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Jimmy Novak who becomes Castiel's Vessel

Castiel: That was my mistake. Certain people, special people, can perceive my true visage. I thought you would be one of them. I was wrong.

Dean: And what visage are you in now, huh? What, holy tax accountant?
Castiel: This? This is... a vessel.
Dean: You're possessing some poor bastard?

Castiel: He's a devout man, he actually prayed for this.

– Castiel and Dean, 4.01 Lazarus Rising

A vessel is a human that an angel possesses in order to manifest on Earth. The term vessel was first used by Castiel.[1] Vessels are the safest and most conventional way for angels to interact with humans on Earth, as their true voices and visages can kill.[1] Vessels also appear necessary for an angel to use the full range of his abilities on Earth. Zachariah explains that even Lucifer needs a vessel outside the cage.[2]

Suitability of a Vessel

The suitability of a human to be a vessel is innate. Castiel makes reference to this while possessing Claire Novak, saying that it is "in her blood". It appears that angels are tied to certain human family lineages. Michael, when he is using the young John Winchester as his vessel, tells Dean: “You’re my true vessel, but not my only one. It’s a bloodline...stretching back to Cain and Abel. It’s in your blood, your father’s blood, your family's blood.”[3]


While demons can possess any human against their will, in order to manifest angels must obtain the consent of the human before they can enter him or her. However, this consent can be coerced as demonstrated by Zachariah's treatment of Dean. Dean's continued refusal to act as Michael's vessel prompts Zachariah to torture him, Sam, and their brother Adam Milligan.

The most unique element about angels (in Supernatural) that isn't in typical lore is the notion that they have to possess. They control a human host in much the same way demons do. The only difference is that angels have to ask permission and demons don't. That provided us with all sorts of morality plays to work through because angels are nominally good, but they are putting human victims through this horrific experience just because the humans were devout enough to give their will away.

– Eric Kripke, Supernatural: The Official Companion Season 4

After consent is obtained, it appears that an angel may occupy a vessel for as long as necessary, though it can be forcibly removed. While occupying a vessel, the original consciousness of the human is suppressed, though it can come to the surface in rare instances.

According to Castiel in his second conversation with Dean, angels are "walking among" humans for the first time in 2,000 years. Uriel made a comment in the 1970's that it was against orders to manifest on Earth in a vessel.[3] At least two angels have been on Earth during this period: Anna Milton and Gabriel. Anna fell, cutting out her grace, and was subsequently born as a human. When she regains her grace, her body is destroyed, but is later regenerated for her to occupy as a vessel. It appears that no other consciousness was ever present in this body. If Gabriel has used the same vessel since arriving on Earth after Lucifer's fall, it must have been serving him for thousands of years. While some angels enjoy their time on Earth in vessels, others resent it. Uriel holds disdain for humans. Zachariah in particular, whose vessel is never identified, despises the prospect, as illustrated by the following quote:

Dean: Oh, great. That's all I need is another one of you guys.
Zachariah: I'm hardly another one, Dean. I'm Castiel's superior. Believe me, I had no interest in popping down here into one of these smelly things. Zachariah indicates his body.

– Zachariah to Dean, 4.17 It's A Terrible Life

In Heaven, Angels can appear in human form to souls there. When Dean and Sam are captured by Zachariah in Heaven, they still see Zachariah as he appears on Earth in his vessel. According to Zachariah the reason they perceive him the same way in Heaven is because they're limited. Joshua is also seen in human form in Heaven by Dean and Sam. In 5.14 My Bloody Valentine, Castiel demands that a Cupid reveals itself, and it instantly appears in human form. Whether or not it needed a vessel is unknown.

At the end of Season 6, Castiel absorbs the souls of Purgatory to gain their power and defeat Raphael. Balthazar worried about the instability inherent in Castiel acting "as the vessel" for the souls. This could result in the destruction of Earth. Whether the souls are also housed in Castiel's vessel or are a part of his spirit is not known. He is still using his vessel after declaring himself the new "God". [4]

Strengths and Weaknesses

An angel in a vessel can withstand injuries that would kill a human, and can heal the vessel of almost any wound they receive. Even so, acting as a vessel is a trial. Jimmy Novak described his experience as a vessel as "like being chained to a comet".[5] He recalls having been shot, stabbed, and healed by Castiel. Castiel also warns Jimmy that he will not age while occupied by an angel, however long he serves as a vessel.[5] In the case of archangels, the human host takes on even greater risk, as the sheer power of an archangel can inflict permanent damage on a vessel. Donnie Finnerman suffered brain damage after his occupation by Raphael, and Castiel tells Dean, were Michael to possess him, Dean would suffer even greater damage.[6] Lucifer's presence causes Nick to deteriorate slowly during his time as a vessel; he says that Nick can barely contain him.[6][7]

Vessels are sometimes destroyed. It has been shown that an archangel has the power to obliterate the vessel of another angel, and the angel himself.[2] The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse can harm occupied vessels, as demonstrated by Famine and Pestilence on Castiel.[8] Holy Fire can destroy an angel and its vessel if the angel walks through the flames.[6] Powerful artifacts of Heaven, such as Lot's Salt, can permanently destroy a vessel.[9] Another angelic weapon, the Staff of Moses can harm angels in a vessel.[9] As mentioned above, Anna's body was destroyed when she regained her grace, but was recreated as her vessel.

An angel can be pulled from its vessel by other angels, or even powerful demons.[5][10] According to Castiel, there is an open connection between an unoccupied human vessel and its angel.[6] This connection can be used to summon an angel back to its vessel using the proper incantation.

True Vessels

The term "true vessel" is used several times to described someone preordained to host an angel. It is particularly applied to the vessels of Michael and Lucifer.

Archangel Vessels

  • Dean Winchester was preordained to be Michael's vessel, being described as "Michael's sword. Zachariah tells Dean that Michael needs him as vessel so that Michael can lead the The Host of Heaven in the final battle against Lucifer.
  • Sam Winchester was preordained to be Lucifer's vessel. Lucifer tells Sam that he was present in the Chapel following Lucifer's release for this reason. Sam is defined as Lucifer's true vessel because his self-righteous attitude mirrors Lucifer's rebellious attitude and him being a younger sibling of an obedient brother makes it important for him to be the human to host Lucifer. According to Castiel, consuming demon blood strengthens the person's body, making it possible for him or her to host Lucifer.
  • Donnie Finnerman was chosen by Raphael to be his vessel. Donnie was a mechanic in Maine prior to his consent to Raphael. Balthazar destroyed Raphael's vessel using Lot's Salt.

Angel Vessels

  • Jimmy Novak was chosen by Castiel to be his vessel. While he initially consented, Jimmy is keen to resume his life with his family after Castiel is forcibly summoned back to Heaven. He does resume his former angelic occupation as Castiel's vessel. Unlike Dean, Jimmy can hear Castiel's true voice and perceive his true visage unharmed.
  • Claire Novak is Jimmy's daughter and is briefly a vessel for Castiel. After Jimmy is shot by a demon possessing his wife, Castiel possesses his daughter Claire. Jimmy, near death, begs to be allowed to take her place. Castiel agrees.

Alternate Vessels

Nick as Lucifer's Plan B Vessel in 5.03 Free To Be You And Me.

Alternate vessels, referred to by Lucifer as "an improvisation" and "Plan B", are vessels that angels use for short periods of time, or as a last resort. It is implied that the archangels require their true, preordained vessels in order for them to operate at their full capacity.

Mouth Pieces

File:Lucifer's voice.jpg
Lucifer's voice channeled through a dead nun's body.

While still confined to his Cage and restricted by the 66 Seals, Lucifer talks with Azazel via the body of a dead nun inside St. Mary's Convent, speaking through her mouth. Azazel made a blood sacrifice to enable the communication.

Anonymous Vessels

The following angels possess vessels with no (or yet-to-be) revealed profession, background, or history:

  • Uriel manifests on two separate occasions by possessing a man.
  • Zachariah manifests by possessing a man.
  • Gabriel manifests by possessing a man.
  • Balthazar manifests by possessing a man.
  • Virgil manifests by possessing a man.
  • Raphael manifests after his original vessel is destroyed by claiming another vessel this time a female one.
  • Rachel manifests by possessing a woman.


  • See also Angel Lore for information on powers exhibited by angels while on Earth.