cover image A Catalogue of Angels: The Heavenly, the Fallen and the Holy Ones Among Us

A Catalogue of Angels: The Heavenly, the Fallen and the Holy Ones Among Us

Vinita Hampton Wright, . . Paraclete, $16.95 (225pp) ISBN 978-1-55725-421-4

Whether they stare austerely from stained-glass windows in churches or sit among the collectibles in Hallmark stores, angels are a ubiquitous part of American popular culture. In this combination of angelic history and encyclopedia, acclaimed novelist Wright (Dwelling Places ), who describes herself as a believer in angels, investigates their manifestations in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the book's first section, she examines scripture, tradition, mysticism and (occasionally) occult materials to explore such topics as where angels are said to dwell, what caused some of them to "fall," how they interact with humankind, and what the angelic hierarchies are in the Abrahamic traditions. Angel narratives, she observes, help connect us to "a universe we will never understand yet in which we hold a position of great esteem, as those loved by God and ministered to by God's many angels." The other half of the book is an alphabetical angelology, spanning Abaddon (an angel of devastation and hell) to Zohar (the major text of the mystical Jewish tradition of the Kabbalah, which tradition states was transmitted through angels). The narrative portion of the book's opening section ends abruptly, and it is not entirely clear whether the book's overall purpose is scholarly or devotional. However, the encyclopedia is a useful tool for those who wish to pursue more advanced studies. (Sept.)