Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fallen Angels

All that it takes is one rotten apple. In the case of the hosts of heaven, that was *Samyaza (my image below), an Earthward-gazing angel whose eye had fallen upon the comely 'daughters of men', as described in the ex-canonical Book of Enoch (see my previous post). Samyaza got together a coalition of the willing: two hundred angels known as the Watchers, who swore a terrible oath of allegiance before descending down through the heavenly realms to determine just how easy Earth girls were. By the time the company arrived on our planet they had acquired bodies of flesh and blood. And flesh and blood were what they were after.

But the Watchers were prepared to give as well as to take. One of their number, Azazyel, gave to men the dubious gift of the arts of weaponry and warfare, and he showed women how they could enhance their beauty with trinkets, jewellery and makeup. The world became a place of lost innocence, of desecration, of suffering. And the half-angel offspring of the Watchers born to Earthly women, the Nephilim, proved to have voracious appetites, gorging their way through every living thing: the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, crawling reptiles, and the fish that swam in the waters. But then the humans around them also went onto the menu. Enough was enough.

The cries of despair coming from the human world were heard in heaven. The five archangels - Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Suryal and Uriel - joined battle with the wayward fallen angels. Raphael bound the troublemaking Azazyel fast, Gabriel incited the Nephilim to an act of terrible mutual slaughter, and Michael bound Samyaza and the rest of the company deep beneath the earth, where they shall remain until the End of Days.

It certainly makes for a tremendous story. An epic clash of forces classically portrayed as good pitted against evil, which endures in our own contemporary culture through such films as Star Wars and many another. But is this primal battle the stuff of folk culture which belongs with our other sacred texts and mythologies? Or is it something more? As with so much else, it gets down to what you choose to believe. Supposing that these fallen angels were something more than just a story? Supposing that these beings really walked among us in those ancient times? If this was so, and if the Watchers really existed, then who were they?

Were the Watchers in reality perhaps all-too-Earthly visitors from a then-less familiar geographical region, strangers come from a strange land? Or were they even extraterrestrials visiting our planet to throw a few alien genes into the human mix, as has been speculated on the wilder shores of probability by some credulity-stretching theories? The case for the first option is argued cogently and even credibly by Andrew Collins in his book 'From the Ashes of Angels' (the striking cover art, above).

The second option comes from the writing of Zecharia Sitchin in 'The 12th Planet'. Now, I realize that Sitchin has a huge fan base out there, but for my taste his left-field ideas are too easy to disprove. His entire postulation rests upon the existence of an undiscovered planet - Nibiru - within our solar system, the chosen home planet for his alien Watchers. Nibiru, claims Sitchin, has a highly elliptical orbit, which is why its proximity to the Earth is so infrequent. But alas for his theory, the laws of planetary motion dictate that such a large planet as he claims Nibiru to be would be bound to settle into a near-circular orbit around the sun, making his entire theory impossible based upon this one crucial factor. Still, if you like the ‘ancient astronauts’ style of speculative theories, then this book will do it for you. Me, I'll stick with something a little more down-to-earth.

Artist: Hawkwood
Work: Samyaza, 2009
Medium: Digital with sculpted elements
Location: Cyberspace


'Fallen Angels and the Origins of Evil' (see my previous post).
'From the Ashes of Angels', by Andrew Collins. Michael Joseph, 1996.
'The 12th Planet', by Zecharia Sitchin. Avon Books, 1978. Reissued by Harper, 2007.

*The name Samyaza later slipped into Christian tradition as Satan. Since nomenclature for the Watchers varies with translation, the spelling of names here follows that of the original 19th century translation of the Book of Enoch by Richard Laurence.

Visit Andrew Collins' website at:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dude, Where’s My Prophet?

In the ancient times before the Deluge, mysterious beings known only as the Watchers, the ‘sons of the gods’, looked down from the heavens on high, and seeing the comely ‘daughters of men’, descended to our world to party. The results of these unions were the Nephilim, human on their mothers’ side, and on their fathers’ side… well.. what, exactly? Quite a body of speculative literature has grown up around this brief but intriguing passage from the Book of Genesis. The Biblical explanation is that the Watchers were some kind of fallen (literally) angels, who during the long descent from their ethereal heights gradually acquired material bodies the closer to our world they came. For this and other passages the Book of Genesis can make for intriguing reading. And yet where it might be expected to expound upon significant details, the text instead yields only tantalizing glimpses, more shadows than substance. One is left with the feeling that there is more to tell, but that something, somewhere, is missing. And it is.

I have just completed reading the Book of Enoch. Enoch, the companionable prophet (my imagined portrait, above) who was the seventh generation from Adam. Enoch, whose lengthy description of his visit to the heavenly abode is among the finest and most stirring passages of visionary writing that I have come across. Enoch, who is the source for much detail that we feel is otherwise missing from Genesis. The identity of the serpent in Eden (and how it came to be there). A description of the actual fruit that hung on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (it wasn’t an apple!) that grew in the Garden. The true cause of the Deluge (the brief reason given in Genesis, that it was ‘the wickedness of men’, always did sound to my ears like a not-very-adequate justification for pulling the plug on an entire planet). In short, it is the sympathetic voice of the prophet Enoch who supplies so much of the detail that seems to be lacking in Genesis.

The Book was known from a text written in Ancient Greek (above), but remained unread in the West until the Scottish traveller James Bruce returned from Ethiopia with a copy in the 18th century. This was later translated into English by Richard Laurence, and further existence of the original version, written in Aramaic (below) was confirmed when fragments were discovered among the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947.

So where is Enoch? Or rather: where is Enoch’s Book? Because (except, curiously, in Ethiopia) it failed to make it into the Biblical canon. The reason, apparently, was that the Church fathers considered aspects of the Book to be heretical, particularly the key question of immaterial angels being able to take on material bodies. And so Enoch hit the cutting room floor. Which I for one consider a tragedy of editing, not just because of the information that without it remains puzzlingly uncertain, but also because the book contains such fine passages of visionary writing.

And the Nephilim? Because Enoch certainly provides us with more information about them than their brief mention in Genesis. Well, another time, perhaps.

Artist: Hawkwood
Work: The Prophet Enoch, 2009
Medium: Digital painting with photographic elements
Location: Cyberspace

'Fallen Angels and the Origins of Evil', by Elizabeth Clare Prophet. Summit University Press, 2000. Contains the complete original translation by Richard Laurence and other ex-canonical texts, and much additional explanatory material (including all canonical Biblical references to Enoch), and also hints at intriguing personal speculations of the author’s.
'The Lost Prophet', by Margaret Barker. Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2005.
An excellent short introduction to the material by a recognized Biblical scholar.

Richard Laurence's complete translation is available online at: