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
- The Sandman (1989): Played with when 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.
- Supergirl: The Peter David version becomes an "Earth-born Angel" after she's saved from death by the creature known as Matrix.
- Constantine (2005): In the climax, 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.
- Dogma: The plot 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.
- Wings of Desire: Angels can literally fall from grace to become human. The main character wishes to do this out of love for a mortal.
- The Dresden Files: The angels 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.
- In Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, devas are re-imagined from a subset of angels to a playable race of angelic beings who took on humanoid form to remain on the Material Plane and combat evil. They're mortal in that they can be slain, but devas will return in a new body in a few centuries. This also lets them draw upon Past-Life Memories from their earlier incarnations.
- Diablo III: Tyrael, the Archangel of Justice, gets sick of being mired in the Celestial Bureaucracy (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.
- 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.
- All Dogs Go to Heaven: While human angels never appear on screen, strictly speaking, dogs are issued a halo and wings upon dying and entering Heaven and Charlie and Itchy explicitly refer to themselves as angels in the sequels.
- In The Secret of the Hunchback, Quasimodo's hunched back was his wings trying to emerge, which they eventually did to rescue him.
- The Angel Levine: Levine was a shoplifter who was hit by a car while fleeing the scene of the crime. Instead of being let right into Heaven, he's put on probation and given twenty-four hours to work a miracle in Morris's life.
- Constantine (2005) 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 confirmed in the novelization 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 straitjacket before flying away.
- 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.
- Pitch (2009): Jim was once an ordinary man from Iowa before dying and becoming an angel.
Belial: You were one of those corn-fed Christians, weren't you? It's always a treat to see one of you guys actually make it on the other team.
- His Dark Materials: Human ghosts can be transformed into angels after death, though it's an unusual occurrence and appears to require the intervention of another angel. Ghosts are transient if not sustained by Heroic Willpower or the nature of The Underworld, whereas angels are immortal entities of pure Dust, and an angel declines to explain further.
Will: But how do humans become angels?
Balthamos: What is the point of this metaphysical speculation?
- After Alois Hingerl dies in Der Münchner im Himmel, he is dragged into Fluffy Cloud Heaven where God himself outfits him with a gown and a pair of wings, gives him a golden harp and renames him Aloisius. He is not amused because there is no beer in Heaven.
- 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.
- Welcome to Night Vale: In the special "The Debate", the angels inhabiting Old Woman Josie's 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.
- Mormonism is the exception among Abrahamic religions, as they believe that humans can become angels. Specifically, Archangel Michael was said to have originally been the Biblical Adam, Archangel Gabriel was Noah, and the church's founder, Joseph Smith, was visited by Moroni from the Book of Mormon.note
- The Book of Enoch, an apocryphal work not considered canon by mainstream Abrahamic denominations, describes the antediluvian patriarch Enoch, Noah's great-grandfather, as ascending to Heaven to become an angel, afterwards taking on the name Metatron and becoming God's scribe. A similar story developed in the early Roman period among Jewish and Christian mystical traditions — although never codified or accepted by any formal theology — concerning the angel Sandalphon, who was said to have originally been either the prophet Elijah or Metatron/Enoch's twin.
- Dungeons & Dragons: In the Dragonlance setting, phaethons are elf-descended humanoids who can manifest wings of fire at will. For reasons even they don't understand, a few phaethons at some point in their lives feel compelled to fly skyward to the very limits of their endurance, until they're in the upper atmosphere, as close to the sun as possible. Those who survive this Rite of Ascension return as elder phaethons, whose fiery wings are fully 30 feet wide and even more intense, and are as much angel as they are elven, becoming ageless beings who only rarely need to eat. Councils of elder phaethons act as their people's leaders, or they serve as aloof guardians who patrol their territory in search of wrongs to right or dangers to deal with.
- Grim Hollow 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.
- In Nomine Satanis / Magna Veritas: Many angels and demons are former mortals who were "promoted" in the afterlife. Most notably, Eve, Archangel of Women, is the biblical Eve.
- 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 gives a single creature a power boost and the ability to fly, and depicts a praying human with a newly-manifested pair of angelic wings.
- Angelic Ascension replaces 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.
Within her battalion she was known as the Angel of Arkvale. Until now, that was only a metaphor.
- Divine Visitation works like this mechanically (all creature tokens created on the turn in which it's played are angels instead of whatever else they would be) but not in the flavor (it simply represents angels coming to the player's aid).
- Warhammer 40,000: Saint Celestine is a Living Saint, one of the 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.
- Afterlife (1996) has training centers to turn SOULs into angels that are the working force of the Fluffy Cloud Heaven (as well as the demons of the Fire and Brimstone Hell).
- By using "Angelify", you will turn into a blocky flying entity with two white majestic wings, presumed to be Bloody Battle's form of angels. You will also gain multiple attacks exclusive to angels, all of them being holy which means they damage zombies and demons a lot more than they would damage a normal player.
- Disgaea: Particularly virtuous humans 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.
- Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey:
- This 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.
- The case of Enoch, who became the angel Metatron in Talmudic tradition, is also mentioned across the franchise.
- The Talos Principle: This occurs symbolically. 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.
- World of Warcraft: The Kyrian are blue-skinned Winged Humanoids who serve as the ones to guide the souls of the dead to the Shadowlands. The Arbiter sends the souls of those who were selfless, self-sacrificing, and devoted to a cause greater than themselves in life to Bastion so they can undergo training and rituals to eventually become Kyrian themselves.
- 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.
- 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.