Richard Gavin's Gnosis at the Gallows


What a pleasure it was to recently be sent a beautiful little book produced by Three Hands Press that will be the subject of this article. The Moribund Portal: Spectral Resonance and the Numen of the Gallows was lovingly designed, printed and one of those rare books that is a delight to the physical touch. The craft that went into the creation of this work really distinguishes the top-end attention that independent occult publishers are bringing to the game lately. 

This was the first work of author Richard Gavin's that I've delved into and was absolutely satisfied with the experience. This text resonated deeply with my own long standing obsessions with horror, the occult and folklore. Being under 100 pages, it reads easily but is so dense with concepts that I found myself contemplating the subject matter well after completion. 


The best thing I can say about Gavin's writing is that it left me wanting to get out into some lonesome and eerie places in hopes of having something of the experiences contained in his book. I am intrigued by the breadth of different traditions and histories pulled together to tell his tale and how much more to the gallows there is then I had ever dreamed.

If you're a fan of weird fiction, dark folklore or occult I strongly suggest picking up a copy for yourself. The quality of the research and the artfully bound text make it more than worth your wild. 
The questions that it conjured in me where many and for that I'm grateful to have been able to pose them directly to him while they were still so freshly in my mind. 


Richard Gavin, Author

How did you first become interested in folklore and the occult?
For as long as I can remember I have had a rich and peculiar interior life. Along with the comforts and joys of a typical childhood, my early years were filled with vivid nightmares, apparitions, and an insatiable hunger for all things eerie, ritualistic, and macabre. 
The deosil world of school, forced socializing, and rationality was really overwhelming to me, so I suppose burying my head in books about werewolves, ghosts, and burial customs was initially a type of refuge. Eventually, however, these passions opened doors into profound realms of metaphysics and enabled me to explore the nature of reality (even if it is purely my own reality).
 Are you as inspired by gothic fiction as I believe you might be?
Gothic Horror truly was one of my touchstones. It entered my life at an early, formative stage and struck such a powerful chord that it continues to yield a great deal for me to this day. This inspiration is partly aesthetic (the imagery and ambiance of the Gothic has always been deeply congenial to me) and partly spiritual. After all, Gothic Horror was an outgrowth of old world folklore and Spiritist beliefs, so naturally the genre carries with it a sense of those ancient Mysteries.  
Fear in general is a powerful force that can reveal when one has reached the threshold of Becoming, of fuller consciousness. 
Horror is the bitter pill we are required to swallow if we wish to awaken from the indulgent illusions of maya. 
To quote Bhagavan Sri Ramana, “when we are dreaming of pleasant things we do not awake; but we do as soon as we see visions of a frightful nature.”
Are you a full-time writer professionally or do you pursue it as a secondary endeavor?
While I certainly consider writing to be my vocation, I do not depend on it for my livelihood. The unfortunate reality is that it is extraordinarily difficult to earn one’s keep through the written word. But, truth be told, I prefer the freedom that comes with not being dependent upon the popularity and profitability of my books. I can simply focus on creating work that I feel is important and evocative.

What first drew you to want to research and ultimately write a book on the folklore of the gallows? What was the a-ha moment?
The impetus for The Moribund Portal was a dream encounter that arrived unbidden and apropos of nothing. Prior to this I hadn’t harboured any real interest in the gallows or its attendant folklore and certainly hadn’t been contemplating these things in any way. The dream therefore impacted me greatly because of its fullness, oddness, and specificity, so much so that when I jolted awake it was clear to me that I’d experienced a genuine Spirit encounter and felt compelled to flesh it out in some form of text. 
This led to a yearlong endeavor of praxis, research, and reflection. The abundance of synchronicities and significances that emerged during that year served to further authenticate my experience. 
I was very fortunate to have Daniel A. Schulke at Three Hands Press as my editor. He was extraordinarily supportive of this project and encouraged me to stay true to the Spirit-inspiration at every turn.
Your writing is quite poetic and beautifully painted. Was that your intent based on the subject at hand or is that a product of your own style?
Thank you for the compliment. I would say that my prose has what I hope is a distinctive voice that manifests in both my fiction and non-fiction. It is a voice born of many years of constant writing as well as spiritual exploration. 
I believe that language can evoke a trance-like state in he reader, can give certain metaphysical principles context and a vital, palpable reality. 
Poetic language, with its paradoxes, its imagism, and defiance of linear thought, can be a vehicle for Gnosis.  
Can you provide an overview of the concept of Spectral Resonance?
Ostensibly, it is a phenomenon that arises when one achieves a state of void-like timelessness and receptivity. Past and present achieve a harmonic, a resonance that allows the living to engage with the dead and vice-versa.
Your book refers to the “Otherworld” quite extensively as a metaphorical premise that ties directly to the phenomena that occurs at the gallows. Can you define that term for the readers and how it differs from say, the idea of Heaven?
Heaven and similar afterworlds are remote, transcendentalist, final. And while the Otherworld may exist outside the everyday world, it is only just outside. It permeates Nature, reveals itself to us via Dream and vision, and infuses our lives with the vital numinous and with the presence of the dead. The Otherworld and the realm of the flesh are intimately connected.
You write that, our world is “perennially haunted.” Can you expound a bit on that idea and how it relates and supports your thesis on portals, the Otherworld and the gallows?
True Initiation has nothing to do with learning obscure words, collecting degrees, or adopting outlandish theories of the universe. Instead it is rooted in piercing through one’s own skewing illusions and beliefs with the aim of experiencing reality as it is, which is paradoxical, strange, and vaster than a materialist view could ever convey. 
There is a common misconception that Spirits and deities reserve manifesting for those who undertake elaborate rituals. But in my opinion, the entire world is a haunted house. 
The past still radiates through the lens of the now. Spirits abound. Initiation is a matter of becoming better attuned to this deeper reality. The doors to this haunted house are everywhere.

Your book is largely about a phenomena or experience of an “in-betweenness,” that allows the living to connect or see into the world of the spectral, extra-physical realm. Are these cross-overs that occur built into reality by divine intent, or is it almost a unintended hiccup of the operating system?
In my experience they are woven into the fabric of life, but very subtly. These threads are on the fringes of the everyday. They might feel like hiccups when they first occur, but I’d suggest that this is only because our attentions have been on other things. Cultivating in-betwenness requires a re-alignment of one’s own perceptions from the gross to the subtle. This can be far more difficult than it sounds.
Would you like for more people to have these experiences themselves, or simply to become more aware of their existence?
I would like to people to realize their actual nature, whatever that may be, to live more deliberately and deeply, to comprehend that they are upon a living planet, rather than simply chaining themselves to the frenetic, materialistic, soulless machine of modernity because that is more convenient or pleasurable. 
You make a great point about modernity and perhaps the way in which we have become calloused against the spirit realm, almost as if our post Enlightenment tech and philosophy has programed it out of our channels, if you will. How serious a problem is this for those of us who would like to be more “tuned-in?”
It is an obstacle, but one that can be overcome. A very simple first step would be to unplug, to quiet one’s mind, to seek some solitary time in the wilderness and place one’s attentions there.
You write about and draw into your work the myths and pantheons of cultures as diverse as the Hindus, Christians, the Norse and more. How do you personally view the coexistence of all the great many spiritual systems? Do they all line up next to each other like so many countries on a map; all equally relevant and real?
Almost every religious or mystical tradition has at least some trace of the Real under its umbrella. Oftentimes this trace can be found in the darker or heretical offshoots of the dominant school. And, of course, whatever numinous core a tradition might have can (and often does) become distorted, buried under political or social detritus, or simply forgotten. 
The more humanistic a tradition becomes, the more diluted it becomes. But if one digs deeply enough, they find metaphysical principles that speak of the Real, often with startling directness. 
 How would you describe your own spiritual tendency and what that looks like operationally? 
It really depends on the type of work I am engaging in. My ongoing praxis involves Dream, meditative practice, the cultivation of trance states, and regular work with specific Spirits and deities.
Do you practice with a lineage or are you solitary in your work?
I hold no formal memberships and therefore the bulk of my of my work is solitary, at least in terms of other people. However, I’m also fortunate enough to have a small, dedicated circle with whom I work and correspond with frequently.
What mythic/religious framework has the largest influence on how you see and navigate the world?
No specific external mythic/religious framework has ever hewed perfectly with my own. If it had, I would likely have dedicated my spiritual pursuits to the study and observance of that single framework. Instead I’ve always found myself to be something of a maverick. My framework is almost entirely informed by my own direct experiences with the Otherworld, which reaches me through a variety of means (fellow esotericists, art and literature, Dream, my own Spirit work, et cetera). 
Most of the thinkers and artists I admire most were themselves outsiders. I’ve always resonated with things that carry with them that perfume of Elsewhere, that palpable sense of the uncanny, of Otherness. This cannot be faked. One has either wandered the Land of Nod or they have not.
You describe a “transcendentalist cosmology” throughout the book, perhaps best embodied by the Christian doctrine. That dualist metaphysics contradicts the nature of the laws of the Gallows as you present it. Can you explain why that is?
As I mentioned earlier, the flesh and the soul are intimately connected. Separating them seems to be the essence of transcendentalist cosmologies. My own interests have always resided in the subterranean that infuses the material realm with intimations of the cosmic soul.
You use a term that I’m quite excited by - “gnostic-pagan.”  What does that mean to you and what is its historical basis? 
Gnostic Paganism is a term that reflects a unique perspective on the Mysteries. Its historic roots can be found in the old Cults of Pan, in Romanticism, and in the works of philosophers such as Novalis, Ludwig Klages, and Goethe, to name but a few. In more recent times, esotericists and valued friends like David Beth, Jessica Grote, and Craig Williams have resurrected the term, so to speak.  
 
Conventional Gnosticism (I realize I’m painting in broad strokes here, so forgive me), tends to regard the flesh and material world as a trap, one that must be transcended in order to achieve communion with the monad. Gnostic Paganism, however, sees the soul as infusing the material realm with Eros and strangeness.  
In my opinion, what distinguishes Gnostic Paganism from basic nature worship is that there is a trying/testing element to this. Honouring the cycle of the seasons or the agrarian deities is one thing. Searching for depth experiences, for those doors to the Otherworld, is something else again.
Why is the mythical “thief” archetype so symbolically potent?
As I explain in The Moribund Portal, the mythical thief, like the Fool, should be examined more deeply than the simple idea of them being a bandit who steals riches. Perhaps they are the only just figure in a world that seems lawful and orderly but is in truth utterly corrupt. Perhaps the treasure that the thief has stolen is not literal, but symbolic. 
What if, like the crazy wisdom of the Fool, the thief has stolen spiritual power? There is an archetypal precedent for such a theory. Prometheus, after all, stole the fire from the gods to give it to humanity. So thievery and sorcery have a long but obscured relationship. 

Heinrich Fueger, 1817 - Prometheus Brings Fire to Mankind

Your work gets into the ageless idea of the borderlands and lines of separation, between becoming and being or home and away, etc. Is this all bound up in man’s attempts to grapple with life and death?
Partially, yes. But borders in general suggest order, symmetry, the illusion of safety. Home and community can be wonderful things, but they can also stifle and tempt one to ignore the deeper nature. Their safety is illusory. To face the real means coming to grips with the fact that borders do not truly exist. Borderlands represent the edge, the fray, the thin place where the defined world touches another. 
The idea of haunted spaces obviously plays a large role in the book. What’s the most spectrally potent place you’ve ever visited and experienced?
It’s difficult to say, primarily because I spend a good deal of my life seeking out forlorn spaces --- woodlands, old houses, marshes, cemeteries. Also, my storyteller’s mind is constantly working. I find I’m able to extract nightmarish imagery out of even the most mundane or idyllic of settings. 
Oftentimes this process occurs instantaneously, with the place revealing some its own shadows. More than once after completing a story I’ve “happened upon” some obscure historical tidbit which reveals that my tale was more rooted in fact than I’d realized.
In the US, we probably think of the north eastern coast near Salem as being ground-zero for gallows in connection with the witch trails. What though do you think of the deep south with so many lynchings that took place during the slave and Jim Crow era? Could those locations hold this resonant power that you write about?
It’s certainly possible. But I should stress here that The Moribund Portal’s focus is that of the esoteric underpinnings and folklore of the gallows. It is the-Hanging-Place-as-liminality, such as the way it is glyphed in The Hanged Man card in Tarot or the mythic figure of Odin, for instance. 
The book is not designed for those who wish to enjoy grisly historical details or who are looking for some sort of commentary on social injustices. That being said, I would imagine that the pain and awfulness in the places you mention is so great that some vestiges likely remain.
These premises hinge on those people who actually have the ability to see into or sense these extra-physical realms. Do you see that ability as being a gift one is born with or can anyone develop it?
Seership may be something for which one has an innate knack, but it will only flourish with practice. And seership is only one skill among many. Some Spiritists may work with fetiches, others may speak with the Dead, or have spirit guides. There are many ways to access the Otherworld. None, however, flourish of their own accord. All require some form of endeavour and discipline.
 Where did the idea of a “Hand of Glory” come from?
As with many sorcerous tools and techniques, the Hand of Glory’s origins are difficult to pinpoint. The 18th century grimoire Petit Albert details some of its reputed powers and the uses to which it was commonly put (stunning witnesses, picking locks, et cetera). My research also revealed a linguistic connection between the French term “main de gloire” and “mandragora,” the mandrake or gallows root. So, the marriage between the Hand of Glory and the gallows is a rich one. 


Why is “Fylgja” such an import notion in relation to the Moribund Portal? Is it a stretch to correlate that idea to Tibetan Tulpas? 
The Fylgja are important because they are what might be described as the “Otherworld counterpart” to a living individual. One’s Fylgja is one’s Fetch, their astral Double. In my experience, it is one’s Fylgja that forges many inroads into that Otherworld. 
Does the Fylgja relate to the Tulpas? No. Tulpas are the result of accreted thought, a residual side-effect of mental activity. The Fylgja exist independently of the brain. They are active regardless of whether or not one is aware of (or even believes in) them.
When addressing the idea of “Wyrd” you clarify that is more than mere fate that is fixed. What sources do you derive your understanding of it and how is it much more expansive?
People tend to perceive fate and free will as an either/or paradigm. Some people believe that the human will alone is what the mighty draw upon to forge their ideal life. On the other hand, there are those who believe that everything is pre-determined and that they should simply wait and allow manifest destiny.  
Wyrd slithers between these two extremes. It suggests that one is indeed free to choose their own deeds, but at the same time there is a gale of ancestral powers and intuitions that can aid one’s journey if they acknowledge these things and put this wind at their back, so to speak.  
In terms of source material, Dr. Stephen E. Flowers remains the leading authority on the Nordic Mysteries and I urge anyone interested in the subject to obtain some of Dr. Flowers’s many books.
One of my favorite aspects of the book is a comparison between the Biblical Moses and Odin of the Nordic tradition. Can you share a bit of that here?
In some respects, the dichotomy between Moses and Odin is akin to that of Apollo and Dionysus; one is solar/logical, the other is lunar/chthonic. Moses ventured to an arid mountaintop and received the Word; a literal set of textual commandments to which the holy must adhere if they wish to receive favour with the monad. 
 
Odin sacrificed himself upside upon a tree to partake of the subterranean powers of Wyrd. What he returned with were not laws but runes; symbolic embodiments of the Mysteries that Initiates would have to probe by themselves. 
So as you can see, one model is didactic, the other Initiatory. I delve more deeply into this comparison in the book.
How does the throat and throat chakra with its spiritual implications tie into the sensation of choking, or actual death by hanging?
Vishudda purifies. It is lunar in nature and relates also to creativity and dreaming, to name but a few. I’ll leave it to your readers to contemplate how the cinching of this chakra might alter one’s psycho-physical complex.
What do you make of the number of recent celebrity suicides by hanging? (Especially with so many more painless or quicker means available.)
It is unfortunate. Beyond that, I really have no comment.
You make note of the secularization of our modern age and the consequent alienation from the sublime Other. Technology and science are pointed to as some of the instigators of this shift in belief. With both of those things only growing in prominence and societal reliance, where do you see us going as a species?
I suspect that we will eventually attempt to colonize other planets and undertake more extreme forms of space travel. But as Joseph Campbell wisely pointed out, even if you can travel to the far reaches of the galaxy, you are still taking your body along with you.  
Human beings have a strange obsession with shunning the flesh, they tend to view the Earth as a place we were dropped into. The reality is, we came out of this world, we are part of it. The ability to flee from it in a metal ship will change nothing about the human condition.
You express some strong ideas about the path of initiation and the difference between intellectual fascination with the esoteric and the painful riggers of sacrifice you feel is a request for gnosis.
Yes. This is because I believe that intellectual prowess is no guarantor of wisdom. Theories can be opulent and iron-clad and can win many a debate about the meaning of life, but if these discussions are rooted solely in theoretical knowledge they have no great merit. Testing one’s self and shattering comforting illusions is the essence of Becoming.
Do not the trials, tribulations and challenges of life itself (perhaps inflicted by the Demiurge and its forces) weigh in on the evolution of personal consciousness? Does initiation have to be defined by the bold and extreme acts of sacrifice taken on or instigated through a formal initiatory society?
I think so long as people compartmentalize aspects of their being, life will impede Initiation. Likewise, so long as people deliberately fill their lives with as much frenetic activity and commitments (most of which are dedicated toward material gain or cementing one’s social stature), life will impede Initiation.  
The extremity of the sacrifice will vary depending on how completely one has become entangled in a life that is antithetical to the subtle receptiveness of Spiritism or the reflective rigors of magical Initiation. All things come at a cost.
It really boils down to what one is seeking, what they hold dear. If Initiation means nothing to them but self-aggrandizement or garnering some kind of sinister or odd reputation, their Initiation will not yield them much beyond those superficialities.
There is something of a practice that you describe if one was interested in pursuing the Otherworld for themselves. But there is also a forewarning of seemingly potential danger. Does this have to do with mental doors that open up to visions and voices in the mind or to actual external, material conditions of the individual?
Both. 
If an individual lives outside of an initiatory society and is interested in pursuing the depths of spirit contact you write about, what are some core practices for a solitary that can build a bridge to enhanced intuition or sensitivity in that regard?
I’m always a bit reluctant to offer anything like a prescription for Initiatory undertakings simply because what has been effective for me may be useless to you. 
But as a general rule I would say go to those places that give you an eerie feeling. Venture there alone, spend some time there in silent contemplation. 
Drink in the ambience of the place. You may wish to bring a coin or some small offering to the Spirits that might inhabit that place. When the time feels right, make your offering and bid the Spirits to join you. 
Wrapping things up, what projects do you have on the horizon for the remainder of the year and beyond? 

At this juncture I am working on some new supernatural stories, as well as enjoying the emergent feeling that occurs when my next obsession has not yet fully seized me. Once the next project begins to gain traction, I’m sure I’ll be off the radar once again, working on that, whatever it may be. 
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RICHARD GAVIN'S WEBSITE

PURCHASE THE MORIBUND PORTAL HERE

RICHARD AT THREE HANDS PRESS

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