As I followed the tour attendees through the chapel’s side door, I gave the old, wooden structure one last glance over my shoulder. Of course, I intended to visit again in the future, but this moment was special. Cassiel had changed his mansion. The angel had gone out of his way to make us comfortable, and that spoke volumes to my heart.
Because Cassiel changes for no one.
At least, that’s the general sentiment of all the archangels I’ve met so far. In my first book, Azrael Loves Chocolate, Michael’s a Jock, I introduced the archangel as a rebellious bad-boy, of sorts. He was the silent, anti-social outcast that dressed in black and sat perched on wintery tree branches while watching over us humans. Among all the angelic stereotypes—white robes, gilded cinches, divine decrees—Cassiel stood as an outlier, refusing to ever wear white “even if his life depended on it,” as Archangel Michael has often said, and choosing instead a limited number of avatars that buck what we humans, Westerners particularly, might associate with divinity.
In my thirty years of working with angels, I’ve found that they will often change their appearance to appeal to the humans they engage. This is why when you talk to those that have encountered the ever popular Archangel Michael, you’ll often hear different descriptions of the angel. In a multitude of online spiritual forums, Michael fans argue that he has blond hair, brunette; blue eyes, green. They argue over whether he displays wings or not, and if so, well, there’s argument over whether his feathers are white, gold, brown, or even rainbow. The one answer to all of this is, “Yes.” Michael, like most angels, will appear however you imagine him, her, or they to be. Whatever keeps your attention long enough to hear the divine message in tow is what an archangel will use. And if there’s one thing that separates Archangel Cassiel from the whole of the angelic body is this.
Cassiel uses his appearance as a teaching tool. His inspired “eff you” attire is meant to throw us off guard, to force us into dealing with our prejudices—powerful filters, obstacles that hinder our spiritual progress. Cassiel’s black leather and ghostly emo vampire look begs us to accept him just as he is. He shouldn’t have to drape himself in white and model himself like an adonis on the front of a romance novel to get your attention. (That’s Michael’s job.)
If that’s what you’re expecting from Cassiel as an archangel, you’re in for an eternity of waiting. Underneath what must be the divine inspiration for every Tim Burton film ever made is nothing but pure, concentrated angel, but to get to the sweet, gooey center of Cassiel, you have to get past his hard, often bitter, candy shell. Those brave enough to try are rewarded with one of the warmest angelic encounters a human could ever experience. Ironic, since the angel’s energy signature runs cool, sometimes frosty. Cassiel is, after all, the Angel of Tears and Sorrow, and his presence often feels like a wintery breeze, but his demeanor is anything but.
Arriving in our lives at our lowest point, when we feel completely abandoned and utterly alone, when we’re ready to give up on the world, Cassiel is a font of empathy and compassion, understanding and tolerance. Still, perhaps the angel’s greatest gift to those ‘neath his wing is friendship.
Out of all the angels I’ve had the pleasure of working with, Cassiel is the most accessible. He’s also the only angel I’ve seen manifest corporeally. If nothing else, this shows us that angels can be as maddeningly complex as us humans. Here, we have an archangel that’s chosen to be a poster child for shy, awkward introverts, hermits and social outcasts, yet he’s made himself a legend among his angelic brethren for appearing in the flesh, something the angel population has never seemed all that comfortable with doing, especially in modern times.
And it seems that in that same desire to be a bit more accessible, Cassiel chose to repair the old chapel just in time for this tour. After all, nothing says “don’t get comfortable” more than intentionally leaving the pews in splinters and strewn about the floor, as I have seen them years prior. Tonight, however, they were in mint condition, which made me wonder if they were temporarily installed for the tour or if the angel was open to having more frequent visits from humans in the future.
And as I filed out of the chapel and into the brisk night air behind everyone else, I figured only time would tell.
The chapel door creaked to a close behind the group and we all found ourselves standing beside a wooden fence. It, too, was weathered and about hip high. Cassiel lifted his hand, and a tall, wrought iron lantern came to life as a ball of flame the size of his fist ignited with a whoosh. Suddenly, other lanterns dotting the perimeter, and then in rows across a tiny stretch of land, ignited in succession. When all was done, I’d see yet another fixture in this angelic mansion that my intuitive eye had never before captured during my many meditative visits. A small graveyard had appeared before us, and without a word, Cassiel pushed open its squeaky, little gate to step inside. There weren’t many headstones, two dozen at the most, but in the center of the yard was a small boulder. It seemed as if the graveyard had been plotted around it; still, it seemed relatively innocuous.
Cassiel stood in silence before the boulder and waited for us to gather around him. It was at this moment that I realized he’d transformed his leather jacket to a charcoal turtleneck sweater and heather scarf. His hands were once again tucked into his pockets, and he was gazing pensively at the unmarked stone.
Then, unprompted, he began to speak. As usual, his voice was deep, soft whispers. “Immanuel asked me to play the role of Judas, opposite his role of Jesus. Only moments earlier, I had been standing by Helel [Lucifer] and Uriel against my little brother, against the humans, and against my eldest brother Michael.
“It was the first time since the birth of Creation that we angels stood divided, and to settle once and for all whether we angels—firstborn of the Creator—would continue to ‘suffer our petulant and ruinous human siblings,’ as Helel argued, Immanuel had offered up himself in a human role unlike anything we angels had ever seen before—the role of a human named ‘Jesus.’ He was laying the whole of his existence on the line. Yet, though I had absolutely no faith in humanity at the time, I had faith in Immanuel—the only one of us angels, who at the time, was born of Light. If he believed humans were worth saving, I would listen.
“I would listen, and I would accept whatever role he chose for me. It was my first human incarnation, but unlike humans, who must first read and agree to the challenges their life scripts entail, I was given nothing. No one, save Immanuel and the Creator, knew the Jesus story and the role that all of the angels would play. And when I, as Judas, finally lived to see the culmination of a human lifetime of words and deeds, I understood pain and sorrow for the first time. Anguish over what I had done triggered an explosion of unmitigated rage that consumed what I once was as the Angel of Kings and had given rise to what now stands before you all as the Angel of Tears and Sorrow.
“After Immanuel’s triumphant return from his mission, which would bind us angels to humans for all eternity, several archangels sought refuge to be alone with our thoughts. This was a first. The desire to be separate from our brothers, to be disconnected from the very Source of Creation, was a foreign feeling, but a potent one, nonetheless. Helel, Uriel and myself needed refuge from the moment, refuge from the most joyous celebration in our world, but there was no where to go.
“Heaven is…everywhere. I found myself longing for a single shadow in which to hide, but none existed in the spiritual plane. Not yet, anyhow.”
(To be continued…)