Archangel Raphael

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Archangel Raphael with Tobias and his poodle, in a 1485 painting by Francesco Botticini (1446 - 1497)

Raphael, also spelled Rafael, is recognized as an Archangel in Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and Spiritualist traditions and is one of only a few Jewish Archangels who has been made a saint in the Catholic church. His name in Hebrew means "God has healed." As Saint Raphael the Archangel, he is the patron saint of doctors, nurses, and fishermen. He is also petitioned by those who wish to meet their future wife or husband. In the Catholic Church, the Feast Day for all Archangels is celebrated on September 29th. He is the Archangel of Wednesday.

Raphael's name is not mentioned in the Bible, but he appears in later books of Jewish apocrypha -- "The Book of Enoch", a collection od texts dating to the 3rd century BCE, and "The Book of Tobit," written in the early 2nd century BCE. The story of Raphael is told in "The Book of Tobit," which concerns the adventures of Tobit's son, Tobias (also spelled Tobiah), who is sent by his blind father to collect a sum of money that his father had previously loaned to a distant kinsman in the far off land of Media. Raphael represents himself as Tobit's kinsman Azariah ("Yahweh has Helped"), and offers to aid and protect Tobias on his journey. Under the guidance of Raphael, Tobias makes the trek to Media, accompanied by his curly-haired dog. Along the way, Raphael teaches Tobias how to catch a fish and how to prepare a medicine from its gall and a magical incense from its heart and liver. At the climax of their journey, Raphael helps Tobias meet Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, the young woman he is to marry and to use the magical incense to deliver her from the demon Asmodeus, who has brought death to her first seven husbands on their wedding nights. Asmodeaus flees to Egypt, where Raphael binds him. The young couple, again accompanied by Raphael, make the return journey home, where the fish-gall medicine Raphael has made is used to cure Tobit of his blindness.

Raphael is usually shown with the young Tobias as they venture on their travels together. Sometimes he is depicted holding a large fish, which he is offering to Tobias, and sometimes Tobias holds the fish while the two are seen walking in the countryside with Tobias' faithful dog, and Raphael holds the packet of medicine which will eventually be used to cure Tobit. Hoodoo root doctors and Spiritualist practitioners may keep a statue of Raphael on an altar where work is being performed for the clients in need of healing, for in "The Book of Enoch" it is said that he is "set over all disease and every wound of the children of the people"


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