Angels: Between Secularization and Re-enchantment
Ingvild Sælid Gilhus [+]
University of Bergen
Angels are travelling light. They are cultural constructions that are continually reimagined and they seldom bring with them more luggage than that they can slip through the masks of the cultural net. Appearing in a secular context, their religious origin contributes to make them attractive. When angels are used to promote Christmas sales, for instance, they tap into the Season’s spirit of love and willingness to give, which have strong Christian connotations. Versatility belongs to the modus operandi of angels and it works in many directions – geographically, historically, linguistically and across the religious/secular divide. Versatility contributes to make these cultural constructs useful and successful, and angels are part of several discourses and spaces. In this chapter we will identify and map some of them as they are developing in contemporary Norway. We use the spatial model of Jonathan Z. Smith of “religion here, there and anywhere” and adds a fourth space, which is “religion everywhere”. The chapter begins with identifying the spaces of angels in Norway in the 20th century, especially church, school and home (there and here). It discusses their migration into new spaces and especially how New Age entrepreneurs use angels (anywhere) and how they appear in various media (everywhere). Focus is on the connections between the different spaces, on angels as messengers and companions, and on the contestations they are part of when the Church tries both to struggle against and to adapt itself to New Age spirituality.