Angels are non-sexual, but all angels in Christianity are referred to as ‘he’. There are female angels in other religious traditions. Angels are divided into a hierarchy of nine Orders or Choirs. In descending rank – and descending closeness to God – they are:
SERAPHIM: Highest of all the Orders, the Seraphim are angels of love, light and fire. They are usually described as having six wings.
CHERUBIM (or kerubim): They excel in knowledge, bear mighty swords and are usually described as having four wings. They are nothing like the popular image of cherubs!
OFANIM (or Thrones): Dispensers of justice, they reside mainly in the Fourth Heaven. They are often depicted in the form of chariot wheels.
DOMINIONS (or Dominations): They regulate the duties of other angels and carry orbs and sceptres. Zacharael is the ruling prince of this Order.
VIRTUES: These angels are espcially responsible for guiding the courses of the planets and controlling rain, wind and snow. They are also responsible for the working of miracles.
POWERS (or Potentates): They counteract the activities of demons and guard the routes between Heaven and Earth. Traditionally, their colours are green and gold.
PRINCIPALITIES: Their particular role is to protect religion on Earth and influence Earthly leaders into making good decisions. The princes of this order are Requel, Haniel and Cerviel.
ARCHANGELS: We think of ‘archangels’ as the highest of angels, but the term also refers to an Order of angels relatively low on the hierarchy. Confusing! Angels of this Order serve especially as messengers.
ANGELS: Even more confusing! The term applies to angels of every Order, but also refers to a specific Order at the bottom of the hierarchy. Being furthest from God, they are also closest to humankind, and concern themselves especially with human affairs. (In The Ferren Trilogy, I’ve renamed angels of this Order as ‘Junior Angels’.)
In all cases, a prince or ruling figure of a lower Order may be more powerful than an ordinary member of a higher Order.