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FESTIVALS | Weekend Chat

A Gathering of Angels

At a festival, participants can listen to speakers. Can they expect an unearthly visit?

September 28, 2000|ROY RIVENBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Angels are definitely among us. In addition to roughly 300 cameos in the Bible, they have their own TV program ("Touched by an Angel"), mediocre baseball team (in Anaheim), motorcycle gang (Hells Angels), air stunt team (the Blue Angels), diet regimen (angel food cake) and city (Los Angeles).

In Glendale, there's also an annual Angel Festival directed by Candace Frazee, who is perhaps better known for her collection of bunny artifacts. Her Pasadena-based Bunny Museum bulges with 12,000 rabbit-related toys, statues, stuffed animals, Rose Parade floats, kachina dolls and even a few bunny angels.

Frazee held her first angel confab five years ago to mark the 307th birthday of Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish mining official who claimed in the 1740s that a supernatural force flung him to the ground, forced him to pray and then beamed him to heaven, where he visited numerous angels. His detailed writings on the subject were ridiculed as delusional by philosopher Immanuel Kant and others but nevertheless influenced an elite cadre of writers and artists, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Blake.

Frazee is a third-generation Swedenborgian but says the Angel Festival encompasses all religions and philosophies. This year's speakers include an L.A. County coroner's official, a hospice worker, a widow support group leader and a Swedenborgian minister. The event also features crafts, harpists, food, awards for angelic community service, and a host of cherubic products: books, magnets, Christmas ornaments, cards, dolls, T-shirts and more.

Question: Have you ever seen an angel?

Answer: Yes, it was a number of years ago when I was dating a man who took a job on an oil rig in Canada. That's dangerous work, so I was worried about him. I woke up one night and saw an angel at the foot of my bed. She glowed. She didn't have wings. I felt comforted and got the sense he would be OK, which he was. I remember as the angel sat down on my bed, she glanced behind herself to make sure she wouldn't be sitting on my legs. I thought that was very cool.

Q: How many angels can stand on the head of a pin?

A: Fifteen. At last year's festival, we had a contest about that. I spent hours gluing little gold confetti angels onto the head of a pin and whoever guessed the right number won a door prize.

Q: Are Charlie's Angels real angels?

A: No, they're private investigators.

Q: The Talmud described angels as half-fire, half-water. St. Bartholomew said they smell like pine. And the book "Angels A to Z" calculated the wingspan of a 200-pound angel at 36 to 120 feet. What do you think they look like?

A: Some faiths believe angels are separate beings created by God. Swedenborg taught that angels are people who have died. So they look like you or me. In heaven, you grow young. Your looks also change based on how you lived. Loving people become exquisitely beautiful. People like Hitler and [serial killer] Jeffrey Dahmer look like monsters. Angels also wear clothing. But in some heavens, they're naked.

Q: What do angels do?

A: They marry, they have jobs and homes. They go to parties. They eat and drink (but they don't get drunk). They have libraries and music.

A: Some are teachers; some are midwives or doctors who bring people into the next world; some are counselors and therapists to help new arrivals adjust.

Q: How do angels get around? In the Bible, Isaiah saw seraphim with six wings. And Jacob dreamed that angels used a ladder to get from heaven to Earth. What's the favorite mode of transport in Swedenborg's heaven?

A: He saw horses and buggies. But that may have been just from his time. It wouldn't surprise me if there are cars in heaven.

Q: Why are angels so popular these days?

A: I think it's because of Raymond Moody's book on near-death experiences. It brought the afterlife into the popular culture. People want to know where they go after they die.

Q: Who attends the Angel Festival?

A: It ranges from people who are really religious to people who aren't religious at all. Some just come to buy Christmas gifts. We also get seekers, people who've had near-death experiences. And a lot are elderly because they think more about death. Bring your camera; you might meet an angel too.

BE THERE

Angel Festival 2000, Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the New Church, 5027 New York Ave., Glendale. Free. Call (626) 794-4458 or visit http://www.theangelfestival.com.

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