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Episode Forty

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Monstrous Agonies E40S02 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Forty.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through a voice speaking Irish, classical music, a voice saying “No” and pop music before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-unlike her finite sister.

If you've just joined us, you're right on time for our weekly advice segment. Once again tonight, I find myself with three letters on my desk rather than the usual two. Once again, I feel no compulsion towards this first. I have my suspicions as to its content but let's see for sure...

Good morning. I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing on behalf of my organisation to explore avenues of interest as we endeavour to expand our offer to include broadcast media--

Oh, for pity's sake - I said no! The answer isn't going to change just because you asked again. What do you people even want with a radio station? I thought you were in the anti-apocalypse business. I'm not aware of any Network plans in that particular direction – unless I've missed a rather significant memo.

[sighing] Anyway. Moving on. Our first letter this evening comes from a magical practitioner having some self-esteem issues.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

I started practising magic when I went to university. I'm from a non-magical genus so I'm pretty dependent the tools I use to actually manifest any of my intentions.

It took me a while to find my feet in the craft. My spells would work alright, but my progress was slow and I never felt that connection to my own power that other practising friends talked about.

And then, I was introduced to animism. [laughing] And, wow! Oh, it changed my life! The idea that everything - everything! - has a soul, a spirit, the whole universe is, is saturated in life and connection. That was the key for me, that's what made all the difference.

I started to connect with the spirits of the components I was using – everything from herbs and crystals to candles and ink. I wasn't just using them as tools to cast my spells. I was asking for their help. I can't tell you what a difference it made. I'm not saying that animism is "the correct" approach or anything but ugh, it's absolutely the right one for me!

Anyway, here's the thing. I've recently got a new batch of salt to use in my spell work. And it's... Well. It's not exactly performing in the way that I would have expected.

I used it a few months ago, cleansing the house after a bit of a “sparks joy” clear out. But it didn't seem to take – I ended up doing the ritual again after a few days using cedar smoke instead.

Well, alright, these things happen. Perhaps I was having an off day. But it's getting worse. I used the salt in a protective charm for my bicycle. Took it out for a spin and within twenty minutes, my brakes had failed while I was crossing a junction and I'd nearly been taken out twice by motorists apparently oblivious to my presence on the road.

Things really came to a head though when I bought a second-hand piano at an auction house. I got it home and found that, despite the seller's insistence to the contrary, it was, in fact, occupied.

I had a chat with the guy whose spirit was living there, and we agreed he could probably do better somewhere else – if he could just get untangled. He'd been in there so long, his essence was all gunked in with the piano wires.

I used the salt as part of a spell to help him get free. But he ended up more embedded than ever! I don't think he's ever getting out. I mean, we get on pretty well, and he's a brilliant piano teacher but that's not really the point!

I've tried checking in with the spirit of the salt itself, see if I can figure out what's going on. And every time I try and connect with it, I get this wave of anxiety, really gnawing stuff. It's-- Urgh, it's horrible! It's like waiting as they pick teams in PE, and knowing nobody wants you, and knowing that you're gonna mess it all up, and it's all going to go wrong, and it'll all be your fault! I mean, no wonder it can't work if that's how it feels!

I know that one answer would be to just get rid of it. But it feels a bit cruel, just chucking it out. Is there anything I can do that might help boost its self-esteem?

The Presenter (as themselves)

The crux of the issue is your animist approach to your practice. It's a perfectly viable approach, and as you've seen yourself, can lead to remarkable results. But it brings with it its own difficulties.

For the most part, when we use certain items or materials for their magical properties, it's because those properties are inherent in the materials themselves. Cold iron will react thaumaturgically with its surroundings as surely as ice will melt in heat. If you were using your salt physically – as a literal line of protection, for example – its innate qualities would suffice.

However, in spell casting specifically, practitioners use their components to amplify, focus and direct their own magical intentions. This is where it gets really rather interesting. A non-animist practitioner uses the power of their own belief in the material's properties to achieve that amplifying effect.

As an animist, you approach your spell casting quite differently. You are asking the spirit of your components to help you with your working. Your intention is use the spirit's own belief in its efficacy to power your spells. And unfortunately it seems your salt is having a crisis of confidence. Which is fascinating! [laughs]

Um. [clears throat] Not to, uh, use your personal problems as an excuse to “geek out”. Of course, you still need a solution. Fortunately, I think there is a way through this. You need to work on your salt's self-esteem.

Firstly, I recommend putting it to use in those physical, practical ways I mentioned above. If you have something that needs cleansing, leave it overnight buried in the salt. It's natural properties will take effect and demonstrate that it is still able to do that work, even if it has made a few missteps in the past.

Secondly, try spending some time with it beyond your spell work. The next time you're meditating or doing a grounding ritual for yourself, bring your salt along. Let it know that it doesn't have to work so hard to impress you. Very few entities work well under intense emotional pressure, and I think your salt would appreciate the reassurance.

Finally, I strongly suggest you check in with the salt's spirit to see if there's anything else it feels it might be more suited to. It may not be confident in cleansing spells but feels it has a knack for summonings, for example. Check in with it and see what you might be able to work out together.

With a little concentrated time and energy, you'll soon be able to soothe your salt's performance anxiety and manifest your intentions together.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

Are you having trouble sleeping? Kept up by discomfort? Try Memory Fungus Mattresses today for the deepest sleep of your life! Memory Fungus Mattress: it’ll mould to your comfort! (Warning: use of Memory Fungus Mattresses may lead to complete bodily takeover by mildews, moulds, and mushrooms. Please read the instructions before use).

[End background music]

The Presenter

Our second letter this evening is from a listener looking to make a connection.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

Hello. I know most of your letters don't start with 'hello' – or do you just cut that bit out? Better to get straight to the point. I hope you keep it in for this one, though. I really would like to say hello to you.

I hope this reaches you. There aren't any post boxes around here, let alone stamps. I might slip it into the hollow of a tree, if I find one that seems nice, or tuck it under a rock? Perhaps if I find a river I could fold it into a boat and send it sailing away on the current.

I've never seen a river here before but I don't see any reason I couldn't. I found this notebook, after all. And a few... months ago? Maybe longer. I found a-- a cave and inside were all these things – single socks, keys, glasses, old toys, umbrellas. Lost things, I think. I'm not lost though. I mean, I-- [laughing] I don't know where I am but I'm not trying to be anywhere else, either. I'm just here.

It's very quiet. If I sit still I can hear for miles. I spend my days walking through the trees. There's always more trees! I think at first I was marking them – had an idea about finding my way back. But now I-- I don't know what it was I wanted to get back to.

I walk. My feet crunch in the leaf litter regular as clockwork. I remember clocks. I found a watch in the cave but the battery had rotted away. I wore it for a while anyway, making believe I was someone to whom time meant something.

It used to mean everything, always thinking, did I have time? Would I be on time? Rush rush, push push, get it done, get it done, get it done on time! It was so important! And now I... I think back and I... Was it something to do with money? Something to do with... money?

I found a 50p once. I left it though, for a magpie or something. I've never seen a magpie, but, uh... I don't see why I couldn't.

I think I had the radio to begin with. It's got a handle to turn when it needs to be charged, though I've never used it. And it's a torch, too, which is-- is handy. [laughs]

I sit sometimes in the evening, turning the wheel, listening to the solid hiss of white noise. No stations. Nothing. Until I get back to you. It's like coming home. Your voice, crisp and clear, every time, all the time.

I don't have anything to ask, I'm afraid. But you've been with me as long as I can remember, and I appreciate it. That's all I wanted to say. Just... Hello. Thank you. I'm glad you're here.

The Presenter (as themselves)

Hello, listener. I'm glad you're here too. I'm glad you've been here with us, however long we've had the pleasure of your company.

It can be easy, I think, to imagine our relationship to our community in transactional terms. We put in X amount of time, effort and engagement, and in exchange we receive X amount of belonging. There are some groups that work along those lines, I know, but, if I may, I'd like to take this opportunity to make explicit what I hope has always been implicit in our broadcasts.

You do not have to perform your belonging in order to belong here. There is no minimum requirement of activity or visibility. We do not charge rent. Our community of listeners is a disparate one, and we likely have more differences between us than commonalities, but it is a community nonetheless, and you are precious and valued part of it.

Thank you, listener, for getting in touch. I wish you all the best.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

The Nightfolk Network. Don't touch that dial.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Next tonight, we're talking deja vu. With time existing at once as a closed loop, a rich tapestry, and a depthless void, it can be easy to lose track...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through classical music, a voice saying “-towards morning”, a voice saying “-what happened in the end?” and a voice saying “-but I'll be going up anyway-” before fading out.

Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]

H.R. Owen

Episode Forty of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.

Tonight's first letter was based on a TikTok by Trae Dorn, used here with permission. The second letter was based on a prompt from Orbworb, and this week's advert came from Art. Thanks, friends! See the show-notes for how you can submit your own letters, suggestions and ads.

Hello and welcome to our latest supporter on Patreon, Ralph. Or possibly “Rafe”, depending on how posh they are. Join them at You can also support the show by sharing with your friends and familiars, and by following us on Tumblr, @MonstrousAgonies, and on Twitter, @Monstrous_Pod.

This podcast is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The theme tune is Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts.

Thanks for listening, and remember - the real monsters are the friends we made on the way.

[Fade to silence.]


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