Angels and Spirits

A curious girl’s ethnographic quest for stimulation, knowledge and the least common denominator…
(originally published on Austinist.com)

Any archangel who’s capable of being everywhere at once would definitely know the correct pronunciation of his own name. I have come to this drastic conclusion based upon an ingenious logical proof I devised the other day while having coffee with my friend. It went like this:

Wendy: How do you pronounce your name?
Friend: [Friend’s name, correctly pronounced].
Wendy: Aha!
Friend: Um, why?
Wendy: Well, you’re a mere mortal being. Yet you know without question the exact pronunciation of your own name?
Friend: And?
Wendy: Given that fact, would you agree that an immortal being, one that is even smarter than you are, would also know the exact pronunciation of his own name?
Friend: I guess so?
Wendy: Exactly!

Now despite my obvious scientific prowess, I actually started out with an open-mind about the Austin Angels and Spirits meeting. I mean, I’d dabbled in the supernatural as a kid (teenage Ouija Board sessions, Tarot card readings, obligatory sleepover seances…), and it all seemed pretty real at the time. But then I grew out of it. Or I forgot about it. Or something.

Obviously there are lots of folks who never outgrow the spirit realm. Shirley MacLaine comes to mind first, but also some people I actually know and trust. And I’ve always had a sort of lurking question regarding subject: Are they feeling something I’ve forgotten how to feel, or do they have skills that I don’t have, or are they just plain crazy?

I must say that the scale was tipping in the crazy direction when I saw the profile photo of one guy who RSVP’d. It was a picture of a druid-looking, gray-haired man with a sword and rays of white light shooting out from his back. Still, my mind was fairly open. I swear.

So my first existential question of the night:
What does one wear to an Angels and Spirits meeting?

Initial thought:
Snuggie?

Snuggies are very druid-like when worn standing up. But, alas, I don’t own a Snuggie, and of course I was running late. I struck out in my search for something tie-dyed, something flowing and light, something white and sheer… Frantically, I settled on a black shirt.

The meeting was held in a church. I’m not sure what kind it was, but it seemed unrelated to any God with a capital G. This was definitely a lower-case g kind of place. Perhaps even plural.

Through the glass doors, I saw a circle of chairs. There were people sitting in said chairs. In a circle. Like a group therapy session. Oh, and they were wearing name tags.

However, despite the unanticipated intimacy, everyone seemed pretty normal. No togas or Snuggies. Not even any beaded wooden jewelry. It was just 15 normal people getting ready to talk to some angels. No problem.

The Leader of the group was immediately charming. She was in her 40’s, or maybe 50’s? I dare say there was a timeless quality about her. She had deep lines on both sides of her nose that went high up into her forehead, but she seemed too young for them to be wrinkles. Perhaps they were metaphysical in origin? It did cross my mind.

Surprisingly, she began by asking if anyone needed to go to the bathroom. We’d be listening to an hour-long guided meditation podcast and it’d be best to take care of business beforehand. There were a few takers, and while we waited for folks to get back, The Leader told us we’d be learning about two archangels. “Chamuel,” she said, “and Raguel. People pronounce his name several different ways. RAY-who-ehl, rag-HOO-el, ROO-ga-wehl…”

When everyone was back, she pressed play on a little white boom box, and the woman on the podcast jumped right in with no introduction.

“Chamuel specializes in finding things,” The Podcast Woman told us, “and Raguel, pronounced rah-GYOO-ehl, RAY-hoo-el, ROO-gwel or RAG-wel-he, specializes in relationships. They will guide us on this journey.”

We closed our eyes as she began the meditation. I felt pretty weird and kept opening mine every so often to make sure I was doing it right. I had to be quick about it, because I didn’t want The Leader to catch me.

The Podcast Woman told us to relax: first the jaw, then the top of the head, then the forehead, cheeks, chin, tongue, gums… These were all extremely hard to relax, but the next part was somewhat easier.

We visualized our hearts. She said the image could realistic, symbolic or abstract. Unfortunately, my vision was greatly influenced by this ad I made for a gastroenterologist. Alas, in the center of the heart, she told us to picture a newborn baby. No problems so far… until she told us to “observe the baby’s helplessness.”

So, um, babies freak me out, particularly their helplessness. Enter panicky feelings. Teeth and gums no longer relaxed…

Then she said, “Now picture your own face on the baby.”

Now that took me by surprise. It was creepy, but it distracted me from my ensuing panic attack. “It’s me!” I thought. “Those are my scary baby hands!” I was kind of cute, too, albeit slightly Frankenstein-esque (three-year-old-me face, with pigtails, on my newborn baby body).

“This baby is your inner child,” The Podcast Woman said. “Ask her what is most important to her. What does she need? What have you forgotten? Who did she used to be?”

Now I’m intensely concentrating on Baby FrankenWendy’s face.

“Notice your reactions. They might be words or images or feelings…”

Okay, so this is where it got weird. I wanted to cry. I got choked up. Like, an actual tear rolled down my very relaxed cheek and dropped off my extremely relaxed chin. Apparently my inner child was NOT a happy camper.

“Raguel will help heal the relationship with your inner child. Invite him to release the pain and help you reconnect.” Sniff.

“Now we move on to our mothers. Picture yours now…”

And so on. We forgave and healed relationships between ourselves and our mothers, fathers, siblings and friends. We released pent-up anger with our exhalations… Honestly, it was really therapeutic. Hey thanks, Raguel, Ye of Many Pronunciations!

When the podcast ended, we opened our eyes. The Leader asked, “Did anyone feel any physical reactions to the angels’ presence? Anyone see any interesting images?”

One woman’s face felt itchy. This was seconded and then thirded. One man’s neck hurt. One guy felt cold. Another felt really warm.

And I felt left out. I didn’t see or feel a damn thing.

Well, okay… there was this one thing. I kept seeing a Rolo. You know, the candy? I mean, it wasn’t exactly a Rolo. It was more like the essence of a Rolo. For one thing, it definitely wasn’t chocolate or filled with caramel; it was actually clear, like a transparent silicone Rolo. It was as if I were looking at Plato’s vision of the Form of a Rolo. I decided not to share this with the class.

I was busy contemplating the vision’s significance when The Leader asked, “Is there anyone here who’s never seen anyone channel?”

I forgot the Rolo and sheepishly raised my hand along with one other woman.

The Leader explained to us that her voice would probably change and that she often moved around quite a bit.Then we all closed our eyes and concentrated. I was prepared to wait a while, as any Ouija Board veteran would be, but the angels must have known we only had the room reserved for ten more minutes; they showed up quickly. I opened my eyes when The Leader started talking.

Her voice was only slightly different. She’d simply abandoned the use of contractions. However, the main difference between The Regular Leader and The Channeling Leader was the strange gesticulation of her right hand. It was moving wildly, with her fingers fluttering at a supernatural speed. It seemed out of control. Seriously, it was almost impressive enough to convince me that this was the real deal. But then she introduced herself, or rather, They introduced Themselves.

“We are both here,” they said through The Leader’s mouth. “I am Chamuel, and I am Raguel… or Rag-YOOL or Rag-yoo-WEL-i or RAG-well… People pronounce my name many different ways, but I do not mind.”

Screeeeech [Insert virtual record scratch].


Wait. 
Did she- I mean he- I mean they- really just say that? Wait a second…

So I’d suspended my disbelief thus far. I’d approached everything with an open mind. I didn’t question the inner child thing or The Leader’s twitchy hand thing, or EVEN the fact that BOTH of the angels we’d been talking about just HAPPENED to enter The Leader’s body at the EXACT same time. But this?

“We are happy to be here. We are always here to help. All you must do is ask,” The Leader continued.

Call it pettiness. Or logic. Or semantics. But my brain was stuck.


You’re an 
archangel. In fact, you’re two archangels. Right here. Sitting a few feet away from me. You are all-knowing. You are clearly aware of the ongoing controversy regarding the pronunciation of your name. And what do you do to resolve this question? Abso-freaking-lutely nothing. Are you kidding me? First it was The Leader, then it was The Podcast Woman, and now you?

Meanwhile, a guy named Bob asks a question, “Uh, so this is for Raguel- or Ragool or Ragwelli- however you say it…” The archangel just chuckles. Bob continues, “How will I know if I’ve actually found my soul mate?”

I am cringing now. One freaking word. He/they could clear it up for everyone once and for all. It’s like he’s/they’re toying with us.

“Thank you for asking, as I am sure many of the others have similar questions. I believe you humans have a saying: The eyes are the window to the soul. Yes? Do not be afraid to look into a person’s eyes, to sit in silence. Be aware of how you feel. Your feelings will guide you.”

Uh, thanks Chamuel/Raguel. Flawless plan.

And with that, the archangels looked at the clock. There was only time for one more question. It took all the strength I could muster to keep impulsive Baby FrankenWendy from blurting out her burning question. I resorted to bribery, “Say, Baby FrankenWendy, you like candy, don’t you? I visualized this just for you…” Thankfully, she took the bait.

STATS

Gender:
11 females, 4 males


Believability to Therapeutic Benefit ratio:

2:3

Preferred archangel:
Chamuel

General Hospitality:
9 (out of 10)