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.
- 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 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" and 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.
- 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.
- 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.