It was explained to me years ago that the manner of depiction for Angel’s hair bands, was that their light blue hair bands, ending in floating ribbons or even white lightning, function as “antennae” to instantly pick up instructions from God. I recently came across another article online which beautifully expands upon why this depiction of an Angel’s hair and hair band is set the way it is.
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The following text is the transcript of the second lesson on the Theology of Orthodox icons by the workshop for icon-making, delivered on Friday, November 4th, 2005, by father Constantine Strategopoulos, vicar of the Church of the Dormition of the Holy Metropolis of Glyfada, Attica, Greece.
“Now let us examine the peripheral, surrounding elements in the icon. There are the angels, which are singing the glory of God; all angels are necessarily depicted with a band around their head. They are always depicted with long hair and always with a ribbon that holds it - and this is a dogmatic element, not a secondary one. And what does that ribbon signify? Well, the heavenly powers, like the terrestrial, logical beings - that is, the human beings - are animals-beings with reason. Man is a "deifiable" animal. Angels have their minds turned permanently towards God and that is their sustenance. Even the therapeutic method of the Orthodox Church is directed towards a human that is ill, and, broken down as he is, to turn his mind likewise towards God. That is his therapy. Turning towards God is his therapy. Angels, therefore, possess this quality absolutely - that turn towards God - and especially after the day that the demons fell, but the angels didn't. What we celebrate on the 8th of November is that stance by the angels - and we also cite in the Divine Liturgy the words "let us stand fast, let us stand with fear" - when the angels did not fall, like Lucifer did. Following this stand, Saint John of Damascus in one very important dogmatic text - an extremely important dogmatic teaching, both succint and substantial, titled "A Precise Exposition of the Orthodox Faith" - had said (but it is also a dogmatic tradition of the Fathers) that the angels after this incident became impervious towards sin; they can never fall thereafter, because they had "stood fast". This could have been the case with Man also, if he hadn't succumbed to the devil's provocation. That is why the ribbon around the angelic head symbolizes gathering; because that internal magnitude or abstract magnitude of the word "nous" - and not simply "the brain" - cannot be depicted, so, in hagiography, it is with the aid of external symbolisms that I express those things that are not visible. We, for example, are able to depict prayer hagiographically. But if you ask an artist to "paint a prayer", one might paint something entirely naturalistically, say, a person praying in a forest. Another might paint something more abstract, like a streak of red colour on a white canvas. I don't know how he might depict it. But we do not resort to naturalistic or abstract means. We express significant meanings with symbolisms. Thus, because the angels have their minds "gathered" and focused on God, we place a ribbon around their plentiful head of hair (which denotes the plentiful charismas that they possess). That too is a dogmatic element. There are no angels depicted without a ribbon tied around their head. We will notice this detail in other icons with angels also.”