Pruning FSA In The Season Of Metal

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Thu, 10/03/2019 - 00:06

Since my term as President of the Free Spirit Alliance (from the fall of 2010 through fall of 2011), I have remained active in the Free Spirit Gathering most years as a staff member or presenter, and tried to develop a position as a "leading citizen" of FSA, with no special position or office of authority but some knowledge of how things work and an objective to help members be heard.

Psychoactive Effects of Montelukast Sodium

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Sun, 05/10/2015 - 13:16

The doctor gave me a new allergy med yesterday, montelukast sodium. It comes with a long list of warnings, but I've been hit pretty bad this season, and most of the warnings seem targeted at asthma patients -- along the lines of "this will not stop an asthma attack once its started" and "use only as directed if you want to keep breathing."

But it does also have warnings about behavior and mood-related changes. So apparently it can be psychoactive, at least in some people, and not just to the degree of inducing drowsiness.

I took a dose last night before bed, and woke up feeling somewhat odd. I guess I'm one of those people. In the psychonautic tradition I thought it best to write down some notes and share the experience.

Respect Heather Doyle's rights of conscience

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Thu, 04/23/2015 - 16:17

An open letter to the Board of County Commissioners
the Sheriff's Office
and Detention Center Administrator
(Fax: 410-535-4537)
of Calvert County, Maryland

Dear Sirs,

It has been brought to my attention that Heather Doyle, currently incarcerated in the Calvert County Detention Center for a non-violent protest, is being threatened with being placed in a "restraint box" because she is following her conscience and requesting a cruelty-free and non-violent, i.e. vegan, diet.

I do not know Ms. Doyle, but I do know that following a vegan diet is for many people a basic matter of conscience and morality, based on a belief in the value of all sentient beings which is a "sincere and meaningful belief which occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God" of adherents of traditional mainstream religions. [Welsh v. United States, 398 US 333 - Supreme Court 1970]

And as Ms. Doyle faces severe punishment for her attempt to follow her conscience, we see that this is indeed "a conscience which categorically requires the believer to disregard elementary self-interest and to accept martyrdom in preference to transgressing its tenets." [United States v. Kauten, 133 F. 2d 703 -Circuit Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit 1943]

The county is obligated under First Amendment principles to accommodate her practice.

But more than that, as veganism is a means of rejecting violence, it is exactly the sort of behavior that ought to be not only tolerated but encouraged in any prison system, as an example to other inmates.

Doyle's account of her arrest [], of how negligent procedures and excessive force were used, has already brought shame to the Sheriff’s Office and the County. I urge you to not compound the error by punishing her for doing her best to adhere to her spiritual beliefs and the dictates of her conscience.

Thank you.

Tom Swiss

RIP Leonard Nimoy

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Fri, 02/27/2015 - 21:21

Leonard Nimoy has left us. I was raised on Star Trek, so this kind of hit me. So I'm just going to share this photo of me in a Spock shirt, and a little excerpt from my book Why Buddha Touched the Earth about the how the character he created helped shape Neopaganism:

In a more pop-culture vein, Star Trek (1966 to 1969) gave viewers the elfin-eared Vulcan Mr. Spock, who projected a logical detachment from destructive emotions while engaging in hypnotic, telepathic “mind melds” – a sort of Space Age Merlin to Kirk’s King Arthur.

Star Trek’s attitude toward religion was not one where gods fared well. In the (second) pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” after an encounter with a mysterious energy field a crew member starts to develop god-like powers, and Captain Kirk has to kill him. In a later episode, “Who Mourns for Adonais?”, Kirk and the crew actually knock off Apollo, who turns out to be an alien being who visited Earth thousands of years ago. Several cultures have
computers that the locals think of as being gods – Kirk short-circuits them or blows them up.

Even though military hierarchy is strictly maintained on the ship, Star Trek radically overthrew the cosmic hierarchy of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and gave us something more in the Greco-Roman style: men (and women and Vulcans) who can strive with gods.

some Zen Pagan Halloween/Samhain reflections

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Mon, 11/03/2014 - 01:40

So I might be about to lose some friends with this confession, or even be accused of blasphemy, but here it goes:

I'm not really that into Halloween.

It's not that I dislike it, mind you! I do occasionally make it out to a Halloween party or show, though since I'm not really into cosplay my "costume" is usually a selection of Renfest garb or festival finery or weird formal (like Utilikilt and tails). People ask, "so what are you supposed to be?" and I respond, "I'm me, in more interesting clothes than usual."

Magic, Imagination, and Political-Artistic Liberation

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Mon, 10/13/2014 - 18:42

This is a talk that I gave last summer, at the first "Hive Mind" event, August 17 2013. The YouTube video (sorry for the lousy sound! It gets a little better after the first minute or so) has been up since a few days after the event but I never got around to posting the "script" until now.

Magic, Imagination, and Political-Artistic Liberation

Or, A Crash Course in Defense Against The Dark Arts.

Friends, when I told Blue and Al that I'd like to give a talk here tonight, I gave them a title to put on the Facebook event page: "Magic, Imagination, and Political-Artistic Liberation". I figured I'd take some bits I've written before and mash them up into something appropriate for this event. But as I was putting it together I realized that what I was coming up with, a good alternate title or subtitle for it might be, "A Crash Course in Defense Against the Dark Arts".

Now the "Dark Arts" here aren't anything as obvious as Death Eaters throwing around Unforgivable Curses. The magical opponents we face are a little more subtle.

So...when I talk about magic here, I'm not talking about zapping people with wands, or summoning and binding demons out of some medieval grimoire. I mean ritual magic.

A good definition of this sort of magic comes from Dion Fortune, who was a British occultist who was active in the first half of the 20th century. According to her, "Magic is the art of causing changes in consciousness at will."

I'll say that again: "Magic is the art of causing changes in consciousness at will."

Now if we accept that definition, if when we're doing magic we *deliberately* change our consciousness, that suggests that there are other ways that our consciousness could change.

The Zen Pagan: Festival Paganism as Pilgrimage

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Wed, 07/30/2014 - 17:02

From my monthly blog at Patheos Pagan.

The Zen Pagan: Festival Paganism as Pilgrimage

Around 11,000 years ago — six millennia before Stonehenge was built or writing was invented — people started coming to the site known as Gobekli Tepe (“Belly Hill”) in what is now southeastern Turkey to erect a 25 acre complex of stone circles. It’s the earliest known human-made place of worship, constructed by our gatherer-hunter nomadic ancestors. What sort of rituals they performed there, what their notion of the divine was, we don’t know and may never understand for sure. But it may be the case that pilgrimages to this site, and the massive effort to coordinate the building and to feed the pilgrims, set the stage for the Neolithic revolution and the dawn of civilization. [Curry; Scaham; Schmidt]

People did not live long-term at Gobekli Tepe, they traveled there for whatever sort of rites were done, and it’s interesting to think that pilgrimage, travel for religious reasons, seems to predate civilization. In order to make spiritual progress, we have to keep shaking up our neurological patterns, and from the Islamic Haj to Zen monks wandering like “clouds and water” (unsui), travel is an excellent way to do that.

And it strikes me that the circuit of summer Pagan festivals provides something along this line. Pilgrims come from hundreds, even thousands, of miles to places like to Ramblewood and Wisteria to form periodic communities, temporary autonomous zones that appear, disperse, and reappear. The idea also applies in some degree to Burner events (Burning Man and the official and unofficial “regional” Burns) and even annual music festivals — and the emergence of music festivals that deliberately include some aspect of consciousness-raising is an interesting development — but I’d like to stick with festivals that identify as “Pagan” or “Pantheist” or “Magical” in some way here; specifically my “home event”, the Free Spirit Gathering, from which I’ve just returned.

I’ve been involved with FSG since 1998, in roles ranging from kitchen help to President of the Free Spirit Alliance, the 501(c)3 corporation that produces the event each year. So I can’t offer anything like an unbiased review. What follows are some personal musings and a bit of a look behind the scenes.

"Dont Ever Give Up"

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Wed, 07/30/2014 - 16:17

From my karate blog, "Sky Hand Road": "It strikes me that this is, in one sentence, the essence of heroism: 'I never give up.'"

Don't Ever Give Up

I've been re-watching the Justice League animated series on Netflix lately. (The one from 2001-2004, part of the "DC Animated Universe" (DCAU) or "Timmverse".) It's great stuff; though suitable for kids, it manages to touch on some deep ideas, in the best tradition of the superhero mythos.

The second season episode "Only a Dream" features the DCAU version of John Dee, a.k.a. Doctor Destiny. Fans of Neil Gaiman's work on Sandman (and if you're not such a fan, well, I'm sorry for you) may remember Dee as the supervillain who stole Morpheus's ruby and used its power to create horrors; in the DCAU, Dee is instead a petty crook, a convict who volunteers for ESP experiments that end up transforming him and giving him the power to control the dreams of others. He traps most of the Justice League heroes in their sleep, leaving Batman to confront Dee alone.

Read at the at Sky Hand Road


Submitted by Tom Swiss on Fri, 06/06/2014 - 20:30

At my karate blog, Sky Hand Road:

"It is not finished

The word "sumimasen" 済みません has been described as "the most useful word in the Japanese language". It's often described as meaning "excuse me" or "I'm sorry", and it serves quite well to apologize for bumping into someone or to get someone's attention.

But I was puzzled when I bought something at a little shop in a shotengai in the Osaka suburbs and the shopkeeper said "sumimasen". Was he apologizing for ripping me off? I learned later that the word is often used to mean "thank you". We might compare it to "sorry to trouble you".

But it's interesting to look a little deeper. That "-masen" is a negative verb ending, it means something is not done or is not the case. "Nihongo ga wakarimasen" means "I do not understand the Japanese language." (True, and a very useful phrase for travelers!) "Biiru ga arimasen" means "There is no beer." (A very sad sentence, desu ne?)

So, what is it that is not the case here?

Read the rest at Sky Hand Road