While I was still in diapers my then teen aged sisters rushed to the drive-in theater to see Hayley Mills’ latest comedy about two girls in an all-girls Catholic school run by nuns called The Trouble with Angels. Oddly, the cast included actresses that went on to further success playing nuns in the Sister Act movies, The Sound of Music and TV’s The Flying Nun. Plus it featured the witty and literate stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee.
Angels themselves are a source of endless troubling speculation throughout history. Here in San Miguel, angels are personified and relatable people rather than theological concepts that lead to pointless debates as just how many can fit on the head of a pin.
Take Seraphim, for example. A common SMA name, Seraphim are angels of the highest order and portrayed in art as no longer needing bodies. Instead they are simply heads with wings. If you walk along the side of the Oratorio church and look above door’s arch you’ll find no ordinary Seraphim. Since the Oratorio’s location has long been the site of indigenous worship these Seraphim have distinctly indigenous features.
Then there are the Archangels, the first order of angels that appear in human form. They are named Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. My dance student, Maria de las Angeles, named her three boys after the archangels.
On St. Michael’s feast day in September he battles Satan, a fallen cherub, across the jardin with fireworks at dawn. It is a loud and long battle unlike any other festival in San Miguel, both spiritual and somewhat scary to witness.
Afterwards the statue of St. Michael leaves the Parroquia and strolls around town to visit other churches in the city for eight days. The eighth day features grand, even by SMA standards, fireworks and day-long indigenous dance performances.
Archangels are different from other angels for they never lived a human life. Consequently, though they are men, they are without the corresponding boy bits. As such, you’ll find images of St. Michael as a strong, yet effeminate man. Often in parades St. Michael is portrayed by teen aged girls.
Also, since St. Michael the Archangel never lived he has no descendants. As such, there is no family here on earth to call him back for a visit on Day of the Dead. Consequently, the day following Day of the Dead the image of St. Michael is moved next to the central cross in churches to compensate for his being alone on Day of the Dead.
He is also the Angel of Death, weighing souls in his perfectly balanced scales (hence the saint is often depicted holding scales).
Death, battles, winged heads…where angels go trouble follows. This was also the name of the late 1960’s film sequel starring Susan St. James my sisters also enjoyed.