Written by Asterion
Translated by Gabriel Anghelescu
(Serafim, painting in Santa Sophia/Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey. Source)
His name is strictly related to the order of the Seraph (seraphim), whose leader he is. We call him “archangel” because he is one of the most important angels of the mystical tradition and he is often mentioned together with them.
Seraphiel or Serafiel means “The Flame of God” in Hebrew and magical texts still remember him as Sarafiel, Saraphiel, Sarapiel or Sarphiel. The western magical tradition mentions him as one of the angels of Wednesday, meaning of planet Mercury, because it repeats without too many changes the angelic lists found in “Heptameron” by Peter of Abano, first published in 1496. This was a highly used work and a precious reference in the world of European magic, but our archangel is much older than that and has far greater powers than a mere angel of planet Mercury.
Various kabbalistic works describe him, in turn, either the keeper of one of the gates of the heavenly palace, either one of the eight judging angels, either one of the 26 primary angels bearing the Divine Throne (Merkava). His name is invoked in the case of fire hazards, but also in reaching the knowledge of the state of purity.
An anonymous tradition describes Seraphiel as being part of the hierarchy of the angels of the divine fire: he is the subordinate of Jehoel or Johuel (a name of Metatron, actually), the first of the seven archangels of Fire, followed by Gabriel, Uriel, Temanael, Shimsael, Hadranael And Samiel. It is known as Sarphiel, along with many other angels (including Michael, Azrael and Shamshiel) in the incantations of the Book of Protection, a Syrian magical corpus, having the power to influence the decisions of a ruler or a king.
The best description is found in a Hebrew version of the Book of Enoch, conventionally called 3 Enoch or The Hebrew Book of Enoch, an entire chapter being dedicated to him, the 26th chapter, from which we derive the following description of this beautiful angel:
“R. Ishmael said: Metatron, the Angel, the Prince of the Presence, said to me:
- Above these there is one prince, wonderful, noble, great, honourable, mighty, terrible, a chief and leader and a swift scribe, glorified, honoured and beloved.
- He is altogether filled with splendour, full of praise and shining; and he is wholly full of brilliance, of light and of beauty; and the whole of him is filled with goodliness and greatness.
- His countenance is altogether like (that of) angels, but his body is like an eagle’s body.
- His splendour is like unto lightnings, his appearance like fire brands, his beauty like unto sparks, his honour like fiery coals, his majesty like chashmals, his radiance like the light of the planet Venus. The image of him is like unto the Greater Light. His height is as the seven heavens. The light from his eyebrows is like the sevenfold light.
- The sapphire stone upon his head is as great as the whole universe and like unto the splendour of the very heavens in radiance.
- His body is full of eyes like the stars in the sky, innumerable and unsearchable. Every eye is like the planet Venus. Yet, there are some of them like the Lesser Light and some of them like unto the Greater Light. From his ankles to his knees (they are) like unto stars of lightning, from his knees to his thighs like unto the planet Venus, from his thighs to his loins like unto the moon, from his loins to his neck like the sun, from his neck to his skull like unto the Light Imperishable.
- The crown on his head is like unto the splendour of the Throne of Glory. The measure of the crown is the distance of 502 years’ journey. There is no kind of splendour, no kind of brilliance, no kind of radiance, no kind of light in the universe but is fixed on that crown.
- The name of that prince is SERAPHIEL H. And the crown on his head, its name is “the Prince of Peace”. And why is he called by the name of SERAPHIEL H? Because he is appointed over the Seraphim. And the flaming Seraphim are given in his charge. And he presides over them by day and by night and teaches them song, praise, proclamation of beauty, might and majesty; that they may proclaim the beauty of their King in all manner of Praise and Sanctification (Qedushsha).
The king to whom the seraphim proclaim glory is not Serafiel himself, the head of the order, But God. The text describes the vision of a mystic who travels to the heavens with the soul, not a vision of the angel appeared on Earth. It is impossible for this angel to be seen by men in all likelihood, not because they would not be allowed or would not stand in his power, but because people would not bear his terrible and fiery appearance.
Serafiel is the greatest of the seraphim, but when we say “seraphim“, we should not think of an angelic baby figure like Cupid-Eros. The text says there are four seraphim under his direct command, in accordance with the cardinal directions. Each has six wings, according to the six days of creation, and four faces. Their stature is gigantic, each having the height of the seven heavens; Each wing is like a heaven (called Raqia), and each face is as much as the entire eastern part of the Earth. Every seraph emanates a light like the Throne of Glory, so powerful that even the highest orders of angels can not look without going blind. Considering how amazing these seraphim are, we can not even imagine how bright and powerful Serafiel really is.
In the Islamic tradition, he appears as Israfil, being one of the four main archangels of this tradition, alongside Mikhail, Jibrail and Azrail (Michael, Gabriel, and Azriel). Often confused with Uriel, Ariel and Rafael in particular, because of his name, Israfil or Serafiel is separated from them, his name meaning “The One who Burns, The One who is Baptized in God.” Although not mentioned by name in the Qur’an, Israfil is identified with the Angel of the Trumpet, which will signal the end of the days. It is said that in the beginning, God created the Divine Throne, and after its creation, He created the Holy Trumpet, which is white as a pearl, transparent as a crystal, and hanged it on the throne. Then He commanded “Be!”, and Israfil was created. He commanded him to take the trumpet, which is seventy thousand light-years long, and to make holes according to the number of the living beings. The blast hole is larger than the Heaven and the Earth put together, but Israfil can easily cover it with his mouth. God commanded him to sound the trumpet when he orders him, so Israfil is prepared century after century, waiting for the mission to be accomplished. The Qur’an says, “And the trumpet shall sound, and all who are in Heaven, and all who are on Earth, shall fall in faint, all except Allah; Then they will call again, and all will rise by waiting.” According to another tradition, the first trumpet call will shake the world and, and the second sound will raise the dead and summon them to the final judgment.
Israfil’s resemblance sounding the trumpet together with the seven angels of Christianity, who sound seven trumpets at the Final Judgment, in the book of Revelation. The tradition also says that Israfil is very close to God or His presence and only seven veils separate him from the Divinity. It has four wings, unlike the Hebrew tradition: one stretches over the West, the other one over the East, the third one covers the seven earths, and the fourth one covers itself to protect itself from the magnificent Light of God.
Whether we talk about the Hebrew tradition, the Islamic tradition or the magical tradition, Serafiel is one of the most powerful angels known to man, and one of the greatest heavenly beings. He is the head of the seraphic hierarchy, and inspires the songs of glory of the seraphim who are glorifying the Lord. He is the master of the Divine Fire, and all that belongs to this is subordinate to him.
Serafiel’s help can not be obtained directly, but only through the intercession of the angels who are in service. We can ask for help in times of extreme danger, such as fires or accidents, we can call on divine protection through him. We can call him to any fire-related activity to sanctify that act, from lighting a candle to burning spices. When we need immediate protection, we can ask for support:
In the name of the living God, the pre-empowering archangel Seraphil, protect me! Amen.”
(Serafiel, in the Islamic tradition as Israfil. Picture from the manuscript Aja’ib al-Makhluqat of al-Qazvini, 1375-1425. Source)