Angels in Shamanism

Jeff Oxford

Angels have captivated the imaginations of most of us at some time. Called the messengers of God, these special spiritual guides are numerous and known by many different names. Among the four best known archangels are Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel.

Where did the concept of angels as spiritual beings first come from? While some point to the Torah and /or Bible as being the first sources to reference angels and archangels, evidence suggests that the concept of winged human forms came about long before these books were written.

Ancient Sumerian texts pre-dated the Hebrew book of Genesis, and included the idea of the existence of angels. The Hebrew beliefs regarding angels were similarly shared with Christianity, and both Judaism’s and Christianity’s teachings about angels inspired the Islam beliefs concerning angels.

One interesting theory suggests angels evolved from very old Asiatic shamanic practices involving the use of bird feathers as part of ritualistic ceremonies and giving rise to the human form with wings.

In Catal Huyuk, Anatolia, Turkey, a room named the vulture shrine was uncovered during excavation, dating to 6,500 BC. Named for murals of vultures on the walls, one depicts a vulture with jointed legs, suggesting some of the vultures in fact are people, or shamans, dressed in vulture feathered coats performing funerary rites.

Interestingly, the ritual coats of present-day Siberian shamans are designed to look like birds: cut to a point and tasseled in a way suggestive of feathers. In all forms of shamanism across Asia, the notion of the shaman being able to fly is universal and wings seem to signify an ability to travel to places that ordinary people can’t reach, along with an ability to mediate between the human world and some other higher state or states. Both of these qualities are universally considered to be the main attributes of a shaman. In much the same way, angels are believed to be supernatural beings who act as mediators between man and god.

But did the image of a shaman, resembling a bird, traveling in trance to the realm of the gods and back again, give rise to the original angel motif?

Another cave site excavated near the Greater Zab River in Kurdistan was used for burials by the Zawi Chami people circa 8870 BC, about 4,000 years before the beginnings of the Sumerian culture. Here a number of goat skulls were placed next to the wing bones of large predatory birds, including the bearded vulture, griffon vulture, white-tailed sea eagle and great bustard. Some scholars believe the wings had almost certainly been used as part of some kind of ritualistic costume, worn either for personal decoration or for ceremonial purposes. These finds were connected with the vulture shamanism of Çatal Hüyük which came 2000 years later, more than 500 miles away. Some scholars agree the large winged bird remains of the Kurdistan cave can be seen as evidence of a shamanistic culture whose memory influenced the development of the very notion of angels. Others would may say that these people where the once that were influenced by the angels themselves.

No matter the origin, early encounters or form angel energy is powerful medicine.

In celebration of the angelic realm we offer a range of items for your exploration:

Our Star Essence Angel Rejuvenation Spray has been known to make the angels more apparent when used before meditation and is one in a line of Star Essence products.

And what conversation about angels would be complete without the mention of Doreen Virtue and her Angel Therapy Handbook and Angel Therapy Oracle Cards? Angel Therapy is a powerful healing and guidance process that involves working with your guardian angels and the archangels (particularly Michael and Raphael). Doreen has helped thousands to learn the skills of spiritual healing and psychic readings in concert with the angels and archangels.

Hummingbird Remedies Ceremonial Plant Essences: Angel’s Trumpet is made in a process of co-creation with devic or angelic forces which bio-magnetically imprint the pure water with the plant’s energies;

Seeds of Light’s Dream Seeds collection of gem drops, amulets and wand pendants featuring the four most popular Archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel.

Carry angel energy with you all the time with our Gemstone Pocket Angels.

And if you are feeling feathery, we also carry a variety of quality ceremonial bird feathers, to help your dreams take flight.