The concept of Judgement is not confined to Christianity. For example, when an ancient Egyptian died he expected to journey through Duat, the kingdom of Osiris. He would undergo many tests and trials and hopefully arrive at the place of judgement where Anubis would weigh his heart against the feather of Maat, the goddess of truth and justice. If his heart was heavier or lighter than the feather his soul was thrown to Ammit, the Devourer of Souls, but if it was in balance with the feather his soul continued to paradise and eternal life.
Anubis weighing the heart of the deceased. From the Papyrus of Hunefer, c. 1375 BCE
But the Judgement key is a depiction of the Christian Judgement Day. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, 5:16, the Apostle Paul describes Judgement Day: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air…”
Most Judgement keys show an Angel calling the dead up out of their coffins with a mighty blast from a trumpet, just like Paul’s description. The horn is huge and lines of sound pour out from its bell. Jagged spikes lancing out from the angel underscore the power of the scene. Note that it is sound and not light that wakes the dead. Our sense of hearing is more primal than our sense of sight. It is easy to sleep through daybreak, but an alarm clock is impossible to ignore. We “see” objects all the time in our dreams, but when we “hear” a voice or sound in a dream it is such a powerful experience that it often wakes us up. Unlike an image, which we can easily decide was “only a dream”; we have trouble dismissing a sound as nothing.
But Paul doesn’t tell the Thessalonians which archangel will appear with the Lord and he isn’t clear about who is blowing the trumpet. The author of Revelations tells us that it will be the archangel who sounds the blast during the apocalypse: “…the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven…” Rev. 11:15. But he also neglects to tell us who that seventh angel is. And so there is disagreement amongst my sources over whether the trumpet player is Michael or Gabriel or Moroni.
The Angel Moroni atop the Birmingham LDS Temple
Mormons believe that Moroni was an ancient North American prophet who appeared to Joseph Smith as an angel and directed him to the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. Note the trumpet. But I strongly doubt that the angel in this tarot key is Moroni. The New World hadn’t even been discovered and, of course, the Church of the Latter-day Saints didn’t exist when tarot cards became popular in the 15th century.
Marseilles Deck, late 15th century
In his book, The Tarot, a Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, Paul Foster Case assures us that the angel “is obviously the angel Gabriel, not only because he carries a trumpet, but also because Gabriel is the angel of the element of water, which is indicated by his blue robe.” In the B.O.T.A. and Rider-Waite-Smith decks the angel’s robe is, indeed, blue, but his wings are red, the usual color for the element of fire, which is Michael’s element. In the Marseilles decks, the angel’s robes are a variety of colors, often red. Also, the angel Gabriel has only recently been pictured with a trumpet. In medieval art he is almost always pictured with lilies or other white flowers.
The Archangel Gabriel tells Mary that she will bear God’s child. By Jacopo da Montagnana c1440-1499.
S. Vernon McCasland has found perhaps the earliest depiction of a trumpeting angel resurrecting the dead in an Armenian illuminated manuscript dated 1455, at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.* However, as far as I could tell, there was no mention that the angel is Gabriel.
Illuminated manuscript page depicting dining in paradise and an angel resurrecting the dead. Walters MS 543 fol 14, 1455 CE. Note the resemblance to the above two Judgement cards.
The first mention in English literature of Gabriel as trumpeter is in John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667). * “Betwixt these rockie pillars Gabriel sat, Chief of the Angelic guards” (IV.545f)… he Blew his trumpet, heard in Oreb since perhaps When God descended, and perhaps once more To sound at general doom.” (IX.73ff). And although it isn’t mentioned in the Qur’an, the traditional Islamic trumpeter of doom is Israfil, not Gabriel.
In The Devil’s Picture Book, Paul Huson assures us that the angel “is undoubtedly Saint Michael, the archangel, and he can be recognized as such if not by the action he performs, then by his traditional cross-emblazoned banner floating from the trumpet itself.”
The Catholic church gives the Archangel Michael four responsibilities:
- “To fight against Satan.
- To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death.
- To be the champion of God’s people, the Jews in the Old Law, the Christians in the New Testament; therefore he was the patron of the Church, and of the orders of knights during the Middle Ages.
- To call away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment (“signifer S. Michael repraesentet eas in lucam sanctam”, Offert. Miss Defunct. “Constituit eum principem super animas suscipiendas”, Antiph. off. Cf. The Shepherd of Hermas, Book III, Similitude 8, Chapter 3).” **
So, according to Catholic teaching, it is obviously Michael, not Gabriel who will preside over Judgement Day. But Huson was only half right. The white banner with the red cross is St George’s cross, not St Michael’s cross, which is a blue cross on a white background. However, a quick perusal of Google images for Archangel Michael revealed a few depictions of him carrying a white shield with a red cross, but none of him carrying a blue cross in any form.
Archangel Michael carrying a white shield with a red cross, by Raphael Santi, 1483-1520.
And I actually found a picture of him blowing a trumpet.
Holy Trinity Icon Studio
It is obviously Michael—not only because Holy Trinity Studios says so, but also because, as in many other depictions of him, he is killing satan.
But this is still only educated guess-work. Why not ask someone who has actually spoken with the archangels? According to Doreen Virtue’s post “8 ways to recognize Archangel Michael” this archangel has a loud, clear, matter of fact voice. She says it’s a voice you can’t ignore and actually pictures a trumpet shaped megaphone next to this description. His aura is a royal purple that’s so bright it looks like cobalt blue. And he’s hot. The people he visits often perspire and some women feel like they’re having hot flashes. Michael offers support, courage, and confidence.
Gabriel, however, “is the archangel of communication, often announces what’s on the horizon, and acts like a manager or agent in orchestrating new ventures related to one’s soul purpose.” *** He gives insights through dreams and meditation.
So which one of these two angels would be more likely to sound a trumpet till the dead rise from their graves and escort the quick and the dead through an apocalypse and into heaven?
Archangel Michael, by Ishthar art.jpg
Or Archangel Gabriel?
Archangel Gabriel, as channeled through Shelley Young
I’m betting that angel would be Michael. Anyone want to bet on Gabriel? We only have till Judgement Day to find out who wins.
*S Vernon McCasland, “Gabriel’s Trumpet” Journal of Bible and Religion 9.3 [August 1941:159–161].
**Catholic Encyclopedia: St Michael the Archangel.
***Doreen Virtue, Archangels 101: How to Connect Closely with Archangels Michael, Raphael, Uriel, Gabriel and Others for Healing, Protection, and Guidance,