This is the story of Genesis, of a time before time, when God had only five children. And these children, the five archangels, had started fighting and disputing the Holy Kingdom because for their games, Heaven was no longer wide enough.
The Father, tired of their squabble and bickering, decided it was time for the archangels to spread their wings and for each of them to take command of a part of the uncreated Universe. So God brought all of them together and, hopeful yet sorry, knowing He would miss them, bid them farewell. Their great flight was about to start.
For the eldest of his sons, God said: “Let there be light!”. And it was so. And the first born hastily threw himself down as lightning from the divine cloud to receive his inheritance. The breath of the first dawn shrouded him. Since then he has been known as Lucifer or “the light bearer”.
The others weren’t as impetuous and waited for the Father to share all the blessings before descending. For the second of his children God said: “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” God named the firmament “sky” and gave it to the archangel whose name meant “God’s healing”. This was Rafael, the future patron of guardian angels, he who was to lead men on the ethereal staircase of divine redemption.
Then God said: “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear”. And it was so. God named the dry land Earth and the gathering of water He called Seas, and as these were to be together in eternity, He gave them to his twin sons : the archangels Michael and Gabriel.
For the youngest of his children God said: “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night”. And these He gave to Uriel, for his name means “Light of God”.
The division now over, the four archangels that had remained could leave to take hold of their kingdoms.
However, the twins stayed a while on the threshold of Heaven, with their thousand-glitter wings wrapped around their majestic bodies. From then on they had to learn to share the same Earth and because they had always quarreled to see who was stronger, though their powers were the same, they asked the Holy Father for one more gift, to tell them apart.
But the good God, Father of all that is seen and unseen, in making them had wanted them to be same, so He beguiled them with wise words. To Michael, called “He who is like unto God” He gave a spear, thus turning him into a warrior, and a white flag which he was never to drop. Gabriel “Might of God”, He dubbed “warrior prince”, so the two archangels once more became equal: Michael’s flag prevented him from ever fighting his brother, and to Gabriel his rank was useless if he had no one to exchange blows with.
Thus reconciled, ages on end the five archangels ruled the world, until something strange happened: out of the young Earth people appeared.
Staying hidden at first, then moving closer and closer, the children of Heaven watched for centuries how those frail, helpless, inevitably doomed-to-die creatures survived and evolved. Fascinated by the perpetual change that the descendants of Adam and Eve went through, the archangels ceased to hide, allowing themselves to be seen. Each of them, in his own corner of the world and each in his own different vision of Time, ignorant of the others’ decision, chose to do the same. Even though Heaven had separated them, they were still part of the same all-knowing mind.
In their turn, humans wondered at the sight of such celestial beings that looked like men but had skin of light and they asked them to live there, on mortal Earth.
Thus it came that four of the angel princes- all but Lucifer, who since Genesis had become light itself, and whose lasting presence in one place would have blinded frail mortal eyes – chose an area to make holy. By using their limitless powers impelled by the passion of seeing life flourish, the archangels spread their wings into miracle again and again. The peoples they adopted metamorphosed, in turn, from blind larvae into bewildering butterflies.
Rafael, patron of pilgrims, relentless as the wind, flew to the top of the world, where, covered by a blanket of stars and taming the harsh rock of the mountain, the Andean people had settled.. He taught them how to survive in that wilderness of the peaks; he initiated them into the golden cult of the Sun – under the rule of his little brother Uriel – and trained them to build pyramids with steps rising towards Heaven.
The youngest of brothers, glistening Uriel, flew down to Egypt, decking it with gold, the metal which knew so well to reflect his light and his ray-crowned head. Caressed by the warmth of its own Sun, the gift of the Nile flourished more and more, the caramel-skinned people building pyramids which seemed to gaze at Uriel’s old home.
In the middle of their empire- gleaming jewel of that young world- they patiently chiseled a gigantic monument complex to reproduce the constellation dear to the Sun Archangel. One after another, gargantuan limestone blocks were laid after countless measuring, so as to compose a three-verse stone poem : three pyramids. And because the Nile would not spill its surfeit of water until Uriel’s Sun lingered on the sky in the House of Leo, they tamed nearby a colossal golden lion, to stand guard until time would devour its stone flesh.
From the two fight-loving twins, Gabriel – whose waters ebbed and flowed as the Moon swung – swam to the shore of the continent of the Atlanteans. By capturing the spirit of the ocean in his green jasper mirror, all the riches of the aquatic world now gushed over Atlantis. Their cities, once subjected to the whims of the waves, were now built of stony coral with roofs of thousand of shells which, when it rained, sung like the sea.
Mother-of-pearl dust had gilded the skin of the Atlanteans to an angelic glow, making the lavishness of the multi-coloured pearls that bejeweled them dim in comparison. Unmatched in height, they all wore their hair long, flowing freely in water shades, turquoise and emerald, braided here and there with algae, adorned with starfish.
Gabriel had showed them how to swim like fish, shaping their bodies as the water wanted, spending more time in the depths than any human could have deemed possible. Even though they could have been unrivalled sailors, they never strayed from the continent, for the ocean cast on their shores enough riches to last them several life times.
Keeping his warrior’s urges at bay, their archangel brought the lesson of peace to them and revealed the mysteries of godliness, so that in Atlantis only hypnotically beautiful songs were heard, coming out of their mermaid throats. In their blue eyes one could read the stillness of the depths.
In the heart of a different continent, Michael conjured the forces of nature born from the land he ruled in order to help the young Latins who worshiped dozens of gods build their empire. He gave them a taste for grandeur and carved in their nature the flawless art of builders and architects. Michael opened up mountains for them, burst the soil wide open for them, unsheathing the beds where the whitest marble slumbered.
It was enough for them to imagine and grandiose edifices were built over night, with their columns decked with a hundred statues. Their largest city was to be known as the eternal city because its heart was built entirely of holy ground, and Michael could see that all the roads of the future empire were to be magnetically drawn to it. The winged warrior Michael had spawned a dynasty of soldiers, of conquerors, of emperors but also of architects, people of eternity. Under the rule of his spear he was to lead them in a whirlwind of conquests to new horizons.
Lucifer alone roamed the land, doomed by his original impetuosity never to find a home. However, in a corner of the world there was a place covered in mist, tormented by cold drizzle, which lusted for his light. So the people there, in order to persuade him to come, built, after many years of arduous labour, an amazing statue. No one knew how they were able to envisage the son of sunrise and why they believed that they could make him appear in this way, but the deed was done and the Morningstar took shape from the mists.
Led by the same bizarre impulse, having no knowledge of the others, all the peoples that had been blessed by the archangels – the early Incas, the very first Egyptians and Latins, the Atlanteans – began carving their own statues of divine glory. Putting all their skill and talent into their efforts, murmuring songs of praise and worshipful thanksgiving prayers with each blow of the chisel, they constructed out of mountain rock, gold, ivory, mother-of-pearl and marble, still replicas of the five angel princes.
And when they were ready, the mortals spread on the five blessed lands fell down on their knees and bowed to them.
God the Father who had until then allowed the meddling of his sons in the lives of the humans as well as the fabulous evolution of the nations they had chosen to shepherd, was filled with wrath when He saw this last foolish gesture.
“Did I not tell you that thou shalt have no other gods before me? That thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, that thou shalt not bow down thyself to them?”
And his fury turned to a cold deadly chill that rushed through the bodies of the mortals.
Then His Voice thundered frightfully at the Archangels and said:
In a horrifying echo, the Word spread until it reached the ears of the children of Heaven.
Because he was continuously travelling between the sky and the earth, Lucifer heard him first and understood the fury of the Father, as well as the punishment which was yet to come. He hastily rushed to save those who were unknowingly praising him and in that heartbeat before the Father struck, he split the soil, plummeting the sinful statue down into the depths. But, because this embodied him in the hearts and souls of the people, he too was pulled in the ground in a blinding blaze and the earth closed on top of him, taking him captive. So painful and unworldly was the locking in of the archangel, that it sent a shiver of shock through the soil flesh of creation, and a piece came unbound. Floating heavily, the island turned its back to the great continent, carrying Lucifer well hidden within its shell.
In the other parts of the world, the wrath came unrelenting.
Rafael’s statue – a dark embodiment grown from the mountain – turned into air and the hurricane thus born swept away in its dementia the flourishing civilization of the Andes. Scattered soil, uprooted trees, collapsed temples and an eerie wasteland was all that remained of the past glory of the cliffs.
Uriel’s gleaming sculpture became a gigantic blaze of fire which in a moment baked the fertile land of Egypt. They had not even time to scream in pain and horror that all had been turned to ashes and dust, covering the lion, the pyramids and the entire people of gold. Almost dried up by the scorching heat, the Nile went on dragging itself like a silver snake with burned skin.
From the heart of Atlantis, the statue of Gabriel, split into billions of drops, came down in a catastrophic waterfall, the force of the torrent swiftly swallowing an entire continent and sending it to the bottom of the ocean. With a colossal sigh the resplendently beautiful Atlanteans drowned and their skeletons became shells and bore pearls.
The last of the accursed statues, Michael’s, disintegrated in an infinity of pieces of mud, suffocating the buildings meant for eternity and their splendid builders. The imperial infant of the Latins fell silent, buried alive.
Broken hearted, the archangels repented bitterly, asking the Holy Father for forgiveness and, except for Lucifer, each of them returned to his place designated since Genesis, swearing never to meddle in the lives of mortals. They have ever since been distant observers, silent and faceless, who, out of the love they still bear the sons of man, in perilous times, step in and plead with their Father to spare the World.
Even though as millennia passed they have grown used to their role as protectors, every now and then when the Archangels feel the deep longing to descend once more, they realize that in the strange realm of the present there is no more room for them. The people for whom they once broke their celestial flight and to whom they brought the tools for erecting a wondrous world had found their end because of them. The white wings of the princes born without sin in Heaven coloured themselves in green, in black, in gold and crimson, so that the pain of the perished lands will never be forgotten.
Disappearing with the ticking of a clock alongside everything they had built, the ancients took with them the memory of a land so beautifully different, that today no one can even guess at its glory. There will always be blank pages in the book of human history, as there is no one left to write them or to imagine them as they really were. Perhaps Lucifer could tell a different tale were he ever to be unearthed from his prison of an island. However, until then, seen from the skies or from the land, the scattered remains of the past no longer resemble what once was.
Time did its dirty deed of mystifying all evidence, playing as it always has with the malleable mortal mind – it changed dates, places and people, it had rocks lie when asked their age and it moved the remains around so much that the puzzle is impossible to resolve. And because they base their beliefs on the morsels left behind, no one will now trust that the world of Then might have had an entirely different chronicle.
The archangels lost everything.
This is the story no one knows.
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First published in English in Aphelion webzine, issue no. 168, vol.16