Literally, chief-angel. The prefix 'arch' means principal or preeminent.
Depending on the reference source, this high-ranking assemble may be composed of four, six, seven, or nine angels.
According to Dionysius the Areopagite, the name given to the incorporeal beings of the third circle (Eighth Hierarchy), the beings of the sphere of Mercury, "messengers which carry Divine Decrees."
The Archangels are said to guide the spiritual destiny of groups of people, of nations, rather than individuals (which is the role of angels); this probably explains why the Archangels are often portrayed as carrying formalized models of cities in their arms.
Archangels are supposed to carry God's messages to humans and are ultimately in control of God's armies of angels who continuously battle the Sons of Darkness, with Michael at the helm.
In Judaism and Christianity, the most significant are the seven archangels each of whom is assigned one of the seven spheres of heaven: Gabriel, Raphael, Michael, Uriel, Joophiel, Zadkiel and Samael (Satan). In art the archangels are usually depicted with many eyes and larger wings, and the most characterized are Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
In ancient Sumerian culture, archangels were those who fell to Earth following a war in the heavens.
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Sources: (1) Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing; (2) Gonzalez-Wippler, Migene, Return of the Angels, Llewellyn Publications; (3) Lewis, James R., Angels A to Z, Visible Ink Press.
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