I've got some exciting upcoming events scheduled at Observatory, and would love to see you at some or all. First I'd like to mention Shannon Taggart's presentation there this Friday (which I neither organized nor can attend myself, sadly). It's an updated reprise of the talk she gave at the Occult Humanities Conference, and it was one of the highlights of the entire weekend. Do go, especially if you weren't able to make it to the conference. I will be there in spirit!
Physical Mediumship, Spiritualist Ritual and the Search for Ectoplasm – An Illustrated Presentation with Shannon Taggart
After learning the true details of her grandfather’s death through a medium, Shannon Taggart began photographing Spiritualism. Through images made from 2001-2013, this talk will examine the elusive substance of ectoplasm and its various expressions within Spiritualist ritual. The “New Age of Physical Mediumship” will be the main point of focus, comparing and contrasting the séance cabinet work and ectoplasmic manifestations of physical mediums Sharon Harvey, Gordon Garforth and Kai Muegge. A comparison between Shannon Taggart’s Spiritualism and Vodou projects will also be explored.
Shannon Taggart is a photographer and independent researcher based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been featured and exhibited internationally including the publications TIME, Newsweek and Reader’s Digest. She is an Observatory member whose programming focuses on the science, aesthetics and material culture of the miraculous. Currently, she is working on a book about Spiritualism and physical mediumship.
And here are the three I've got coming up myself:
Winter Solstice Ritual Workshop with Pam Grossman
Date: Friday, December 20th
Time: 7:30-9ish pm
Presented by Phantasmaphile
***You must RSVP to phantasmaphile [at] gmail.com if you’d like to attend, as space is limited
December is full of holy days that honor the cycle of birth, death, & resurrection. They all culminate in Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, and the beginning of the sun’s return. This evening, we will focus on welcoming light back into our lives. We’ll do spellcraft for peace and cleansing for the new year. There will be a special focus on tree magick, and herbs that invite warmth into our bodies on cold, dark days. And we’ll give gifts, of course!
-Any altar objects you like. These can be decorative (Yule or winter decorations of any kind are welcome), and/or personal objects which you’d like to have charged
-A candle and holder
-A wrapped gift that will be given to someone in circle (no more than $5-10 in value, or free/homemade is fine, too!)
-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 a writer, independent curator, and teacher of magical practice and history. An initiate in the wise woman tradition, she is a graduate apprentice of the 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. She lectures on such topics as “The Occult in Modern Art 101,” teaches classes on herbalism and ritual, and is the co-organizer of the Occult Humanities Conference at NYU.
Her writing has appeared in numerous mediums, including The Huffington Post, MSN.com, the Etsy blog, Sciences Occultes magazine, and various Fulgur press publications. As a featured guest on The Midnight Archive web series, Expanding Mind radio, and the C-Realm, Psychonautica, and Labyrinth podcasts, she has discussed the role of magic in contemporary life. Her group art shows and projects have been featured by such outlets as Artforum, Newsweek, New York Magazine, 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.
The Secret History of Positive Thinking
A presentation by Mitch Horowitz
Date: Friday, January 17th
Presented by Phantasmaphile
Can the magic of our minds change our lives? From the essays of Emerson to the mega-sensation of The Secret, Americans have long wondered about the hidden potentials of the mind – particularly whether “the power of positive thinking” can bring us wealth, health, and happiness.
Most serious people view positive thinking as an immature or unrealistic response to life. But award-winning author and lecturer Mitch Horowitz asks us to look again. In this lively and intellectually substantive presentation, Mitch explores themes from his new book, One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life (“brilliant” – Deepak Chopra), to seriously consider the remarkable history, astonishing impact, and compelling possibilities of positive thinking.
Rather than being a soft-headed philosophy based in bromides and page-a-day calendars, positive thinking, which began with occult experiments of the mid-nineteenth century, has proven remarkably foresightful of contemporary advances in neuroscience, addiction and OCD treatment, stress and recovery programs, and in today’s most intensely debated findings within quantum physics.
Surveying the history and growth of positive thinking, and the myriad forms it has taken, Mitch squarely considers the all-important question: Does it work? As he shows, a thoughtful consideration of the background, methods, and results of positive thinking make a blanket dismissal virtually impossible. He also looks critically at the internal contradictions and ethical dilemmas of positive-thinking philosophy – and considers how these shortcomings can be fixed or reformed to remake positive thinking into a persuasive and mature approach to life.
This journey through the positive-thinking revolution also highlights:
• How the now-familiar injunction to “think positive” bubbled up from mystical and supernatural subcultures of the mid-nineteenth century before becoming the closest thing America has to a national creed.
• How this once-outsider philosophy has revolutionized mainline faith – including today’s evangelical culture.
• The remarkable personas that shaped positive-thinking, such as philosopher William James, the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, and French therapist Emile Coué (who coined the world-famous but misunderstood mantra: Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better.)
• The iconic figures whose lives were impacted by positive-thinking philosophy, including suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Black Nationalist pioneer Marcus Garvey, and President Ronald Reagan.
This unforgettable presentation will give you a wholly new outlook on the history – and possibilities – of a belief system you only thought you knew.
* * *
Mitch Horowitz is the author of One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life (Crown, Jan 2014). His previous book, Occult America (Bantam), received the 2010 PEN Oakland/ Josephine Miles Award for literary excellence. Mitch is vice-president and editor-in-chief at Tarcher/Penguin, the division of Penguin books dedicated to metaphysical literature. He frequently writes about and discusses alternative spirituality in the national media, including CBS Sunday Morning, Dateline NBC, All Things Considered, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, BoingBoing, Time.com, and CNN.com. He appears in recent mini-documentaries on the history of positive thinking; Ouija Boards; and occult New York. Visit him at www.MitchHorowitz.com; on Twitter @MitchHorowitz; and on Facebook at Mitch Horowitz. He and his wife raise two sons in New York City.
Painted Alchemists: Thomas Wijck at the Intersection of Art, Science, and Practice
A presentation by Elisabeth Berry-Drago
Date: Friday, January 31st
Presented by Phantasmaphile
Dutch images of alchemists in the laboratory have long been overlooked by art historians as moralizing satires catering to a disbelieving audience. This project examines afresh the alchemical pictures of Thomas Wijck (1616–1677), seeking to understand how artistry and alchemy met and merged in the early modern studio and laboratory. In addition to iconographical and historical concerns, emphasis is placed on Wijck’s paintings as transformative objects produced in a studio-workshop: raw materials, pigments, and chemical processes will shed light on the practices of painters and their role in a greater “Golden Age” of discovery.
Elisabeth Berry Drago is a Ph.D candidate in art history, specializing in 17th-century Netherlands. Her dissertation centers on the painter Thomas Wijck (1616–1677), whose pictures of alchemists in the laboratory offer new perspectives on early modern science and artistry. Elisabeth received her M.A. in art history from Temple University in 2010 and holds a B.A. in fine arts from SUNY Fredonia. In her free time she enjoys volunteering with the Fleisher Art Memorial, a community arts organization, and the Free Library of Philadelphia, teaching youth workshops in painting and drawing, comics, and picture-book illustration.