This interesting tidbit comes from the first chapter of Moncure Conway's “Demonology and Devil-lore”:

“These have been associated in rabbinical mythology with the angels Michael (genius of Water) and Gabriel (genius of Fire); but they refer both to the phenomenal glories and the purifying effects of the two elements as reverenced by the Africans in one direction and the Parsees in another.”

How did the angels Michael and Gabriel came to be associated with water and fire respectively? Are other angels associated with elements?


After a brief search on Google, I found the following in the Jewish Encyclopedia, which I quote:

Michael is snow, Gabriel is fire (Lüken, l.c. p. 55; comp. Yoma 21b, bottom). Nevertheless, it is the prince of fire and not the prince of ice that is commissioned to rescue Abraham as well as Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah from the fiery furnace (Pes. 118a; Ex. R. xviii. and parallel passage). In a single passage only (Targ. Job xxv. 2), Michael is called the prince of fire, and Gabriel the prince of water. As prince of fire Gabriel is also prince of the ripening of fruits (Sanh. 95b). As an angel representing an element of nature he is also connected with the metals: Gabriel is gold (the color of fire), Michael is silver (snow), Uriel is copper (Yalḳ., Ḥadash, s.v. "Gabriel," No.75). Gabriel, girded like a metal-worker, shows Moses how to make the candlestick (Men. 29a). He has wings, like all the angels, but while Michael reaches the earth in one flight, Gabriel requires two (Ber. 4b, bottom).

I realize that this links Michael to snow, not water. The Jewish Heritage Magazine also echoes this idea, quoting Job 25:2 and Deut. Rabbah 5:12 in support. Still, snow is close to water, so that may be how Conway got the idea.

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In most schools of "Western Ritual Magic," some of which seems to have Judaic roots, Michael is invoked in the South as Archangel of Fire & Gabriel in the West as Archangel of Water.

I don't know the original source of this symbolism, but it is widespread. An example is the famous "Banishing Ritual of the Lesser Pentagram."

Sorry if this seems off topic for Judaism, but it may be of interest. Here is an example: The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.

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