We often associate Death with the Grim Reaper or a dark silhouette. However, its origin and appearance are quite different than we know, and the name is Azrael.
The Origin of Death
Did you know Death was an angel? Having a being the representative of Death is part of many cultures, but here we are focusing on Death’s relatively old portrayal. It is part of Islam, Jewish, and Catholic faiths.
In Norse, the goddess Hel is the Underworld ruler and is, by definition, Death. In Greek as well as Roman mythology, Thanatos is the one to bring Death upon humans. Those are the bearer of the end of life and the beginning of the afterlife.
In this belief, it is an archangel eon old with the name Azrael who is Death itself. This angel doesn’t rule over Death or the Underworld but brings it to the person and leads the human to the next chapter.
Azrael is like a psychopomp. It means that Azrael does not judge the person because it’s not his role. Azrael’s role as a psychopomp is simply to escort the soul to its correct destination.
The depiction of Azrael carries a scroll with the names of all mortals. The names disappear as he guides them to their next chapter in the afterlife. But what I most like about Azrael is that he doesn’t judge you but instead guides you.
Where Does Death Live Or Looks Like?
Azrael is part of quite a few different beliefs. In Catholicism, Azrael is an archangel and follows Hebrew’s translation to “Angel of God” or “Help from God.” After all, he is the one to take your hand and ease your way into what awaits next.
In some faiths, there are levels to Heaven just like there are in Hell. Azrael’s location would be in the third. But what he looks like is quite debatable. An early description says he has four faces and four thousand wings as well as seventy thousand feet. His entire frame contains tongues and eyes according to the Earth’s population. Quite frightening if you ask me.
I won’t lie. I do prefer the archangel incarnation where Azrael is humanoid with a pair of wings.
An Angel With A Story
So, we do know that Azrael is part of Hebrew origins and proofs found in Mesopotamia confirms its Aramaic provenance dating all the way back to the six hundred. But, a name alone cannot have an association with Death or life.
Azrael traveled to the Islamic belief and received a rebirth. The popularity of the archangel grows, and the name is in Ethiopic versions of the Apocalypse of Peter. We are not in the fifteen hundred.
However, now Azrael is not part of Heaven, but Hell, and his role is to avenge those who were done wrong in their lifetime.
His image changed even in Jewish theology as Azrael becomes the incarnation of evil.
That is quite a transformation and a personality change.
The Death Load of Azrael
Azrael is an archangel with great importance and is often part of the occult and gothic life. Being the angel of Death, all we know about him is that his presence is only a requirement when a devastating event happens.
However, certain people with higher stature than every other human receives a visit prior to their Death as a preparation. People such as prophets, saints, among other dedicated people, have the opportunity to meet with Azrael in the shape of an angel or what we know as angel form.
Azrael, however, does not work alone. There are much lower ranking—angels of Death under Azrael’s command, who appears to other people to fulfill his duty. They help, just like Azrael, the people who passed to guide them to their proper afterlife.
Azrael In Our World
Azrael traveled many beliefs to become the one angel of Death we know. He was part of the tale of Solomon and many others dating way back before the king. Even Western adaptation of the angel is now part of our culture.
The depiction of Azrael wearing a black hooded cloak is one we know and confuse with the Grim Reaper. Is Azrael the one who inspired the look of the famous Grim Reaper? Although the description missed the prominent scythe, the portrayal itself is close in imagery.
In The Reaper and the Flowers, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow depicts Azrael as the angel of Death, but there is no association with Samael. In Jewish lore, Samael is not only the angel of Death but also a malevolent angel.
Modern Depiction Of The Angel Of Death
As a fun fact, in the popular cartoon The Smurfs, the villain Gargamel has a cat, and his name is Azrael.
But a portrayal I most enjoyed of Azrael was the one in the Netflix series Lucifer. In the fictional series Lucifer, Azrael looks like a young woman and is one of Lucifer’s siblings. She carries a unique blade around that can vanish anyone killed with it. Eventually, the edge finds itself in the Void.
I just really like the decision to make Azrael look like Lucifer’s little sister. One of my favorite quotes from her is touching.
“When Dad kicked you out, the whole family was rocked, me especially.”Azrael, Netflix’s Lucifer
It shows how close the two were and the important place Lucifer had in his family. Sadly, after Lucifer left, Azrael missed his presence and wanted to visit him even if it meant going to Hell. But, her work overloaded her, and she never found the time.
Despite her youthful appearance and pure kindness, Azrael is wise and patient. The portrayal of the angel of Death in Lucifer is one that stuck with me more than any other.
What To Think Of Azrael
The angel was in Heaven, then Hell, and looked like a monster, then a humanoid. I believe that Azrael is an angel with many faces to appeal to the people close to passing. I want to think Azrael is a “she” and with a kind smile leads one to the next level.
Azrael is just one among many portrayals of Death. This archangel has a fascinating story and one that I enjoy despite my reluctance toward Death itself. The angel that doesn’t judge but simply guides you toward your next chapter somehow makes Death less frightening. What do you think? Did you know Death was an angel?