Eye of the Sword features a merry mash-up of various mythologies, including world trees, aura-reading, and magic harps. Although a Most High deity is mentioned, angels and half-angels feature most prominently in the series. Author Karyn Henley even uses different levels of angelic authority, all the way from top-dog seraphim who guard the Most High, to lowly Exousia who don’t even have wings. Of course, being the language and anthropology nerd that I am, I had to do some Google searching.
Henley borrows the first three levels from knowledge of medieval angelology:
Seraphim – A seraph (pl. seraphim ( /ˈsɛr.ə.fɪm/); Hebrew: שְׂרָפִים śərāfîm, singular שָׂרָף śārāf; Latin: seraphi[m], singular seraph[us]; Greek: σεραφείμ) is a type of celestial or heavenly being in the Abrahamic religions.
Ophanim – The Thrones (lat. thronus, pl. throni) are a class of celestial beings mentioned by Paul of Tarsus in Colossians 1:16 (New Testament) and related to the Throne of God. They are living symbols of God’s justice and authority. According to the New Testament, these high celestial beings are among those Orders at the Christ‘s service. The Thrones are mentioned again in Revelation 11:16.
Cherubim – A cherub (Heb. כְּרוּב, pl. כְּרוּבִים, eng. trans kərūv, pl. kərūvîm, dual kərūvāyim lat. cherub[us], pl cherubi[m], Assyrian ܟܪܘܒܐ) is a type of spiritual being mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and cited later on in the Christian biblical canons, usually associated with the presence of God. The plural can be written as cherubim, cherubimsKJV or cherubs.
The rest of the levels she basically borrows from Catholic angelology as well, only Karyn Henley changes some of the names and she adds in one or two new groups:
Kuriotes : means dominion, power, lordship – Henley makes them the bosses of lower order angels
Archae : origin Greek archaio-, from archaios ancient, from archē beginning – Henley makes them the guardians of the four elements
Thronos : a throne seat, or a chair of state having a footstool – Henley makes these ones justice-minded
Exousia : can be power of choice, mental power, or power over government – Henley makes them warriors and keepers of history
And the rest are archangels, regular old messenger angels, and half-angels. With all this angel talk, I’m not at all surprised that she features a whole section of her website on angelology from different cultures.
To be honest, all this talk of angels makes me a bit edgy. It’s one thing when a clearly secular book decides to fool around with angels. There are different expectations. It’s quite another when a book filed under “Christian” does the same thing. It seems to muddy the waters and create an unwise focus on angels. Even if the book is “just a story”, it’s marketed at Christian teens who will come into it familiar with the idea of angels. Like it or not, Henley’s book will become associated with that in their brains, and perhaps create an unhealthy focus on angels, rather than on Christ Jesus (excessive mental preoccupation does count as worship).
“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!’ “ – Revelation 22:8-9
It would be different if Henley is just using the word “angel” for her own creations, but that’s a hard sell when there is a clear linguistic and duty connection between them and Catholic angelology–with a few exceptions, in that these angels get frisky with humans and appear to be far closer to humans than the Biblical standard.
I understand that this is supposed to be fantasy, and that gives Henley some creative license. The much-favored C. S. Lewis is infamous for weaving in all sorts of myth into his stories–favoring Greek and Roman figures. However, Lewis still had a strong story telling core to most of his books, of which the mythology was decoration and deliberate ornamentation. In Eye of the Sword, sort of non-Biblical angels are the main event–combined with many other ideas. This makes Eye of the Sword a book that I’d much rather see in the regular young adult section, where it could find its way into the hands of a larger teen audience and give them a refreshing change from yet another fallen angel romance.
Come back tomorrow for Day 3′s post – myth-mixing with a pinch of Christian morals gets random relativism soup.
For some other thoughts, please check out the following bloggers:
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller