On My Spiritual Father, Part One: Clarifying Misunderstandings

As I’ve done a post on my spiritual mother and her kin, it seems that it’s time to write one on my spiritual father, Samael. I’ve postponed this for a time as I’m not entirely sure how to approach this without some common misunderstandings popping up, but I’ll just try my best to first explain what these are and why said misunderstandings exist. Some of this will be UPG, but a good deal is also informed from various historical traditions, in particular Judaic, Christian, Gnostic, and Islamic mysticism and folklore. This first part will be in a question-answer format for ease of reference.

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How I usually see Samael – Wings by hakubaikou

Who and what is Samael?

The most basic answer I can give is that he is a former angel of Yahweh/El/Allah, specifically a seraphim and a shaitan, who ascended to godhood some time ago. Seraphim are high-ranked angels of serpentine form, believed to embody passion and love, and he was once the highest ranked of them all. My UPG is that he was a minor deity in his own right prior to being considered an angel; specifically, I believe he may have been Istaran, the twin brother and lover of Ishtar, a god of justice, described as “radiant” and associated with snakes, blood, and wine. Regardless, at some point he started working for Yahweh and is widely regarded as having been the highest-ranking angel under his employ.

The term shaitan eventually became Satan and does translate to “adversary”, but not in the way most Christians interpret it. Essentially being a shaitan is analogous to being a prosecutor in a court of law, and far from being seen as evil, the post is actually considered an honor. He is not the only one, and many of his fellow shaitan remain at work for Yahweh (though there are certainly a good portion who have fallen as well). In modern Judaic thought, the shaitan are considered to also be those spirits who place obstacles in one’s path in order to teach lessons that ultimately lead one closer to the divine. Samael is sometimes referred to as the chief of the shaitans in all three major Abrahamic religions, a post he still holds even though he no longer works for Yahweh.

He was also a chief of all Yahweh’s angels, and according to his rank was gifted with 12 wings rather than the usual six when it comes to most seraphim; he was the former angel of death; and he was an archon of the air and the creatures who reside in it. He is not the same as the Gnostic Yaldabaoth, who is sometimes also called Samael, which comes from a different root and means “the blind one”. The shaitan Samael’s name means “the poison of El”. I usually see him as a dark-haired man with just one pair of wings (sometimes black and feathered, sometimes bat-like, sometimes of peacock feathers). However, his true appearance (as with most of Yahweh’s angels) is more akin to something out of the Lovecraftian mythos. Ultimately, he has many forms, and the form he takes depends on the role he is fulfilling at the moment.

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Samael as Lucifer – unfinished Lucifer design by Julie Dillon

If he’s Satan, then is he also Lucifer?

Well, yes and no. The biggest misunderstanding of all is that of the existence of Lucifer. I’m not about to say that he doesn’t exist; on the contrary, there are multiple beings who can be called Lucifer, and Samael is one of them. That’s because with one exception, it’s a title, not a name. Said exception is a Roman god of the planet Venus as the morning star, analogous to the Greek Phosphoros, son of the dawn goddess Eos and brother of Hesperos. His name, meaning “light-bringer”, was colloquially used to refer to the morning star in mundane contexts throughout the Roman era. Eventually it became a title within early Christianity, where it was applied to many esteemed individuals, including a few bishops and Yeshua himself. The connotation was initially positive and seems to have indicated that the being in question was considered an illuminator, an enlightener into Truth. In this, it certainly applies to Samael.

My UPG is that he was known as the morning star long prior to Christianity, as stars and angels have been associated with each other in many cultures and he was among the most prominent of angels prior to his Rebellion. Going further back, Ishtar was associated with Venus as both the morning star and the evening star; it’s possible that in the small pocket of Sumer which worshiped Istaran, those duties were split between them. However, his known historical association with the title came out of a mistranslation of the Hebrew heylel ben shahar (“shining one, son of the dawn”), itself apparently a satirical reference to a king of Babylon who believed himself to be equal to the gods and was chastised for his hubris. After the term was translated to Lucifer, this became interpreted as referring to Samael’s Rebellion, which added to the already confused story. He doesn’t seem to mind the confusion himself. When he is in his Lucifer form, which he generally assumes prior to doing kingly things, he appears pale, with blue eyes and white-blonde hair more out of a “shining” quality than actual coloration.

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Samael, prior to the Rebellion – Samael by ApocalypticPorcelain

Is he a fallen angel?

This one is… complicated, and it depends on how you define “fallen”. Personally, I view fallen angels as those who, having been created by or sworn to a particular deity, chose to disobey that deity’s will. By this definition, yes, he is fallen. However, unlike many other fallen angels, he continues to fulfill many of his initial angelic duties including being a shaitan. He simply does it for himself rather than Yahweh now (though in some senses his work continues to drive people towards Yahweh as well as other expressions of the divine).

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One of my favorite memes, “Good Guy Lucifer”

(background image of Vertigo comic’s Lucifer Morningstar)

What happened between Samael and Yahweh? What was the Rebellion?

This varies depending on who you ask. The version that rings most true for me is the Sufi account; in this, Yahweh initially ordered his angels to never bow to anyone but himself. After creating humankind, though, he forgot this command and ordered the angels to bow to his creation. Samael refused, considering the first command to supersede the second and not wanting to equate fallible humanity with Yahweh. This refusal is seen as disobedience, leading to his rebellion and eventually full-out war, after which he and his supporters were stripped of their angelic ranks and turned out of Yahweh’s heaven.

Although this does ring true for me, my UPG is that there was more to it than that. Samael, as a shaitan, was witness to the folly of humankind on a constant basis. He saw much potential in them, a potential that was being ignored by most of the other angels and by Yahweh himself in favor of keeping them “innocent”. To Samael, this was less about innocence and more a play for power and control over humanity. He, along with a handful of Watcher angels (who were, frankly, more motivated by their lust than a desire to help humanity), conspired to bring to humanity the knowledge of civilization on their own. The Book of Enoch states that there were 200 Watchers and 20 archons, including Samael (here called Shamyaza, “infamous rebellion”) who brought this knowledge to humanity. Interestingly, he also falls for a woman named Istahar or ‘Asterah at one point. Her names are clearly variants of Ishtar and Asherah, respectively; additionally, her actions are similar to the actions of Lilla in the Alphabet of Ben Sira. To me, this story further serves to connect Samael with Istaran and Lilla with Ishtar.

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Another one; one could say the same about Loki and many another trickster deity

Does he rule in Hell?

Again, yes and no. Yes, he is a ruler in his realm, but that realm is not one of fire and brimstone nor does it house the souls of the dead. He no longer even holds domain over dead souls; that is now the duty of an angel still in service to Yahweh. In my many visits to his realm, I have seen angels, devils/fallen angels, lilim, and (far less frequently) demons there, as well as “naturalized” persons within each group (such as former elves who now “read” energetically as devils), but I have not seen ghosts or spirits of any kind. The realm itself resembles a gigantic underground cavern; some of the deeper areas do have magma flows, but nothing lake-sized. It’s actually quite close, cosmologically, to Yahweh’s heaven, which makes sense to me as some of the angels are under both of their jurisdictions. I don’t personally refer to his realm as Hell because it bears so little resemblance to the stereotypical depiction of Hell. I’m not sure what one would call his realm, actually, but it is certainly not Hades, Gehenna, Sheol, or least of all Helheim. He is a ruler there, though, with a starkly beautiful palace carved into the grey cavern walls. The entrance I usually go to is situated beside an underground waterfall.

Alright, I think that about covers most folks’ misunderstandings… if there’s something else you wish to have clarified, please let me know and I’ll add it in above. Part Two will focus more on my personal experiences of Samael and what it means to me to be his child.

On Sacred Queenship and Spiritual Heritage

Today, I want to talk about something I generally don’t share much about – my spiritual family. I don’t mean really close incarnate friends here, though that’s lovely as well; what I mean by the term “spiritual family” is the spiritual being(s) that one connects with on a familial level. For myself, the beings I identify as my spiritual family are those who I believe helped make my soul and raised me prior to any physical incarnation. For some people, their spiritual family is more physical; one or both of their parents in this life were the channels for a spiritual being during the sexual act that led to their conception, a being they consider their parent in this life if not necessarily in others. Others simply have found spiritual beings that they can view as parents, kin, or what have you without necessarily a more tangible link. Regardless of how one looks at it, this idea of spiritual family is common among more UPG-oriented pagan traditions.

At the moment, I’m going to focus on my spiritual mother and her side of the family. This ties into my title and duties as a Sacred Queen so I’ll talk about that a bit as well. My father and his kin are more… complicated, and that can of worms deserves a post all to itself. Pretty much everything that is to follow is my UPG, though some parts of it have been verified by others. Also, the pictures are not exactly how these folks look, but they’re about as close as I’ll be able to find without commissioning someone to make the images. Proper credit is given under each picture.

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Numea – Elf Queen by Lee Moyer, for the 13th Age RPG

My mother, Numea, is – or was – Fae. That’s the first thing I can say about her, and the only one I know with absolute surety. Given her personality, I would say she’s of the Winter Court, but I’m fairly certain she was born long prior to the division of power between the seasonal courts. She is tall, dark-haired with streaks of grey, and has the angular features and pointed ears commonly associated with Elves. I’m pretty sure she’s primarily Elven with a bit of Faerie as well. That said, don’t confuse her for a High Elf (similar to Tolkien’s elves), she doesn’t care for their social or political policies (in particular, their dislike of mixed breeds) and is not above being bitchy when someone deserves it. She was the first in the line of the Sapphire Queens, and the one for whom our home, the Sapphire Woods, was named. She has had many, many children beside myself, though I’m only somewhat close with one, my (mostly) Faerie half-sister, Arduana. As far as I know, the rest have long since moved on to other incarnations or become shadowkin.

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Arduana – Dark Fairy by Selenada

My family’s stance on shadowkin is different than most Fae, even for the Winter Court. Shadowkin are those who delved too far into shadow magick and ended up becoming Shadow themselves. This Shadow is not the same as a natural or elemental shadow, and I’m not even sure exactly where it originates but it often lies between worlds. This energy in a shadowkin can manifest anywhere from subtle shadowy blurring around the edges of their otherwise normal figure to them looking more like a living silhouette with glowing eyes. They speak their own language, one of whispers that carries Shadow energy in each rasping syllable. Those who lose themselves to Shadow end up essentially as something else, and their fate is severed from that of their family, friends, and others who previously were bound to them. For some reason I’m not entirely sure of, Fae (especially Elves) are particularly susceptible to the siren call of shadow magick. There’s about as much misunderstanding of shadowkin among Fae as there is among humans, but at the least most Fae acknowledge their existence. Summer Fae can’t stand the thought of becoming shadowkin and view it as utter corruption. Winter Fae typically acknowledge the power and temptation of shadow magick and sometimes play around with it, but view those who become shadowkin as being undisciplined and weak-willed.

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Some shadowkin – The Shadow Queen and her horde by Patcarmichael

My family, somewhat uniquely, views it as a kind of apotheosis so long as one understands how to wield the Shadow without becoming a slave to it. They have no pity for those who lose themselves to Shadow because they tried to use it for power over others; using it for personal power and as an accessory to understanding oneself is considered the safest and best way to approach it. Because of that, my mother is now shadowkin herself and many of those in my court are, as well. I and most of her line have a natural proclivity towards shadow magick due to our heritage. At my mother’s request, I’m being tutored in shadow magick by one of the only shadowkin teachers who hasn’t lost himself to it. He has successfully redeemed several of those who have, as well, so while I am being careful with it, I’m not nearly as worried as I would be if I had been asked to undergo this by myself. I have also seen too many shadowkin who don’t display the stereotypical malevolent behavior to believe that all shadowkin are corrupted. That said, Shadow could definitely be considered a type of demonic energy, albeit a low-level one, and those who lose themselves to it (like Dreamwalkers) hew closer to demonic appearance and behavior. This is why a lot of shadowkin don’t feel Fae (or whatever else they started as) and, especially if they’re lost, are sometimes misidentified as demons.

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Arwen – Queen of the Black Chess Piece by MirageMari

Back to my family, the person who trained me in dream magick when I was young in this life was my grand-niece Arwen. She gave me her name long before I had even heard of LotR, by the way, and while she is an Elf, her temperament is very no-nonsense and she has a brutally dark past that I won’t go into here. It seems that at some point prior to her birth, the Courts were established and the Sapphire Woods were in the lands of the Winter Court, making most of Numea’s lineage Winter Fae. Arwen taught me how to travel in dreams, manipulate the mutable nature of the Dreaming, and, most importantly, how to protect myself and fight in dreams. It wasn’t until recently that it finally made sense to me why she put me up against a Dreamwalker right out of the gate. To my kin, Dreamwalkers are the worst of those lost to Shadow because they did it for power over others, specifically the power to create fear. I also wouldn’t be surprised if that particular Dreamwalker was formerly a member of my family as I recently helped chase down a powerful Dreamwalker who was once kin.

 My role in the Dreaming is as a Sacred Queen, and those I have been called to serve are the citizens of Dreaming and the sleeping souls who visit within my lands. For those who don’t know, in short, being a Sacred Queen is not about power, but about serving a group of beings as the embodiment of the land they reside in. This means protecting them, listening to their needs and fulfilling them as best I can, and cultivating one’s own grace and decorum so as to be an example for others. As a sovereign Queen, I do not have a King, though my husband Kalith is also my Royal Consort and leader of the small band of knights that follow and protect me. Part of my duties is to extend hospitality towards those who enter my realm, and, as in the old ways, this is sometimes sexual in nature. My husband is wonderfully understanding, though not always comfortable with this; however, that is a discussion for another time.

I do not hold the title of Sapphire Queen, though I do have a crown and personal crest from that side of the family as a child of the first Sapphire Queen, and many of those in my court are kin to me in some way. My court actually lies closest to Summer Fae lands (something they grumble about quite a bit), under the title I inherited from my father to differentiate it from the current Sapphire Queen. That title goes to the current matriarch of the Sapphire Woods, a distant descendant of Numea and a Duchess of the Winter Court. The Sapphire Woods lie in the forests of the Winter Fae lands, where it is always sunset. The traditional crest of the Sapphire Queen is of a blue rose above a teardrop sapphire bordered by trees; mine has a single star in the background but is otherwise the same.

There’s more to say, certainly, but for now I’ll leave it at that. I’m not as close with my mother’s side of the family as I am with my father’s, but they have still taught me valuable lessons and I am grateful to them for doing so. I may go into some of the various lessons later, but for now I felt like a good background and foundation to what I may mention in the future was necessary, and some folks had asked me about it anyhow. If anyone has further questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below. If this is helpful to you in any way, as well, please let me know.