Apocalypse Now? The Lure of Nostradamus in Modern Times

An Illustrated Lecture with Stéphane Gerson, Associate Professor of French Studies at NYU

Date: Thursday, December 13th
Time: 8pm
Admission: $10
Presented by Phantasmaphile

All of us are familiar with the name Nostradamus, but who was he really? Why did his predictions become so influential in the Renaissance and then persist for nearly five centuries? And what does Nostradamus’ endurance in the West say about us and our own world?  Alone among French prophets and astrologers, Nostradamus and his puzzling quatrains have resurfaced in one historical crisis after another.  Whenever we seem to enter a new era, whenever the premises of our worldview are questioned or imperiled, they offer certainty and solace.

NYU historian Stéphane Gerson grew interested in Nostradamus in the wake of 9/11 and then undertook extensive research in Europe and the U.S.  In this talk, he will situate Michel de Nostredame in his world and then trace the singular posterity of his prophecies until they became our modern Gospel of Doom.  He will explain why so many people have gravitated toward his quatrains and suggest that we reconsider Nostradamus as a creature of the modern West rather than some antidilluvian relic.  Ultimately, the Nostradamus phenomenon tells us more about our past and our present than it does about the future.

Stéphane Gerson is a cultural historian of modern France and the author of Nostradamus: How an Obscure Renaissance Astrologer Became the Modern Prophet of Doom (St. Martin’s Press, 2012).  He is also the editor of a new edition of Nostradamus’s Prophecies for Penguin Classics. An associate professor of French Studies at NYU, Gerson has won several awards, including the Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History and the Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies. Gerson lives in Manhattan and Woodstock, NY, with his family.

Witches’ Thanksgiving: An Autumn Equinox Workshop

Remedios Varo “Still Life Reviving” 1963

A Class and Celebration with Pam Grossman

Date: Friday, September 21st
Time: 7:30-9pm
Admission: $20
Presented by Phantasmaphile

***You must RSVP to phantasmaphile [at] gmail.com if you’d like to attend, as space is limited

The Autumn Equinox  - or Mabon -  is a time of harvesting and celebration.  Often called “Witches’ Thanksgiving,” it’s a prosperity holiday which asks us to gather with one another to count our blessings, connect, and re-balance.  The nights are about to become longer, and soon we’ll be turning inward.  But first, let us reap the rewards of summer and manifest future good fortune.  Tonight, we’ll do ritual and spellcrafting to give thanks for what we have, attract even more positivity and possibility, and ready ourselves for the upcoming shadow season.  And of course, we’ll end with some feasting!

Please bring:

-A bit of food or drink to share

-Any altar objects you like.  These can be decorative (Thanksgiving and autumnal decor of any kind is welcome), and/or personal objects which you’d like to have charged

-A candle and holder

-A cushion, pillow, or fabric, as we will be sitting on the floor (chairs will be available for those who need).

Note-taking is welcome.  This workshop is open to men and women, novices and advanced practitioners alike.

Pam Grossman is an independent curator and lifelong student of magickal practice and history.  An initiate in the wise woman tradition, she is currently apprenticing with green witch Robin Rose Bennett.  She is the creator of Phantasmaphile, a blog which specializes in art and culture with an esoteric or fantastical bent, and Associate Editor of Abraxas Journal.  Her group art shows, Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists, VISION QUEST, Alchemically Yours, and Sigils & Signs have been featured by such outlets as Art & Antiques Magazine, Boing Boing, CREATIVE TIME, Time Out New York, Reality Sandwich, Juxtapoz, Arthur, 20×200, UrbanOutfitters.com, and Neil Gaiman’s Twitter.  She is a co-founder of Observatory, where her programming aims to explore mysticism via a scholarly yet accessible approach.

Life and Death Mask Making Workshop with Artist Sigrid Sarda


Life masks by Sigrid Sarda, teacher of today's workshop.

Life and Death Mask Making Workshop with Artist Sigrid Sarda
Date: Sunday, June 3
Time: 10 AM - 4 PM
Admission: $100 (includes $40 materials fee)

*** Limited class size; Must RSVP to morbidanatomy [at] gmail.com
This class is part of The Morbid Anatomy Art Academy

For many centuries and in many civilizations, artisans have created what are called “Life Masks” or “Death Masks” cast from the faces of the famous or the infamous to preserve their likeness-living or dead-for posterity. In this class, students will learn to create their very own Life Masks working with alginate-a non-toxic seaweed-based mold making product that is easy on the skin-and plaster. Students will pair up and cast one another, but don’t be alarmed; the workshop’s instructor Ms. Sarda assures us that you will love this experience, and that most everyone who has been cast comes out feeling relaxed to the point of jello, with the extra insentive of a free facial. All materials are included, and each student will leave class home with their face immortalized in plaster.

The day’s schedule:

  • Partnering up and casting
  • Adding plaster to the negative mold
  • An hour break for lunch (give or take depending on how fast the plaster dries)
  • Demolding and cleaning the cast
  • Touching up any imperfections in the plaster cast

Warning: If you are someone who is extremely claustrophobic, this is not for you. Dress casually and have fun!

Sigrid Sarda is self taught in the art of ceroplastics. She has been featured on such programs as The Midnight Archive and will be appearing on TV’s Oddities this June. She will be showing her work in London this fall. You can find out more here, here and here.

Class: Drawing from the Bestiary: Animal Anatomy of Real and Imagined Creatures with Saul Chernick


"Field Urchin," 2011, by Saul Chernick; drawn from a series of studies in which he attempted to impose the proportions of cherubs onto horses.

A 4-part class with Artist Saul Chernick, M.F.A., Rutgers University
Dates: Mondays June 25, July 2, July 9 & July 16th
(4 consecutive Mondays)
Time: 6:30-9:00 PM
Class Fee: $120

***Class size limited to 15; Must RSVP to
morbidanatomy [at] gmail.com
This class is part of The Morbid Anatomy Art Academy

Contemporary artist and arts educator Saul Chernick is renowned for  gorgeous artworks featuring convincingly corporeal depictions of imaginary or mythical creatures rendered in the style of Medieval and early Renaissance woodcuts from Northern Europe. Observatory is very pleased to announce a new workshop developed by Saul Chernick specially for the Morbid Anatomy Art Academy. In this class, Chernick will teach students-via illustrated lectures and in-class projects including paper puppets and bestiary pages-”to use observational and imaginative drawing skills in tandem to capture the essential qualities of their subject” and “learn to draw animals (real, mythic, and otherwise) with greater skill and sensitivity.”

Full class description follows; you can see more of Chernick’s fantastic work by clicking here. Class size limited to 15; Please RSVP to morbidanatomy [at] gmail.com.

Course Description
Open to artists of all levels, the goal of this workshop is help participants learn to draw animals (real, mythic, and otherwise) with greater skill and sensitivity. Through exercises in drawing and paper puppetry, participants will gain a deeper understanding of the skeletal/muscular structures of most mammals, reptiles, and birds. Participants will also learn to use observational and imaginative drawing skills in tandem to capture the essential qualities of their subject and create works of convincing visual fiction!

What to expect

  • Participants will cull images from the web to create a dossier on the animal(s) that interest them
  • Participants will fashion movable paper puppets to understand how their chosen animal moves
  • Participants will draw studies of the skeletal and muscular structures of animals
  • Participants will use the medium of their choice to create a Bestiary page entry that depicts an animal situated in an environment

What to bring to the first class:

  • Choose 1-3 animals and gather pictures on the web. Be sure to get images of their skeletons in profile. Please print these as they may be hard to use on a phone screen.
  • 3-5 sheets of Bristol Board Paper 9″ x 12″ or larger
  • Pencils & erasers
  • Scissors
  • Xacto or utility knife
  • Glue

What to bring for subsequent classes:

  • White or tinted drawing paper 16″ x 20″ or 18″ x 24″
  • Tracing paper (same size as drawing paper)
  • Mechanical and/or regular pencils (2h, hb, 2b, 4b)


  • Markers, watercolors, gouache, ink, brushes, chalk/oil pastels, colored pencils, Caran D’Ache, collage papers, etc (we’ll discuss further in detail!)

Saul Chernick, M.F.A., Rutgers University, is a visual artist and educator. Chernick has exhibited internationally in galleries and museums including the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, the Bronx Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum of Art, as well as Max Protetch and Meulensteen Galleries in New York City. He has taught art for the public school system, the 92nd Street Y, Cooper Union, Parson’s School of Design, and the Museum of Modern Art. He is currently the Professional Development Coordinator for the Joan Mitchell Foundation where he coaches New York artists in teaching art to young people throughout city. His work can be seen at www.saulchernick.com.

Blaschka: Glass creatures of the Ocean – An Illustrated History of The Natural History Museum (NHM), London Collection


© The Natural History Museum, London 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Illustrated lecture with Miranda Lowe, The Natural History Museum (NHM), London Curator
Date: Thursday, May 10
Time: 8:00
Admission: $8

Presented by Morbid Anatomy

Although more famously know for the making the glass flowers exhibited at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the father and son partnership of Leopold (1822-1895) and Rudolf (1857-1939) Blaschka also made numerous marine invertebrate glass models. Some of the first models they made were sea anemones in the early 1860’s. The Natural History Museum (NHM), London purchased their first set around 1865 and holds over 185 Blaschka glass models consisting of anemones, sea slugs, jellyfish, octopus, squid, protozoans and corals representing their entire model making career. The models were made in a variety ways with many formed over wire skeletons (known as armatures) with the glass fused together or glued. Profiled in various scientific sales catalogues such as Henry A. Ward’s they were to sold museums, universities and private collectors by the Blaschkas themselves and various agents who worked on their behalf worldwide. In the past these models were of scientific importance in teaching but as trends change their significance as works of art are also being highlighted. Each glass model is a unique blend of art, science and craftsmanship looking more life-like than real specimens whose natural colours may fade when stored in jars of preservation fluid over time. This highly illustrated lecture will give a fascinating insight to this collection housed at one of the major natural history museums in the world.

Miranda Lowe is the Collections Manager of the Marine Invertebrates Division, Zoology Department, The Natural History Museum (NHM), London. Within Zoology Miranda specifically manages the Crustacea collections as well as the team of curators responsible for the Invertebrate collections. Darwin barnacles and the Blaschka marine invertebrate glass models are amongst some of the historical collections that are her interests and under her care. In 2006, she was part of the organising committee and invited speaker at the 1st international Blaschka congress held in Dublin. Miranda collaborated with the National Glass Centre, Sunderland, UK in 2008 to exhibit some of the Museum’s Blaschka collection alongside contemporary Blaschka inspired art. She also has an interest in photography, natural history - past and present serving on a number of committees including the Society for the History of Natural History (SHNH) and the Natural Sciences Association (NatSCA).

“The Secret Life of Mushrooms” — Screening and Q and A with the Filmmakers

slom-disc-face-v1-1Screening of the film “The Secret Life of Mushrooms” with the film’s producer/director Kathleen Green and interviewer Dan Glass
Date: Monday, May 21
Time: 8:00
Admission: $5
Presented by Morbid Anatomy

“Kat Green’s documentary on mushroom tourism in Mexico is a valuable and insightful examination of the fallout when global culture encounters indigenous sacred traditions. At a time when most of the focus is on ayahuasca tourism in the Amazon, Kat’s documentary reminds us that mushroom tourism continues, as it has since the 60s. Well worth viewing!” – Dr. Dennis McKenna, co-author of The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching

Psilocybin mushrooms were first brought into the public consciousness in the late 1950′s after R. Gordon Wasson discovered the ceremonial mushroom rituals of the Mazatec Indians in Mexico and published his findings in Life magazine.

 Huautla de Jimenez – the largest town in the Sierra Mazateca – was made famous amongst spiritual seekers, resulting in a hippie invasion to the remote mountain town that lasted over a decade. Today, mushrooms are still commonly used for healing, and have become a very public symbol of Huautla’s pride in their culture.

 The Secret Life of Mushrooms features interviews with anthropologist and author of The Devil’s Book of Culture, Ben Feinberg, local curandera Ines Cortes Rodriguez, Mazatec ritual specialist Edward Abse, and a wide variety of local historians, musicians, and business owners, as journalist Dan Glass investigates the long term cultural effects that outsiders have had on the small mountain town in the last 50 years.

Tonight, join filmmakers Kathleen Green and Dan Glass for a screening of The Secret Life of Mushrooms at Observatory, followed by a brief Q & A. You can find out more about the film by clicking here.

Kathleen Green (Producer/Director – The Secret Life of Mushrooms) Brooklyn filmmaker Kathleen Green has been working in film, video, and live event production since 1997. In that time, she has created documentaries, music videos, short films, and visual art with the goals of finding untold stories, exploring new ways to capture dance on camera, and generally making pretty things to look at.  Her work has been screened at the Dance on Camera Festival, Coney Island Film Festival, the New York Tango Film Festival, the 2007 Americans for the Arts Convention, the Pioneer Theatre, Collective: Unconscious, the Bowery Poetry Club, on the Fuse network, and at various galleries in Berlin. She has also worked with HBO, MTV, MSNBC, the Sundance Channel, VH1, Fuse, and the History Channel as a freelance editor and post supervisor.  She is currently developing a non-fiction series about fire artists and their work entitled Playing With Fire, and the dance film, Strange Attractors.

Dan Glass (Interviewer – The Secret Life of Mushrooms) Dan Glass has written travel, science, and culture stories about such diverse subjects as solar eclipse chasing, Puerto Rican senior citizen bicycle gangs, the psychological effect of viewing earth from space, and flophouses in Coney Island, among others. He’s traveled through over 40 countries on five continents, with highlights including excursions to Ethiopia’s Omo Valley to find ritual stickfighting battles, solo horse treks through central Mongolia, and riverboat trips 800 miles down the Congo River. His work has been featured in outlets including Wired, NPR, Discover, and Playboy Online. He lives in New York City.

2011 Observatory Holiday Fair


Crocheted Skulls by Dewey Decimal Crafts, a featured seller at last year's fair. More of her work can be found here.

Holiday fair with multiple vendors serving your alternative holiday needs including taxidermy, miniature insect tableaux and more
Dates: Saturday, December 17 & Sunday, December 18
Time: Noon - 6:00 PM
Admission: Free
brooklyn-brewery-logo-gold Free beer courtesy of our sponsor Brooklyn Brewery

Please join us on December 17th and 18th for a holiday fair presented in conjunction with partner spaces Proteus Gowanus and Morbid Anatomy. Here you will find such covetables as steampunk jewlery, anatomical blocks, macabre drawings, ceramic reliquary bat heads, wet specimens, photographs, and books, books and more books, all to music DJed by Lado Pochkhua and washed down with beer provided by our sponsor Brooklyn Brewery. This will be the perfect place to purchase unique, niche, and off-the-beaten-path gifts for those hard-to-please folks on your shopping list! Hope to see you there.

Moonshot Magazine’s “Secret Issue” Reading and Release Party

moonshot3cover Date: Monday, November 21st
Time: 7pm
Admission: $5 suggested donation
Presented by: Phantasmaphile

Moonshot will be celebrating the release of its third print issue, “Secret”, with a reading and reception. From adults glimpsing into the strange occurrences of childhood to poems invoking spirits in a language of their own, “Secret” is a force of arresting writing and art. We sought the uncanny, the hidden, and the immeasurable and placed it inside these pages. This issue includes a special collection of artwork curated by PULP Projects.

Moonshot, a magazine of the literary and fine arts, was conceived in 2009 to provide an equal opportunity space for writers and artists based solely on the merits of their work. Moonshot’s mission is to eliminate the social challenges of publishing–encouraging all types of writers and artists to submit their work in the pursuit of exposing their creations to a wider range of audiences. It is our goal to utilize traditional printing techniques as well as new technologies and media arts to feature voices from all over the globe. Moonshot celebrates storytelling of all forms, embraces the dissemination of media, and champions diverse creators to construct an innovative and original literary magazine.

Tarot Practicum: How to Read Any Deck Without a Book

tarot-practicumA class with Kathy Biehl
Date: Sunday, November 20th
Time: 2-4pm
Admission: $40 (You must RSVP to phantasmaphile [at] gmail.com if you’d like to attend, as class size is limited)
Presented by: Phantasmaphile

The imagery of the Tarot is rich and complex, intimidating even experienced readers into thumbing through a book for meanings to interpret puzzling cards or an unfamiliar deck. In this intensive practicum, Tarot master Kathy Biehl will teach sure-fire methods for picking up any deck and pulling information from it without consulting a book — whether you are a beginner, novice or experienced reader.  Please bring a deck that you’d like to work with; to facilitate the ease of group understanding, the instructor requests that you bring a deck that follows the structure or of the Rider-Waite deck. (If you have any questions about whether your chosen deck is appropriate, please email Kathy at kbiehl@empowermentunlimited.net in advance).

Kathy Biehl uses the symbolism of the Tarot and astrology to help her clients understand themselves, their options and the people in their lives. Her connection to the Tarot began in her mid-teens, when her mother unexpectedly gave her a deck after an otherwise ordinary day of high school. Since then she has been an avid collector and professional reader and developed a distinctive methodology that she has has been teaching for more than 25 years. In a parallel life she is an attorney and author.  Her website is Empowerment Unlimited.


Cocktail Alchemy with Julianne Zaleta (Back by popular demand!)

autumnvodkasDate: Thursday, November 10th
Time: 8pm
Admission: $20 (You must RSVP to phantasmaphile [at] gmail.com if you’d like to attend, as class size is limited)
Presented by: Phantasmaphile

Cocktails, like perfume, are a mix of art and alchemy. In this workshop you’ll learn how to infuse your own spirits to make seasonal and artful cocktails with fresh herbs, spices, nuts, dried fruits and grains. The spirits are then paired with mixers and piqued with the addition of essential oils, which add their own unique accent to these artisanal creations. Samples of angelica, chocolate mint and basil vodka (amongst others) will be passed around along with the cocktails they inspire.

Julianne Zaleta is a natural perfumer, aromatherapist and herbalist and has trained with Michael Scholes and Jeanne Rose. Owner and sole proprietor of her own company, Herbal Alchemy Apothecary, Julianne creates aromatic and therapeutic remedies and elixirs for a wide variety of ailments. As a perfumer she has trained with Mandy Aftel to create a line of all natural perfumes. Recently she has turned her attention to artisanal cocktails, which makes her work life quite enjoyable, as you can imagine.