The name Michael means like unto God or Who is like unto God?
As I mentioned when I wrote about the Archangel Gabriel, the word angel means messanger. This is indicative of one of their primary purposes, exemplified by Gabriel who is the messenger par excellence; however, angels also protect — as indicated by the existence of guardian angels. Michael is the protector par excellence.
In Scripture, he is explicitly mentioned in:
- Chapter 10 of Daniel where he helps to defeat the Persians.
- Chapter 12 of Daniel it is revealed that he will appear in the end times to protect the people.
- St. Jude in his epistle mentions that Michael battled the devil over the body of Moses (1:9).
- In Revelation (12:7-9) he battles Satan and his angels and hurls them down to earth.
By tradition, however, his first appearance in Scripture is in Joshua (5:13-14) as the man standing in front of Joshua with a drawn sword in his hand. When Joshua challenges him by asking what side the man was on, the archangel responds:
neither…but as the commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.This is the origin of his title Archstrategos or Chief Commander.
The Church Fathers have also equated Michael with the following:
- The pillar of fire and pillar of cloud that led the Israelites from Egypt.
- The destruction of the 185 thousand soldiers of Sennacherib the Assyrian emperor (4/2 Kings 19:53).
- The smiting of Heliodorous (2 Macc 3:24-26).
- The angel that transports Habbakuk from Judea to Babylon in order to give food to Daniel in the lions’ den. (Bel and the Dragon v. 33-39).
On the Greek island of Symi there is a miraculous icon of the Archangel that has a pair of traditions associated with it.
- Michael is known to grant favors of those who ask, though something must be given in return. The most popular choice is that of a broom. The monks of the monastery report that they often hear the archangel using these brooms to sweep the monastery at night. Those that ask favors but do not offer anything, the archangel will let you know of his displeasure. This most often manifests as the inability to leave the island. Any boat that one tries to leave on will be unable to sail/the engine won’t start until the offering is fulfilled.
- People will place prayers to the Archangel in bottles which they then throw into the sea. These messages end up in the harbor where the monastery is. They have thousands on display.
According to the Hagiography of St. Mercurius, the archangel appeared to the saint to give him his sword.
The Archangel Michael is actually one of the reasons that I feel completely comfortable with the idea that D&D is compatible with Christianity. Often depicted in armor and wielding a sword or a spear, Michael is a reminder that the life of a Christian is spiritual warfare. We are constantly being assailed by temptations and, from an Orthodox Christian perspective, the devil and his angels. Every day we must gird ourselves with the Lord and go into battle, because sometimes the spiritual bleeds into the physical (just ask St. Quadratus and his companions).
As I have stated many times before, FRPGs and D&D (in its older forms in particular), make excellent metaphors for this spiritual warfare. Monsters are sins personified. Demons walk the earth in physical form. PCs represent (Christian) Civilization as it goes to battle with the (Demonic) Wilderness.
Of particular interest to me is the endgame of (older editions of) D&D. PCs are expected to carve out a piece of land, clear it out and build a stronghold — reclaiming a portion of Wilderness and making it safe for Civilization. This manifests, in game form, the great reclamation project of Christ and His Church. Christ did not become a human being just to save humanity, He came to save all of creation. As His royal priesthood, the Church endeavors to sanctify and restore creation — to properly orient it towards God.
In his role of protector and his multiple battles with the devil and his angels, the Archangel Michael personifies this aspect of D&D. An aspect I continue to explore and present in both this blog and the way I play the game.
St. Michael’s Brooms
Though these brooms appear to be normal, mundane items (although many might have a cross carved in the handle), they radiate of divine magic. They may be used to ask favors of the Archangel. Whenever such a boon is requested, two dice are rolled instead on one for the next roll a player makes. They are then allowed to take the result of either die.
This boon, however, requires an offering. Most often, the broom itself is offered and in such cases it will turn to dust. Other offerings may be made it the broom’s place. Anything of value (a level to be determined by the Referee) may be substituted. Such substitutions will turn to dust.
If a boon is asked, but no offering is forthcoming, the player must roll two dice for everything and choose the most detrimental result until something is offered.