I have been reading a lot of writing concerned with angels in the past few months - I have been drawn to it and sought it out, but also stumbled across it as well. By angel, I don’t necessarily mean the esoteric, white feathered variety that manifest themselves in rainbows, butterflies or pillars of light at the end of the beds, lovely and inspiring though they are. The angels I have been reading are fictional vehicles and creations - from David Almond’s arthritic Skellig to William Blake’s visions.

Right now I am reading a book I remember from childhood - Maura’s Angel - which was published in 1985. It is interesting to re-read books that had an impact on you as a child, coming to the pages which left a mark on that young psyche, and wondering why they held in the memory. Maura’s Angel, by Lynne Reid Banks, is set in the time of the Troubles, in Belfast, and is an absolutely complete work of the imagination. The angel is the dead twin of an 11 year old girl, who has to learn to eat, walk and talk, and become human.

The other book I am reading (I always have several on the go) - is Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers. I had been wanting to read it for a few months, since visiting Venice, (where it is most evocatively set) and I spotted it in a charity shop in Nottingham at Christmas. I can't help feeling I was meant to find it! This, too, is a sustained and compelling tale of the Archangel Raphael as a messenger ( which is what angels originally were, of course, ) and a companion on a quest.

To balance these angels I deliberately read a self-help angel book too - called Walking with Angels - it was in the book cupboard at work and I left it in the library when I had finished for someone else to find. That was about ‘angelic encounters’ most often happening to the poor people who need them most, particularly the bereaved - and while there is an obvious therapeutic aspect to these books - there was something compelling about people’s stories of angelic messages, of the certainty of their belief and the purity of their desire to hear or see them.

When I hear birdsong, or see a rainbow, or particularly beautiful clouds, I think of these encounters now - whether or not they stem from an external or internal source.

I have also been exploring angels in art too. I don’t know why I am interested in all this angel stuff, but I believe they illuminate what it is to be human by being both a corollary to our corporeality and a vehicle for ideas of innocence. These messengers are taking me somewhere, creatively - it certainly is all ‘going in’ - and will be interesting to see how it comes out again ...


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