I'm writing a story about an angel, demon hybrid, and I wanted to know about the required maintenance of Angel wings, or in this case Dangel wings (what I call demon/angel hybrids). Since his wings are more similar to an angel's [or birds] but has the color scheme of a demon [dark colors]. Any suggestions?

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    $\begingroup$ Maintain - meaning how the angel would do preening? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Apr 8, 2022 at 16:46
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    $\begingroup$ Petco has some suggestions on bird grooming. petco.com/content/petco/PetcoStore/en_US/pet-services/… $\endgroup$
    – Atog
    Apr 8, 2022 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, and yes and also like if let's say they were to be pushed into mud or some other watery substance or get sand in-between their feathers. But still thanks for the answers! $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2022 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ @AuthorArian Hi! You might not know, but it's best to let 24-48h for answers to come in before you accept one. Indeed, some people with really great answers might be sleeping right now, or just need some time to write them up. There's a recent meta-post about if and when to validate an answer. $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2022 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ In addition to Alexander's comment: have you thought about the presence of preen oil? $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Apr 9, 2022 at 9:35

8 Answers 8


Dust baths

One interesting thing birds do (which I learned from Big Bird) is take dust baths. They kick up a lot of dust on the ground and it helps remove excess oil from their feathers which makes it harder to fly. It's hard to imagine angels rolling around in the dirt, but maybe they have a satchel of angel dust (no, not that angel dust) they carry around for this purpose. Maybe it has other magical properties too.


Humans spend a lot of time and creative energy styling their hair and clothing. Maybe angels would do the same for feathers. Perhaps dying, or small cosmetic clipping that doesn't hinder flight. Maybe there are even some angels who prefer radical but impractical styles, like human mohawks.

  • $\begingroup$ That would make a lot of sense! And thanks for the help. $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2022 at 17:24

Well, if you're wondering about how wings are maintained, and since your character's wings are more akin to that of a bird's I'd look up stuff on bird behavior and how they clean their wings. However, I can provide knowledge that birds clean their wings by combing their feathers with their beaks. Therefore, maybe your character might have some sort of comb to brush out his wings with.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! And I will. $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2022 at 16:59

You Preen My Wings, and I'll Preen Yours

In another world where winged folk called Denê figure prominently, one of the first relationships a youngster learns to cultivate is that of preening partner. This friend is someone that you've come to like and get along with and is ultimately a relationship of trust. This is especially true for boys, whose wings grow rather longer than girls', but regardless of one's persuasion, there are always those bits that can't be reached by nimble fingers or crafty tools in one's own hand. And anyway, it's so much nicer to have someone to chat with and who can do a proper job of feather maintenance!

Scratching the Itch: Probably the most common action is that of scratching an itch. Notice how the fellow in the illustration is scratching parallel to his feather shafts. Unlike hair, which is relatively soft and pliant, feathers are rather harder and more rigid. Scratching vigorously across the shafts can pull feathers out and cause irritation.

Most parts of one's wing can be reached with one's hands. To scratch the ventral wing, just rotate your hand the way you would to scratch your shoulder. To scratch the dorsal side, simply cross your arm and your wing.

enter image description here

Preening Partner: Most aspects of wing maintenance can be done by an individual on herself, but it's much more convenient and comfortable, not to mention social, for a friend or lover to do this for you.

Just sit down next to your partner, spread your wings, maybe do a nice arm & wing stretch, and wait for your partner to get to business.

Just jab him in the ribs if he doesn't wake up right away!

Usually Denê will take care of each other's backs first. This way they can save the face-to-face preening for last. They have psychological, spiritual and social reasons for preferring face-to-face communication that your winged folk may not share, so they might choose a different order.

enter image description here

Tool of the Art: Fingers are really good at quick, basic, and emergency preening. They can smooth ruffled feathers, pick out debris, pluck severely damaged feathers, assess damage to skin, muscles, and bones underneath. But your Angels will probably also have tools specific to the tasks at wing.

A carman is a kind of all-purpose preening tool. It is a nicely carved piece of wood with a handle and a tapered, slightly curving end. Kind of like a single toothed comb. These come in a variety of sizes and are useful for straightening larger feathers, scratching itches, digging out long strands of yarn that your little sister tucked up around your feathers whilst you were asleep, and the like.

There are many varieties of carman, some serving special purposes like resetting the barbs while others are general purpose. One of the author's own carman is pictured here. It was made from an old cooking fork and is about nine inches long.

enter image description here

The Big Picture: Preening one's friend involves more than just a simple task of resetting out of place feathers. Combing out the hair and perhaps setting it in plaits or braids or tails, applying basic body paint, applying decorations in the hair and feathers --- these are all things friends and partners do for each other.

It's kind of up to each individual, partnership, or friend cohort as to what, if any, order arrangements are made in. One common order for preening the wings is to begin with That Spot in the middle of the back that's so hard to reach. On a Tana's body, this area is a little chaotic: there are tertiary wing feathers, thoracic feathers, thoracic hairs all converging in one area. Special care has to be taken here, especially if hair gets tangled around feathers. Usually a smaller carman will do the trick!

Moving along the upper wing-arm the alar tertiary feathers are addressed next --- in the first image, this is the part of the wing-arm that is angled slightly downward. Then we'll move along to the the lower wing-arm and take care of the alar secondaries. The tertiaries and secondaries are generally fairly short and smaller tools are appropriate. This is the part of the wing-arm that is angled upwards. The wing-wrist signals the transition from wing-arm to wing-hand. It is here that one finds the long primary feathers. In boys, these can grow two to three feet long. Even so, deft hands and ordinary tools can sort out the worst preening issues that rough and tumble games, fights, duels and other activities can punish one's wings with!

Lastly, if, like the Denê, your Angels have alulae, the wing-thumbs, it's really nice to have a preening partner who can clear out any debris, smooth off any chipped bits or rough edges, sharpen & shape the talons, and apply an appropriate tint to its surface.

enter image description here

A Note on the Molt: One thing all Denê have in common is that feathers do not last forever! They periodically undergo a rather uncomfortable and socially awkward stretch of time where everything itches, their feathers fall out, and tempers can become a bit touchy.

An understanding partner or friend with some cooling and calming salves is a real godsend! Especially if he can corral said little sister away from poking at sore spots and tickling the already ticklesome itchy spots!

Feathers make nice cat toys and other useful articles, but the harvest is a true pain!

enter image description here

A Note on Anatomy: Depending on the anatomical structure of your Angels' wings, some of the above information may vary. A Tana's wing anatomy closely mirrors that of his arms and legs, as you'll see in the final image. The wing is divided into three parts, just as are the other limbs. The proximal and distal wing-arm comprises the single axla and the parallel siphon and calalmelus, which like the radius / ulna and tibia / fibula rotate along a common axis.

Last comes the wing-hand with its gonials and phalanges. Denê have two long digits in the wing-hand corresponding to the fingers and toes of the other limbs and an alula that corresponds to the thumb. Their wing-thumbs are rather mobile but relatively short and are hensile in nature.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ I- your ducking amazing! $\endgroup$ Apr 9, 2022 at 1:08
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    $\begingroup$ Aha social explanation for this, great.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Apr 9, 2022 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ What work are you referencing? $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Apr 9, 2022 at 21:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Tom -- What do you mean? $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Apr 10, 2022 at 0:30
  • $\begingroup$ You mention "another world where winged folk called Denê figure prominently," which seems like a big influence of your post. I'm curious what this is from, so I can check it out myself. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Apr 10, 2022 at 0:41


enter image description here

Dark feathers is no problem -- there are already many dark feathery things on the planet, and they maintain their wings the same way as the light feathery things.

enter image description here

This is called preening. This is when you take any bugs or parasites out of the skin, rearrange the feathers into optimal flying conditions, and smooth out the layer of oil that coats the feathers. Usually the oil comes from a gland on the bird's back:

enter image description here

Part of preening is to spread the oil in a thin layer over all the feathers. Sometimes dust baths are needed to prevent clumping. The oil is waterproof and makes the wings better for flying.

You have a layer of oil too! If you have ever scrubbed your hands red with some chemical like bleach, alcohol, or too much soap, what has happened is the oil has rubbed off.

Birds preen in pairs, because they have no arms and cannot easily reach every part of their own body. Your Dangels have an easier time with their arms and opposable thumbs.

But perhaps they have trouble preening the base of the wings. Get your best bro to help with that. Wait you mean you have no bros, are the only Dangel in existence? Daaamn bro that's harsh.


Do they really need wings?

You're a new contributor, so I'll explain that sometime you'll get an answer that's labeled a Frame Challenge. That's a nice way of saying "Can we think a little more about your question?"

In your case, I'd like to remind you that in the Bible, angels don't have the appearance of winged humans. As I recall, they were varied and often non-human looking. The winged-human image began with, I believe, Renaissance painters or something.

My point is, if you're asking about wing maintenance because you want Dangels to have them, that's fine. But if you think it's a problem any such creature must have, remember that angels can any power God wants them to have -- shapeshifting, teleporting, or anything that obviates the need for wings.

As for a angel/demon hybrid -- it could have any power or physical characteristics you want. Spiritual creatures don't have genes, so they wouldn't be bound by genetics!

  • $\begingroup$ When I read the Bible the angels were not described at all. It usually just says "And God sent an angel to, blah, blah, blah. . . " I don't think an angel was a specific type of creature. I think it just means a messenger. Like Ev-angelist. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 9, 2022 at 12:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Daron Actually some books like Ezekiel describe certain "creatures" like angels in quite a bit of detail, and they don't generally look anything like what we would think of today. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Apr 10, 2022 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael That bit of the Bible does not refer to those wheely deelies as angels. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 11, 2022 at 0:13

Angels' wings do not require maintenance

Angels are divine creatures created by a deity for the express purpose of worshipping that deity. Their anatomy is dictated by that deity, not by some base evolutionary process.

An angel is essentially a soul given form. Angels may look like humans, but they are not humans. Angels may have wings that look like the wings of birds, but they are not birds' wings. Angels may be able to fly, but the mechanism of flight is not aerodynamic in nature, i.e. they do not flap their wings for the purpose of generating lift.

Thus, angels' wings do not require any care whatsoever.

For the same reasons:

  • angels do not need to brush their teeth
  • angels do not emit unpleasant body odor
  • angels do not require food or water (although they can eat & drink)
  • angels do not eliminate
  • angels do not get muscle cramps
  • angels do not get liverspots
  • angels do not get diabetes
  • angels do not get cancer
  • angels do not get kidney stones
  • angels do not get hemorrhoids, have to ride the bus to a proctologist's office to get a prescription and one of those torus butt-pillows, and buy Preparation H from the pharmacist
  • angels do not get eczema
  • angels do not get COVID-19

... and so on.

Angels do sneeze. It's weird, I know, but I don't make the rules.


Spiritual, not physical, maintenance is required

The angel/demon hybrid suggests you're approaching this from a species/genealogical angle (heh) so this may not be applicable, but here's an alternate idea:

God has angels. These angels are higher beings (winged, immortal) meant to watch over and protect humans. Their faith/good deeds maintain the integrity of their wings (and immortality).

El diablo/Satan/Beelzebub/etc has demons who are also higher beings. For them, ill deeds/mischief/wickedness maintains their wings.

Sometimes an angel or demon "switches teams". Their new liege maintains their wings/immortality, and this may be reflected by physiological shifts (ex: wing color change).

Occasionally, an angel or demon may decide they can't really be bothered with all this good/evil and decides they want a bit of that la dolce vita. Neither entity wants slackers, so they eventually lose their wings. Maybe holy lightning / unholy fire smites them after their descent/ascent, maybe they become human and mortal, maybe it's Maybelline something else

This system doesn't account for the angel/demon hybrid's wings? Of course! They're an anomaly! They could be calculatingly playing each side just enough to maintain their wings, or they could be an unholy/holy (choose as appropriate) abomination! It's not common—this makes them an interesting figure in your world.

This answer draws from the generic western "cloud god with holy angels" trope, but it could just as well be adapted. Maybe there's more than one "team" (i.e., not just one god vs one satan). Maybe it's not cut-and-dry good vs. evil (instead of good/evil deeds it's just acts that further their patron's aims). Maybe "gods" are akin to nobility and what we have is metaphysical warring houses. It's your story!

This answer has drawn some inspiration from

the Brazilian TV show "Nobody's Looking"

(mentioning it constitutes a spoiler, I suppose), which could also provide you with some inspiration.


I'll be starting with the second part of your question - "would they even need to?": I think it's important in character building, when creating characters that are based on pre-existing mythological ones, to decide early on how much do they differ from the original ones, if they do at all. Of course to do that you need to understand the original sources and how these beings are classically depicted first. Since we're talking about angels and demons maybe you could do a bit of research first - I'm not suggesting you go through all the Bible and scriptures as that would take ages, but you could look up some research done about angels and demons specifically. - Start maybe by looking up "Angelology" and "Demonology". There are a lot of sources out there.

Okay, now, need of research notwithstanding, let's try to give you some specific help. I did do some bible studies because when you're Italian you basically grow up doing catechism after-classes up until you finish middle school. And there's Religion that is taught in high school too so... To give you the basic, classical, universally understood nature of angels as we studied it: God created them first, and he created them to be perfect - because they're so, they're finite, and their nature and resolve/ideas do not change once they choose a path, be it to be in service of the Lord or the opposite, to fight against Him. The reason why there's no forgiveness or redemption possible for the Demons and Satan is because being angels (even tho "ex" ones) their resolve is not malleable or changeable as that of humans, they're eternal beings much like the earth - not immobile but pretty much set on its path. Of course with them being as close to perfection as the Lord could manage (apparently with a few hiccups along the way if dear Luci is anything to go by) they don't have the same necessities other creatures have: they don't need to eat, sleep, they feed off the glory and light of the Lord and all of that. They don't get old, fatigued or dirty either. It goes unsaid that a classical angel would not need to "mantain" its wings or any part of its body. Also! Keep in mind that the image you have of angels (basically very beautiful humans with white wings, halos and superpowers) only applies to the lower ones. Anything below a Cherubim can have those characteristics, but the more powerful an angel is (Cherubim, Seraphim etc) the more... weird it looks. We're talking wheels of fire, multiple wings with eyes, three-faced creatures and more. The "classic" angel look would apply to archangels, lower angels, Guardian ones and not much else. Of course, angels as well as demons can take on any form they wish. They can look like any kind of human or animal when they need to be around mortals. It is also stated that a human could not look directly at the true form of a "superior" angel because the vision would drive them to madness or they would simply not understand it.

To wrap this up, thus is the classic version of the angels. When we're talking fantasy books, movies etc, literally anything goes. Once you get the original understanding of these beings you can change them however you like. My favourite manga had angels who could not survive with their wings being cut off because they would become mindless monsters if that happened. So really, you can do anything you like. You could have angels with different wing colors based on their rank or powers or whatever. Your fantasy is the only limit here!


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