Wings!? Yes, – but can they fly?

I am currently facing my life-long aversions of christian angels and its roots and am critically facing my gut reactions to the various angelical images in Tarot and Oracle decks in general. I am trying to moderate these feelings with an an intellectual foray into the history of angelical archetypes in Western civilization and its religious teachings.

See, one question I always have is, how people think angels can actually fly, with these often HUUUUGE wings they have

In medieval paintings as well as modern Tarot cards these wings are located somewhere on their skinny backs, but these Beings have no muscles to support them and make flight of any kind anatomically possible.


Well, truth be told, the fairies I see in other decks like the Shadowscapes for example are not any better of. Unless someone somehow painted Dragonfly wings onto their backs they suffer the same anatomical impossibility.

Sharing this conundrum with my friend Gregory had us pouring over all kinds of cards and my husband’s large format art books, spreading them out all over the living room and looking at the renditions of angels by artists from Botticelli to Michelangelo and on to Da Vinci. None of them could really convince us, that angels can actually take off and fly with their wings, never mind being hampered by all kinds of billowy clothing and even Snakes being wrapped around their chest and backs. ….

But we found many people flying through the air using no wings at all (and also no broom) πŸ˜‰

We concluded, that it would become modern artists very well, to re-think just how the fairies and angels they draw could possibly fly and maybe give us a modern visual update on an age old theme.

What is your take on the flight capabilities of all kinds of winged Spirits you encounter on your decks and other artwork?

And, yes, there is another question I would love to find out about:

In dreams, shamanic journeys or other extraordinary states of consciousness, have you ever encountered an angel or a fairy?

11 thoughts on “Wings!? Yes, – but can they fly?

  1. No, I personally haven’t encountered an angel or fairy in a state of extraordinary consciousness. But I know someone who HAD angel-like wings during a part of a shamanic journey.

    The thing that bothers me most about humans-with-wings is the fact that anatomically they shouldn’t have arms AND wings (unless they’re insect-like)
    Bat-like wings (in vampires and such) often seem more realistic to me because the person’s arms are usually shown as a part of them.

    And these angels really shouldn’t have wings ON TOP of their clothes. I mean, even if I imagine they all had their clothes cleverly altered to have holes for the wings, how on earth are they even able to put on an otherwise normally-cut jacket with normal-sized arms (Alan Rickman in Dogma, I’m looking at you)?! I can get very distracted by pondering questions like these…

    The movie X-Men: The Last Stand is one of the few that at least offer a realistic-looking way of wings growing from a human body and of hiding them under clothing. He did illogically have arms AND wings, though. That said, I’m still not enough of a physicist to tell if the character in question could have realistically flown with them, too.

  2. The religious would leap upon the query with “and god can do anything, faith and angels don’t have a thing to do with anatomy”. Not believing in god or angels or fairy folk I avoid all those decks. And isn’t it funny they all have Caucasian faces… Am beginning to think somewhere far past there was probably a unicorn. Don’t have any mermaid or unicorn decks either πŸ™‚

  3. Yes, the thing that most angels and fairies are Caucasian also bothers me.
    And, mostly they are blond. Iffff ever there is a dark haired or even dark skinned angel or fairy, it most often is a so called “fallen angel”or a sinister winged being.

  4. I think in some art, such as traditional icons, the wings are symbolic – a way of saying “this is a powerful celestial force” when portraying an unknowable supernatural being as just a large human. I don’t think they are supposed to indicate that the angel is in fact a man with wings.
    Marie’s Six of Disks is similar – it shows a rather delicate humanoid figure that is part snake? root? horn? against a backdrop of three pairs of wings. The position of the wings implies that they belong to the figure although there’s no obvious physical connection.
    Angels and fairies seem alien and artificial to me. In my experience, people who are “into” them seem to want a deliberately idealized, human-centered version of nature.
    I found a turkey vulture feather and a coyote scapula with a bit of sunbleached fur on my morning walk today. Sort of an “anti-angel” experience! I left the bone but brought the feather home for Horace to play with – he’s my only hunter cat (though of course he doesn’t go outside anymore) and he hasn’t had a special toy in a long time.

  5. Yes, I see the wings as metaphors for the divine messenger and the body as the familiar form which we understand. The 4 evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are depicted in early Christian art as 4 winged creatures, each being a symbol for their qualities. This symbolism goes back much further to Sumerian art where the same wings on the Gods were depicted like the Lamassu (Sedu). For me, the Angel wings stem back to ancient shamanic beliefs in birds being the messengers of the gods and so the ‘language’ of the image needs to be read with the understanding of each individual symbol not literally as a whole (as we often see in Abrahamic religions).

  6. Hi Mi-Shell….very interesting question!
    Have had it on my mind a little since I first read it… (yesterday).
    Anything I mention is merely a point of view, I have neither the time, desire or ability to engage in specious debates that would all be different across a broad range of cultures … that even begin ‘trying’ to define what a ‘shaman’ is πŸ˜‰

    Have I ever encountered a fairy or similiar winged sentient being in the form of a human mould?
    No … I personally have not πŸ™‚ *no winged elements either πŸ˜‰

    A tinge or (cringe) of doubt crosses my mind in the mass marketing of any type of dogma worshipped blindly & ingested without question as a form or type of religion portrayed in the guise of art.
    For me shamanism is not a religion of sacred dogmas.

    Even if it is presented as a caucasian with wings or something similiar, as the end result of a day at photoshop or in the wildernesss with brushes, paint and a blank canvas that is now presented with a form πŸ˜‰

    For me shamanism has never had, nor will have it have anything to do with anatomy & I don’t profess to be an accomplished shaman…. just interested.

    I would tend to think that artists do the best they can with the knowledge/belief system they have ….& hopefully…’some’ of that art in turn ,will… have us re- think any of our preconconceived linear thinking to our relationships with the world that we do co- inhabit with ‘all’,… to help dissolve boundaries that are created in the first instance by our own fear or ‘conditioned fear’. In saying that I am not suggesting that boundaries are not necessary, rather that they need to be understood & respected, just as fear does πŸ™‚
    Can so readily identify with the mass marketing of all these winged flying human type things that seem to be innocuously invading tarot & oracle decks over the last couple of decades, or even longer? does it just go back to art as being subjective ~or~ is it good that questions like the one you put forward can stop & make us think?
    On a last note re; images that end up on cardboard oracles, personally I am rather fond of many lenormand decks that just have images of birds (with wings πŸ˜‰
    dogs,clouds,the sun & the moon etc… on them πŸ™‚

  7. ps… I didn’t realize all those yellow spotty things came up after typing it, this time I re-read it after posting uhmmm, seems you are stuck with it, or just delete it, or hide it or whatever you want !!!

  8. Hi guys! Thank you so much for sharing your personal take on this topic!
    Every word is currently broadening my horizon on this subject and will help me learn to grasp, how others see angels and so by extension how some of my clients may see them/ think of them.
    Patients struggling with impending death often ask me, if I can talk to their guardian angel or if I can see angels…..
    Sitters during readings often are much relieved, when a card featuring an angel is coming up in a reading. they often are not even listening to what i am saying about the card in the context of the reading but immediately point out, that with this angel appearing “all is well” and they can stop worrying and or do not need to aim for change or improvement. It is a reason, why I do not like to read face to face with decks, that have angels in them.

    And yes, I also have the feeling, that these winged Beings come to us from shamanic roots and are visions of winged messengers and anthropomorphic Human/ Bird Beings.
    This in fact is the fundamental reason, why I am not just putting them aside as figments of christianity but challenge my aversions brought on by the abuse and torture I survived in childhood in the christian orphanage…..

  9. Mi-Shell,
    Sorry to hear that you were abused/tortured during your childhood. I had no idea.
    If anything I wrote has upset you or offended you in any way, I do apologise, to do that was not my intention.
    Many of my indigenous friends in Australia were part of ‘The Stolen Generation’, taken from their parents as infants or in early teens & placed in ‘christian’ orpahanages or with caucasian foster families. Some have had very difficult lives indeed, many with long term battles with alcohol/drug addiction and juvenile detention centres …then as adults on to gaol (jail).
    They all very much say they feel the same, eg, displaced, living in neither a black or a white world.. Some have never known what it is like to be part of a family.
    As I may have mentioned already (i do not remember) the lady I share my life with is a registered nurse who has spent a long time working in palliative care,
    she sees lots of death, though she also does not believe in letting people who are or may be from many differing backgrounds/cultures and are scared of dying, to die alone, if there is no family present , she holds their hand and tries her best to help them to pass, if circumstances permit.
    The last thing patients that are struggling with impending death would want is to have ‘their’ belief system stripped away from them at such a time, to me that would be just sadistic.

  10. Fascinating program in BBC i Player about Dinosaurs, Myths and Monsters. The stories of Griffins guarding gold in the rocks of the Gobi desert where the Scythian traders mined their gold. They had proof too – massive bones weathering out of the rock and nests of fossilised eggs. The skulls of these monsters had hooked beaks like an Eagle with 3 horns, a tail, 4 legs . . . Now we know it as a Protoceratops but to our ancestors it must have made perfect sense.

    Have I seen Angels and fairies in Journeys – no but I have seen a Griffin! What does that say? Is it in the mythology and that ‘consciousness’ was what I tapped into? Everything is possible.

  11. Thank you all again for your input! πŸ™‚
    I have asked much the same question – about angels being actually able to fly on the Aeclectic Tarot forum and got quite a number of interesting responses.
    Just for posterity I put in the link to that thread:

    😦 😦 😦
    Unfortunately the moderators just moved the whole thread into the “Chat” forum and so behind the curtain of exclusivity only accessible for AT members.:(

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s