feathers of a bird, thus the images of the Gil-Gulim angels, meaning "revolving," as these angels are usually depicted as "wheels with wings".
Since some mushrooms are psychoactive these were considered very special “messengers” of the Divine will. But the Shaman had to be extra careful when gathering them since some mushrooms are some of the most poisonous life forms on the Planet and one did not want to mix them up! Some mushrooms also contain antibiotics which can help dramatically in curing illness as evidenced by the 20 century’s antibiotic fueled Medical revolution. So as in the green Angels the Fungi Angels are a mix of “Good” and “Bad” Angels. Several names survive in English pointing to the time long ago when some mushrooms were considered fallen “Angels” most notably the “Destroying Angel” sometimes called the “Death Angel” names that are applied to several similar, closely related species of deadly all-white mushrooms in the genus Amanita. They are Amanita bisporigera and A. ocreata in eastern and western North America, and A. virosa in Europe. Another very similar species, A. verna or fool's mushroom was first described in France. The destroying Angel is closely related to the Death Cap mushroom “A. phalloides” as a group these are among the most toxic mushrooms known, all containing amatoxins, which causes fatal destruction of human liver and kidney tissues when consumed. The destroying Angel has been a favorite of European poisoners/assassins since time immemorial with many famous Roman Emperors, Holy Roman Emperors, Kings, Princes and Popes being it’s victims. It is interesting that the Angel Samael, also spelled Sammael, an important archangel in Talmudic and post-Talmudic lore, as well as Christian tradition and demonology, appears to be based on the Destroying Angel mushroom. The etymology of his name is thought to be a combination of 'sam', meaning "poison/venom", and 'el', meaning "of God"; thus the "Angel" Samael is the "poison of God"!
There is abundant archaeolgical evidence for Psilocybin mushrooms use in ancient times. Several mesolithic rock paintings from Tassili n'Ajjer (a prehistoric North African site identified with the Capsian culture) have been identified by author Giorgio Samorini as depicting the shamanic use of mushrooms, possibly Psilocybe. Hallucinogenic species of Psilocybe have a history of use among the native peoples of Mesoamerica for religious communion, divination, and healing, from pre-Columbian times up to the present day. Mushroom-shaped statuettes found at archaeological sites seem to indicate that ritual use of hallucinogenic mushrooms is quite ancient. Mushroom stones and motifs have been found in Mayan temple ruins in Guatemala, though there is considerable controversy as to whether these objects indicate the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms or whether they had some other significance with the mushroom shape being simply a coincidence. More concretely, a statuette dating from ca. 200 AD and depicting a mushroom strongly resembling Psilocybe mexicana was found in a west Mexican shaft and chamber tomb in the state of Colima . Hallucinogenic Psilocybe were known to the Aztecs as teonanácatl (literally "god's mushroom" or, more properly, "flesh of the gods" - agglutinative form of teó (god) and nanácatl (mushroom) in Náhuatl) and were reportedly served at the coronation of the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II in 1502. Aztecs and Mazatecs referred to psilocybin mushrooms as genius mushrooms, divinatory mushrooms, and wondrous mushrooms, when translated into English. Bernardino de Sahagún reported ritualistic use of teonanácatl by the Aztecs, when he traveled to Central America after the expedition of Hernán Cortés. After the Spanish conquest, Catholic missionaries campaigned against the "pagan idolatry," and as a result, the use of hallucinogenic plants and mushrooms, like other pre-Christian traditions, was quickly suppressed. The Spanish believed the mushroom allowed the Aztecs and others to communicate with "devils". In converting people to Catholicism, the Spanish required a switch from teonanácatl to the Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist and returning to the use of teonanácatl by the new Christian Native was then Heresy punishable by death by the Catholic Inquisition. Despite this history, in some remote areas, far from the eyes, ears and reach of Church and State, the use of teonanácatl has remained.
Psilocybe semilanceata common in Europe.
In Europe the Psilocybe mushrooms were probably used from ancient times as well, however the late Roman era, Dark age, Mediaeval, and Renaissance era, Christian persecutions of “pagans” and “witches” has destroyed most of the evidence needed to prove that Psilocybe mushrooms were used at all. One practical problem for early European Psilocybe mushroom users is that the Psilocybe species believed to be native to ancient Europe are all L.B.M.’s or “little brown mushrooms” a mycological term for little, hard to identify, mushrooms. Several types of poisonous mushroom native to Europe are also L.B.M.’s, to make matters worse they occupy the same ecosystems, so identification of the sacred mushrooms verses the poison mushrooms would be vitally important for any ancient European Shaman using the native Psilocybe species. Another reason the Psilocybe mushrooms do not seem to have fathered a large Pan-Eurasian cult is because these mushrooms had very stiff competition from our next Angel.
In contrast to the L.B.M. Angels, the King of the Angels was easy to identify, being generally large, brightly colored and found only with it’s favorite trees. This King of the fallen Angels is actually considered not just an Angel but a “God” with hundreds of names, believed to be the commander and leader of all the good Angels on Earth. Everything that made the “good” mushroom Angels Sacred applied doubly to this red or gold Angel, which is considered the “Son of the Sky father” a Divine “Healer” the source of Prophecy, the “Sacrifice” needed to create the “Sacrament” and this “God” was “Immortal” and by being Immortal it could create magic living cups or create multiplying “Bread” and “Wine”. Unlike every other Earth “Angel” this is an Angel whose Gifts can be easily multiplied in direct proportion to the need. There is no comparison possible between this Angel and any other fallen Angel on Earth, thus this Angel is elevated above all other Angels in Eurasian religious myth, for as the Soma, Haoma, Ambrosia, Nectar, the Eucharist, and hundreds of other names, this Golden Angel has created a multitude of Eurasian religions.
Amanita muscaria A.K.A. Soma. Photo by Neil