“Queer Magic: LGBT+ Spirituality and Culture From Around the World” (review)

In 2018, I was perusing shelves at my local pagan bookstore when I was delighted to find not one, but two books titled Queer Magic, each with bright rainbow designs on dark-colored covers. They’d even been released within slightly more than a month of each other, albeit by different publishers. At the time, I bought the anthology called Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries (review), but I vowed I would return for the other title, Queer Magic: LGBT+ Spirituality and Culture From Around the World by Tomás Prower.

I took longer than I should have, but a few years later, I’ve finally read Tomás’ book, and I’m now kicking myself for not having read it sooner. Tomás guides the reader on a worldwide tour, making stops at various points throughout history and modern day, to examine the role of queerness within spiritual systems all around the globe. Better still, he frequently passes the mic to queer people practicing different types of spirituality in different places, so they can tell their own stories and, in some cases, share their own magickal workings.

I’m in awe of the sheer ambition of this undertaking, as the world is vast and there’s an incredible amount of nuance and changeability in terms of how LGBT+ folks are perceived and involved in spiritual practices. Tomás doesn’t content himself with easy or simple anecdotes, but leans into the complexity and, in some cases, lack of information available about certain groups within the rainbow umbrella of queerness. I’ve always respected teachers and authors who are unafraid to say “I don’t know,” and in the cases where he says so, Tomás also acknowledges why we don’t know much about certain groups throughout history, particularly the lesbian community. Historical accounts have long been written by colonizing men who didn’t see value in observing, recording, or preserving anything on women’s sexuality. A strong theme acknowledged throughout the book is the story of the injustice committed when certain people’s experiences and perspectives are lost to time, or twisted to suit a colonizer’s agenda.

Reading Queer Magic brought up a wealth of complex emotions for me: a combination of hope, affirmation, solidarity, wistfulness, grief, anger, and amazement. I took a photo of a page describing (what we’d consider to be) transgender women being affirmed among the Hausa people in Western Africa, and shared it with a genderfluid friend, and we both felt joy but also anger upon reading it, because transgender people are made to feel like our identities are brand-new and perverse, yet here are all these accounts of trans people being affirmed and valued throughout the world and history. Advocating for ourselves is hard work, and sometimes we wish we could just live in a place where everyone “gets it” and leaves us alone, where we don’t have to constantly expend our energy educating others while protecting ourselves.

Complex emotions aside, this book is incredibly well-researched and written in a compelling style that makes it hard to put down. Even if you’re not a huge fan of books on history or anthropology, I think you’ll find this book to be full of interesting ideas and perspectives to enrich your worldview. This is one of those books that will simmer in my brain for awhile, and I anticipate returning to it repeatedly for inspiration. I highly recommend it!

Note: I’ll be interviewing Tomás Prower on 4 Quick Q’s at 8:30 pm EDT/5:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday, June 1, 2022. Watch live on facebook.com/majorarqueerna!

🌈 Guess what? I wrote a book on Queer Qabala, and you can buy it now! 🌈

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