Fads and Angels

Does anyone else remember the fad for angels back in the late 1980s-early 1990s? It started, I think, when the “End Times are Nigh” strand of Christian thinking collided with the New Age “spirit guides and visitors,” with a dollop of free-market retail tossed in. Everyone was selling goodies with the two putti (cherubs) from the bottom of Raphael’s “Sistine Madonna”, despite multiple protests by the copyright holder. I recall angel tee-shirts, angel posters and mouse pads, and lots and lots of books about angelic spirits and summoning angelic spirits [!], and so on.

I read one or two of those books. First off, once they start presenting a list of names that goes beyond the four I’m used to – Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel – I start getting a touch curious. Meaning that my “I sense bunkum” detector goes off, along with a quiet alarm. Then the guided meditations and cautions and hints and so on make me itch. Not all of them, especially in books that start with two chapters of warnings about “if whatever shows up does this, this, or that, run,” but most. Too much New Age, too much woo. The book about how to get angelic spirits to make you rich didn’t quite make me back away and reach for the jar of crushed garlic, but it was close.

Angels seem to have fallen out of fashion in pop-culture. I don’t see random angel stuff in shops anymore. Occasionally I still see the decorative wall crosses (which don’t do anything for me, but that’s just me), but not angels, unless it is in a shop that markets to Christians, especially certain Protestant denominations. Angels appear to be Out as pop-culture goes. In a way I’m glad, because treacly-sweet winged children in white nightgowns have never really seemed angelic, aside from church Christmas plays and so on. All the angels in the Bible, when they appear as angels, say, “Fear Not” as their first words for a good reason, at least based on the reaction of the people they appear to.

(Interestingly, fluffy pop-Wicca seems to also have disappeared. Wicca-related accessories and general books are no longer common in the New Age-type shops around here.)

I’m not quite sure what’s trendy now in terms of small, decorative items and poster art. It might be all over the map, given the huge range of things available on-line. And perhaps I’m just not going into the right shops. But I don’t see books on angels in the local bookstores, again aside from the religious bookstores, and even those are sparser than they were in the 1980s-90s.

I suspect the general decline in clearly defined religion plays a role. And fear of someone at a workplace declaring that he or she is offended by anything obviously Christian of Jewish. The darker side of pop-occult stuff, however, I do see more of: divination tools, urban fantasy and paranormal romance with strong negative occult themes, very dark jewelry and fashions. I don’t think that’s a good replacement. In my experience, people can accidentally open doors they don’t intend to, even if those doors are only into their subconscious. If they are fortunate, they just spook themselves.

I’m sort of glad that I no longer have to run a gauntlet of overly-cute angel things as I shop for cards. On the other hand, they were generally harmless as long as I didn’t brush against one and knock it over. The same can’t be said for some other things.

15 thoughts on “Fads and Angels

  1. To the best of my understanding, the angels fad was kicked off by Billy Graham. However theologically sound he was on other points of doctrine (I genuinely don’t know), he was extremely flaky with respect to angels.

    As fashionable as it is to blame everything on members of the Baby Boom (as a member of Gen X, I mostly approve) in this case, I think it’s justified. I don’t know what made them so susceptible to New Age crap, but they were certainly enthusiastic about it.

  2. summoning angelic spirits [!]

    One fantasy writer that I know (on-line) had created background information concerning a story world that he was planning to visit.

    Two bits I seem to remember were:

    1) Summoning demons: Very dangerous and likely shouldn’t be done.

    2) Summoning angels: Are you insane? You can’t control them and if they respond, they will issue punishments for attempting to summon them.

    Seriously, some older “white” magic did involve “calling upon angels to do something for the magician”. I seriously doubt that any responders were angels (of the non-fallen types).

    • That kinds resembles my attitude: attempting to conjure supernatural Powers is unreasonably dangerous (compared to any normal situation) if They exist, and pointless if They don’t. I prefer not to draw Their attention, nor, in general, that of the secular Powers. (Hi there, Mr. FBI!)
      As the blessing goes: “May the Old Ones ignore you.”
      … And now I’m thinking of Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit.

  3. I wouldn’t lay this on on the Boomers as such, although the mass-media caused a huge response from the signal being boosted way beyond 11. That late 80s peak corresponds to older Boomer women facing menopause without faith and family to support them (thanks, Silents), and Xer girls out to Find Themselves and Strong Women Through Spirit-Whatsit-My Turn and Who Needs That Old Stuff – Duh! (thanks, Silents and Boomers). It echoes the 60s-70s boom of Ouija, tarot and other things, and the earlier fad for seances, spirit readings, etc.

    Buffy the — second remove — is the expected result from an understrength vampire slayer not working for a combat exorcist.

    • Tea-leaf reading (with similar divination) was the Big Thing in my grandma’s area in the 20s and 30s.

      Magic-usually-spelled-with-a-K was winding down on the nifty factor about a decade earlier, her mother was Not Amused enough that I heard about it.

      Given their location, I think cities followed the same pattern about a decade earlier?

      Not sure when Crowley and company were doing stuff…..

  4. The pin-up girl, can’t-grow-facial-hair boys, and “is that a barely teen girl or an unfortunately pretty boy?” angels are still around, too.


    Even when they hand ’em a sword, half the time I’d rather imagine myself fighting than imaging those art-angels protecting me!


    I had the same “uh-oh” feeling about the making up names, meditating, etc stuff with angels, too. Only later did I get the catechesis to find out that is a Known Dangerous Thing…..

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