Many religions recognize beings that can be broadly termed angels, though their exact natures and traits vary. In the current age, these are often seen as not overly dissimilar from the souls of humans, allowing members of one kind to change into the other. As angels are increasingly portrayed as Winged Humanoids, the distinction becomes very fine.
In the canon of all Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), angels are a separate order of creation from humanity, generally regarded as composed of spirit or light. Though they can appear as humans if it suits them, they are unable to truly become human. Yet even in canon, angels are often envious of mortals, and many writers have mused on how one of them might become one of us. Similarly, in recent centuries due to carelessness or wishful thinking, it's not uncommon to show characters in fiction becoming angels after death, especially if they were particularly saintlike in life.
Humans being elevated will often be given, along with robes and a harp, actual wings and a halo, as if these things were also garments and not inseparable parts of an angelic being. Conversely, an angel frequently rescinds its stature by ripping or cutting off its own wings, often leaving a pair of telltale stubs on their back.
An angel becoming a human is a case of Humanity Ensues. Conversely, human-to-angel is Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. Either transformation usually counts as Semi-Divine. It often overlaps with Winged Soul Flies Off at Death; however, note that that trope is a symbolic depiction of death and not always meant to suggest that the deceased has actually become an angel. See also Fallen Angel.
Angels Becoming Human
- Played with in The Sandman, where Lucifer resigns as the ruler of Hell and gets Dream to cut off his wings, appearing to give up his angelic abilities. However, in a later arc, he claims that he never actually gave up his powers.
- The Peter David version of Supergirl was an "Earth-born Angel" after she was saved from death by the creature known as Matrix.
- In Wings of Desire (as well as in its Foreign Remake City of Angels) angels can literally fall from grace to become human. The main character wishes to do this out of love for a mortal.
- In the climax of Constantine, Gabriel is de-winged as punishment for plotting to unleash Mammon upon the world, leaving a pair of bloody stumps. Constantine introduces them to pain with a punch to the mouth.
- The plot of the film Dogma centers around a pair of disgraced angels planning to reenter heaven by entering an arch that has been blessed by a clueless Cardinal to forgive all sins of any who walk through. In order for the blessing to work, they have to become human. Jay accidentally does this for them by shooting off their wings.
- The angels of The Dresden Files universe are revealed to be capable of transubstantiation in Skin Game, when Archangel Uriel temporarily transfers his Grace to Michael Carpenter. Doing so renders the angel, for all intents and purposes, a mortal, while giving the mortal some of the angelic powers. The biggest downside, though, is that if the mortal ever willingly abuses those powers for evil (as mortals are prone to), the angel automatically Falls.
- Tyrael, the Archangel of Justice, gets sick of being mired in the Celestial Bureaucracy in Diablo III (namely, being forbidden to help humanity directly against The Legions of Hell) and pulls off his armor and wings before falling to Sanctuary, becoming a man who is frail and amnesiac until his sword El'druin is restored and returned to him. The transformation is apparently one-way, though. A distinction is also made between being mortal and being one of the Nephalem, the humans of the setting who are the descendants of angels and demons commingling.
- In Narbonic Caliban, a demon/fallen angel, becomes human in order to escape some demonic loan sharks.
Humans becoming Angels
- Judge Dredd: Hocus Ritter, a poor farmer in the Cursed Earth, is executed by the corrupt Judges of Las Vegas, but his thirst for justice against the monster Judge Death causes him to become an angel when he enters the astral plane.
- Constantine states that the forces of Heaven and Hell are forbidden by an ancient truce to interfere with the mortal world, and they work their influence by "half-breeds", who are implied to be humans who have earned their way into one or the other realm and been sent back as an agent. We see this happen with Chaz, who appears above his own gravestone with wings and a tattered straightjacket before flying away.
- In It's a Wonderful Life, Clarence Oddbody introduces himself as an "Angel, Second Class." His reward for helping George is that he is promoted to First Class and earns wings. His name and somewhat bumbling nature suggest that he was once a living man.
- Quantum Leap: In "It's a Wonderful Leap" a woman named Angela claims to be a deceased-human-now-guardian-angel for Sam.
- Supernatural zig zags this trope. Angels have human vessels, basically extra-devout humans who allow angels to use their bodies to become corporeal on Earth. But sometimes angels lose their grace, and become fully human; yet they continue to consider themselves as their angel self rather than their human self. For example, the human Jimmy Novak allowed the angel Castiel to use his body, but when Castiel becomes human he doesn't think of himself as Jimmy, he's still Castiel. Much later (season 14!), when the Angels themselves have become a Dying Race with less than a dozen still around, the current leader of Heaven asks Jack, the Nephilim son of Lucifer, to make more angels. Since he's not God, he can't simply will them into existence, so instead he transmutes willing human souls into angelic grace.
- In the Welcome to Night Vale special The Debate the angels inhabiting Old Woman Josies house recruit Marcus Vanston, the richest man in Night Vale. He then disappears from the show, only for an angel dressed in nothing but a very expensive suit jacketnote to arrive and buy Strexcorp just before the culmination of its evil plan.
- Magic: The Gathering has a few cards that invoke this. Most of them work on any creature, including other angels if you wish.
- Angelic Reward is the most blatant example.
- Angelic Ascension is another blatant example, replacing one of your creatures with an angel token. This could be interpreted rather grimly, but the flavor text and name both clarify that the card is about this trope.
- Divine Visitation works like this mechanically, but not in the flavor.
- The Grim Hollow setting for Dungeons & Dragons has rules for characters transforming into any number of supernatural beings, including angels, which are called Seraphs. It's also the only unambiguously heroic transformation, compared to the outright monstrous, like the Lich and Fiend, or the morally ambiguos, like the Fey and Primordial. It does, however, include the drawback that every evil creature that gets sight of you will drop everything, and make killing you it's top priority.
- Saint Celestine in Warhammer 40,000. She is a Living Saint, great heroes of the Imperial Creed gifted with holy supernatural powers, and functioning as the Good Counterparts (for a certain value of good) of the daemons that serve the Chaos Gods. Saint Celestine combines the baseline otherworldliness of Living Saints with feathered wings, a Holy Halo, and Resurrective Immortality.
- In El Goonish Shive, Nanase has a spell that gives her an angelic form when defending herself or others. While it's unknown whether it's divine in nature (in-universe as well as out), the form is a lot more than a Winged Humanoid form would suggest as it gives her a massive power boost, several unique abilities and is the closest thing to a traditional angel that is likely to show up.
- In Lessa, the originally mortal Rano ascends in Season 2 and becomes the angel Rayel aka one of Ra's Apostles, after meeting Ra in person. In Season 3, it's revealed that the angel Mitt has similar origins, as a human soul who was meant to die but was then given a chance to live by ascending.
- Occurs symbolically in The Talos Principle. If one of Elohim's children exceeds at the puzzles they've been tasked with solving, they're given the chance to give up their life and become a "messenger", charged with aiding those who come after them. In doing so, they choose an epitaph and lie dormant in a sarcophagus until awoken to give advice.
- Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey: Occurs late in the game where Law Hero Zelenin decides to become one, an action that in theory allows her to Take a Third Option rather than enter a battle of attrition with Captain Jack OR surrender to the Fate Worse than Death he has planned. It works and her Song of the Lord renders Jack's army docile, but since angels aren't any better than devils, she quickly falls into Transhuman Treachery and her song becomes the catalyst for heaven's World of Silence.
- Particularly virtuous humans in the Disgaea franchise occasionally reincarnate as angels upon death, like what happened with Artina. This would have happened with Laharl's mother as well, but the circumstances of her death resulted in her passing that right onto her unborn daughter instead.