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This image by the DeviantArtist "jerica128" presents what I believe to be the best demonstration of angel anatomy:

A tutorial on how to draw winged humanoids that might almost be able to fly

Source for the image above

That said, they are actually not the only angels around. There are also the cherubim, who are described as having four wings. Not a problem--just turn all four limbs into wings like what we've seen with the dinosaur Microraptor.

And then there are the seraphim, who are described as having six wings. Even if it requires both of the above features--legs and arms for the first two pairs and the second pair of pectorals for the third pair--this raises a question. How would an angel with six wings fly?

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  • $\begingroup$ Angels such as the Seraphim are supernatural beings therefore they do not necessarily need to use natural methods for flight. They don't have to obey the natural laws of physics they can use supernatural effects which could allow them to do almost anything. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Jan 11 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ Do you assume that all wings serve a purpose in flight? I'm assuming that they don't have more wings to fly better but to be intimidating and majestic. This is not my kind of world building, I have no idea if more wings is an issue (don't some insects have crazy amounts of wings?), however if I'd approach this, I'd go looking for other purposes. Also, are you interested in anatomy (where to put them) or actual flight dynamics? I'm wondering because you do not seem to care about the 2nd one based on your 4 wing example (which seems to be: it'll just work) $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jan 11 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ Is the artist fine with you posting their image under SE CC license? That apart, I have some doubts on the effectiveness of an image with a lot of text for those users who are not able to view it and rely on text readers only. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Jan 11 at 12:42
  • $\begingroup$ Search up “storm cutter dragon”, it’s a dragon in httyd that has four wings- two pairs of wings stacked on top of each other. Something you could do is maybe stack four wings on top, and then have another pair under/behind them? $\endgroup$ – Ren Jan 11 at 12:53
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    $\begingroup$ "but to be intimidating and majestic" I believe in the Bible they used two (or more?) of the wings to cover themselves in order to be less intimidating. The implication being that their body is horrifying or otherwise frightening to humans. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 11 at 13:25
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Seraphim have a trait in common with beetles. Some wings are used for flight and some are used for protection.

I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly."
(Isaiah 6:1–3)

The protective wings don't need to be big nor heavy. Only the flying ones need too much thinking about, but you can check the other questions we already have about winged humanoids.

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    $\begingroup$ If they cover their faces, I wonder how they can fly straight? Maybe they just hover but it seems pointless them having eyes if they are permanently covered. I think the narrator either had poor eyesight or had been on the mushrooms. $\endgroup$ – chasly - supports Monica Jan 11 at 22:28
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    $\begingroup$ @chasly-supportsMonica Sooo... it would be an understatement to call old-testament angles stange, but many were depicted with eyes all over their bodies; so, covering up their faces (if you assume they have faces) may not be that big of a deal. hg1.funnyjunk.com/pictures/Do+not+be+afraid_73bc8a_8063796.jpg $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Jan 11 at 22:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki - "if you assume they have faces" I wasn't assuming it. It was stated in the answer by The Square-Cube Law. I was just commenting on that answer. Also, if they have eyes all over, why aren't they covering them as well? Maybe that's why they need all those wings - to cover all those eyes. Let's hope they don't suffer from conjunctivitis. $\endgroup$ – chasly - supports Monica Jan 11 at 23:52
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    $\begingroup$ @chasly-supportsMonica the old testament angels are more akin to eldritch horrors than to winged humanoids. Considering that the description is for a covered one, we can't say for sure what lies behind the wings. It covered the part of the body where the face should be but whether it had a face...and whether it was only one or whether it was there isn't exactly clear. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 12 at 6:02
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As far as I am aware, there is 1 known instance of something that lived on earth that, technically, had 6 wings, and 2 of said wings were actually protowings, so truly it only had 2 pairs of functional wings.

Aditionally, the microraptor probably didn't really flap its leg wings, nor did they splay them out like in many depictions, since such an action was likely impossible without involving dislocating them from the hips, maintaining a position closer to an "x-wing" ship from star wars. That coupled with the debate over the microraptor probably being an exclusive glider, as far as the reconstructions' good gliding ability and weak pectoral muscles show.

These traits, coupled with the factor that no modern vertebrate animals today have more than 2 wings is a good demonstration on how having only 2 wings was most likely selected as more advantageous (regarding birds, it left a pair of limbs free for other activities and meant the bird didn't have to worry about damaging their leg feathers on the ground).

So, by far, we're yet to have actual data on a vertebrate which engaged in active flight with 2 pairs of wings. The fact that no known arthropod species ever truly used 6 wings to fly can hopefully show that redundancy isn't always a good thing (the arthropod species with 6 wings went extinct naturally, as did the 4 winged dinosaurs). The sheer fact that the 3 main vertebrate groups to achieve flight were all tetrapods which only used 2 limbs as wings also shows how an additional pair of wings isn't really an advantage.

So summing up: unless I've missed some critical information, no creature on earth, vertebrate or not, ever used more that 4 wings to fly. That coupled with the problems of turning your wings into legs and how no vertebrate on earth has more than 4 limbs leads me to the following theories about your 6 winged angels:

-1: they're, like the biblic angels, supernatural entities which don't need to bother about things like an efficient body. If they wanted to, they could have a total of 10 limbs (4 human limbs and 6 wings protruding from their backs) and still function normally. They fly however they wish to fly, regardless on whether they feel like flapping their wings while flying or not.

-2: they're a race of arboreal 6 limbed beings which were adapted to climbing and gliding to the extreme, with 6 limbs doted of claws, opposing digits and gliding feathers; which, at some point, developed psionic abilities, meaning they could now lift their own bodies in the air and hover above ground, leaving the trees without worrying about damaging their beautiful feathers. They fly as they normally move near the ground: without using their wings since they're not adapted for active flight, but rather via telekinesis (there's a possibility of some younger seraphim hovering up to great heights just to use their wings to glide until they're closer to the ground, until they tire or as a sport, but that's up to your world) .

Idea number 2 also gives a good model of their home: a place where things like stairs and Elevators probably don't exist, or at least not as in our world, since the inhabitants can simply hover to the level they wish.

Now, how do angels fit in this and how do they relate to the seraphim? Simple: while the seraphim went through the evolutionary path of humanoid psionic microraptors, the angels went through the path of humanoid birds, with their bodies becoming more adapted for active flight, but with lesser development of psionic abilities, as their bodies already demand a large amount of nutrients with a brain closer to ours. The 2 sapient races, like humans and Neanderthals, evolved at similar periods and eventually met, living together, potentially with a clear caste system if the angel race's less developed psionic abilities result in them being seen as lesser. Whether the cherubs went on a path closer to the angels, also having 6 limbs but with legs more humanoid and the 2 upper limbs developing more into wings, or closer to the seraphim, loosing 2 limbs and adapting the remaining ones towards gliding, is up to you.

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2 pairs would be used for movement, flapping and so on, the last would be used as stabilizers, and as an easier way to keep the weight of the human, these would be bigger, as they do not need to be flapped, they also do not need as much muscle force, only that to close them, and keep them stable, if you have seen alien worlds in Netflix, there is a creature, somewhat like what I am talking about, thank you if you read this, hope this helps, (this is not the best answer right now)

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