Tomás Prower is a best selling author, speaker, historian, and world-traveler who found literary success with his first book La Santa Muerte: Unearthing the Magic and Mysticism of Death, to which the book has found a loyal following of millions online and across the globe. Gliding off the literary success of his first book, Tomás was given “carte blanche” to write about any subject he wanted and in our interview he discusses how he felt compelled to create an anthropological and historically factual account of spirituality and queerness. What is great about his book is he takes the reader on a global guided tour through all the continents, exploring lore, facts, and accounts of how the queer communities of the past–overlapped with their societies.
His book Queer Magic: LGBT+ Spirituality and Culture from Around the World is a one of kind and a must read. This book allows us, the reading audience to uncover what modern history has tried to hide and what has been completely overlooked in the world of queerness and spirituality. In our interview, Tomás talks about how in older societies, queer members were revered as mystics and shape shifters who had a direct line to The Divine. We address the post-colonialism and Christian influences that shoved this beautiful part of our culture to the sidelines and how his book is providing nourishment and validation for the LGBTQ+ community.
As a practicing Buddhist, lover of Hinduism and Taoism. I was particularly struck by the chapters relating to these religions. One of my favorite deities, Quan Yin (GuanYin, Kwan Yin) who was in her own right a bit of a spiritual rebel and feminist. Tomás writes in his book, “For many centuries Guanyin was an adopted subtle symbol of Chinese lesbians, not only because she was a protectress of women but also because she allegedly advocated against heterosexual marriage in order to pursue a more spiritual life. To the larger queer and feminist movements in China, Guanyin is a symbol of the kind of peace, bliss, and harmony that can be attained if society de-emphasizes its cult worship of masculinity and embraces its self-suppressed femininity as well as love and compassion for all people, regardless of who they are.”
We also covered his third book Morbid Magic: Death Spirituality and Culture from Around the World, that focuses on giving the reader a multi-cultural guide to death spirituality and traditions from all over the world and from different historical eras. Tomás does all the heavy lifting when it comes to the exploration and excavation of these stories, lore, and facts about how our different cultures, modern and historical societies dealt with death. This book is steeped in a global understanding of reverence to see our loved ones through the last phase of their life, into an afterlife, a reincarnation, or maybe even a void. In our podcast interview, Tomás encourages the listener to “get comfortable, with the uncomfortable” and he talks about in our current modern society and how we have outsourced everything–including this rite of passage. Partly because of logistics, but he reminds the audience the primary reason is so that we don’t have to come too close to death or confront our own fears related to death. Having worked in the funeral industry himself, Tomás’ book has an added element of validity and insight.
I asked Tomás, of the cultures he wrote about in his book, which one did he find the most interesting and he responded “The biggest one that resonated with me, was The Māori people of New Zealand. In western society, when you die you are beatified in a sense. The Māori do not do that. When they have funeral ceremonies, you can go up and air your grievances about the person.” Tomás goes on to say, that being remembered and honored in death is a privilege and should not always be guaranteed, especially if a person has spent their life harming those around them and leaving a wake of unreconciled trauma or unkindness in their path. And that part of grieving someone’s death is also being able to process your own authentic experience with that person; good, bad, or indifferent. Allow you to heal, let go, and be at peace with their passing.
Listen to our full interview and join us in The Garden to discuss more about LGBTQ+ Spirituality and multicultural traditions on death.