Thousands of years before homophobia existed, the native peoples of Brazil worshiped gods with characteristics associated with homosexuality. In “A Banda Sagrada de Tebas”, journalist, researcher and musician Thiago Teodoro presents theses about how deities like Anhangá and Acauã were homosexual, challenging traditional concepts about gender and sexuality in Brazilian mythology.
In the book, the author condenses decades of research into a fictional plot that tells the story of Martim Vieira, a priest of the Banda Sagrada de Tebas, a famous musical group whose name refers to the homonymous battalion composed of gay couples who defeated Sparta in the Battle of Leuctra 2,500 years ago. By talking about history, science and mythology, the protagonist reveals the trajectory of his band and the connection between indigenous gods and the ancient population of Brazil.
Thiago Teodoro goes beyond Brazilian borders by exploring deities such as Pan, Apollo, Dionysus and Zeus, who are related to Anhangá and Acauã. The book also addresses the story of Antínoo, love partner of the Roman emperor Hadrian, and his transformation into a divine symbol after his death. In addition, the work offers practical and immersive content about the religion of the gay god Antínoo, including QR codes for readers to listen to thematic songs created by the author himself.
“A Banda Sagrada de Tebas” emerged as a project to explore discoveries about the People of Luzia, the oldest human occupation in the Americas found in Pedro Leopoldo, the author’s hometown. However, Thiago Teodoro decided to direct the focus of the book to highlight the sacredness of homosexuality in different periods of antiquity, including in Brazilian territory. According to the author, homosexuality was seen as something divine and necessary.
Thiago Teodoro is a writer, journalist and singer, and lives in Pedro Leopoldo, Minas Gerais. His quest to rescue the history of the People of Luzia led to decades of research, culminating in the publication of “A Banda Sagrada de Tebas”, a work that delves into homosexuality present in mythology and in ancient Brazilian traditions.
How did the interest in researching and writing about the presence of homosexuality in the mythology of native peoples in Brazil and other cultures arise?
In fact, this was the last thing I expected or wanted to find when I started my research, as I grew up in a homophobic and very religious environment. As much as I knew my homosexual nature from childhood, I believed that a miracle would change me, just as racism made so many enslaved black people think they could lighten their skin; just as fear of the fire of the Inquisition made followers of other faiths convert to Christianity. I was born in a mining town called Pedro Leopoldo, where the remains of the People of Luzia, the oldest in the Americas, were discovered. And this past received (and still receives) very little attention from the city and the country. Even as a child, I was willing to research and keep the results of these researches until I was close to my forties, when I would write a book about it. And so it was. But how to study civilizations without probing their beliefs? And how to probe their beliefs without contemplating their gods, many of whom are homosexuals? It was my study and research process that made the change happen in me: the change that leads us to love who we are and live without masks.
What was the research process you adopted to develop the book “The Holy Band of Thebes”? What were the sources used and the experiences that contributed to the construction of the narrative?
First, I went to the archaeological sites in Brazil and Chile to do research in loco, mainly in search of confirming or refuting everything I was discovering through the crossing of different documents and texts. Second, I continued the extraordinary researches of great minds whose work was interrupted by death. This is the case, for example, with the research of Fidélis da Motta, a friar who used the Sumerian language to translate words from Tupi-Guarani. This tells us a lot about the mixture of the remnants of the People of Luzia with the Asians who came through the Bering Strait, originating the indigenous peoples of Brazil. I also did many interviews with experts in the subjects that make up my work. In addition to rescuing historical data left in ancient texts by men such as Plato, Plutarch and Socrates. That last one, for example, he left us precious information about what we now call homosexuality. Why do we never hear about these things? It is part of what I answer in the book ‘The Sacred Band of Thebes’.
How would you describe the importance of LGBTQIA+ representation in the mythology and its relevance to the community?
The repudiation of homosexuality is something extremely recent in human history. After all, two or five thousand years are nothing compared to the age of mankind. Homophobia is a creation of the Abrahamic religions, and these are extensions of patriarchy, of this social and political system that emerged a few millennia ago. Understanding this, it is easy to understand why the world’s first religions (all of them pagan) saw homosexuality and all other manifestations of human sexuality as aspects of nature. In all ancient pantheons we find gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex gods, etc. And why am I talking about religion? Because mythology is an element of religion. The problem is that we think mythology is always someone else’s religion, not ours. If there is anything nearly intact that can tell us a great deal about how ancient peoples saw things, it is mythology. That’s why I rescued mythologies from various parts of the world to unite them in ‘The Sacred Band of Thebes’ as pieces of a puzzle whose great image is homosexuality as something more than worthy and sacred: necessary.
In addition to Brazilian deities, such as Anhangá and Acauã, and Greek deities, such as Pan, Apollo, Dionysus and Zeus, you mentioned the trajectory of Antínoo. Could you tell us a little more about the role of this historical character and his influence on the approach to the book?
Unlike all the gods you’ve mentioned, Antinous existed in flesh and blood. And we’ve all seen him one day, through his dozens of famous statues still scattered around the world and that make him the most famous and beautiful Greek face of all time. It is through the life of this partner of the Roman Emperor Hadrian that I tell the story of ‘The Sacred Band of Thebes’. I dare say that he is the narrator of the book, but in an unusual way that I don’t want to tell (so as not to spoil the surprises). What I can say is that we can find Antínoo as a gay god in several pantheons, including Brazil, but with other names…
In “The Sacred Band of Thebes”, you make a connection between history, science and mythology. How do these elements intertwine in your work and how do they contribute to the understanding of homosexuality in antiquity?
I always remind people that mythology is not about lies; these are shadows of something that once was, but which is so old that we cannot specify, date, etc. Mythology is language that uses archetypes, symbols. Information from the past has been modified from generation to generation, and has come down to us altered, simplified, codified, but without losing its essence. This is mythology. So I use science and history to unravel the mythology. In ‘A Banda Sagrada de Tebas’ I used, for example, analytical psychology to understand myths with LGBTQIA+ characters and name homosexual archetypes never named before.
The book contains QR codes that direct readers to theme songs produced by you. How does music integrate into the reading experience and what is the role of music in conveying the book’s message?
Music has always been the craft of an LGBTQIA+ majority. As a singer and songwriter, I wanted this art to create an immersive experience for my reader. I became more sure of the need for this when I realized that the Sacred Band of Thebes that existed in Ancient Greece sounds like a musical band today. By saying ‘Sacred Band of Thebes’, few people know that it is a Greek battalion, an elite army made up of 300 gay soldiers. So why not create a musical band with that name and with a similar mission? It’s a great pun! But when I discovered that the first male god in mythological chronology is LGBTQIA+, the first musician, and that he transmitted the knowledge of music to his homosexual partner, it became clear that music played a huge role in rescuing the history of homosexuality.
What message do you hope to convey to readers, especially the LGBTQIA+ community, through your book? How do you believe that historical and scientific knowledge can contribute to a fuller and more empowered life?
The novel ‘The Sacred Band of Thebes’ is like an initiation into the ancient Mysteries of the Religion of Antinous. By reading this work, you understand why homosexuality is dignified and sacred. But he understands something even greater: he understands that it is necessary! Some strong names in the publishing market suggested that I not write all these truths, because exposing the root of homophobia and the history that led us to the intolerant days of today touches on groups that are still powerful. But I’m a journalist, and the function of journalism is exactly to denounce. If this work will help LGBTQIA+ people and their families to rethink our existence, then my work was worth it!
In addition to being a writer, you are also a journalist and musician. How do these different forms of expression complement each other in your artistic career and in the dissemination of your ideas?
I only know one possible name for a person who rescues history, spreads his discoveries, sings and composes: bard. I am a bard. It took me a while to understand this. How could I have so many professions at the same time? How could I use all these tools in one thing? That’s how I understood my vocation. The original bards (not those quasi-beggars who sang in taverns and were tamed by the Church) were Celtic magicians, druids, who specialized in spreading knowledge and history through storytelling and song. And the most interesting thing: it was very common for bards to be LGBTQIA+.
How do you see the reception of the public in relation to the book “A Banda Sagrada de Tebas” and what has been the impact of the work in the discussion about sexual diversity in society?
I’ve been active on social media and other channels for over two years writing about the history of homosexuality, recording videos, welcoming those who ask for advice, and releasing music related to diversity. So people were already looking forward to the book. I still haven’t heard back from readers, as ‘The Holy Band of Thebes’ has just been released. But, due to requests, I had to autograph and kiss all the books sent so far. I think that indicates that people are really looking forward to this novel. And that’s too rewarding for an author.
What are your future plans? Do you have any projects in mind related to the LGBTQIA+ theme or other topics that you would like to address in your next works?
I’m working on my next book, which will also bring back more of Brazil’s prehistory and the history of homosexuality. Just like ‘The Sacred Band of Thebes’, it will have songs as an important part of the plot. Also because the main character really existed, like Antínoo, but he had a life very connected to music. This means that I will release more new songs to compose the soundtrack of this 2024 project. It’s just the beginning! And I hope to have you all walking next to me.
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