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Episode Ninety Six

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Monstrous Agonies E96S03 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Ninety Six.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through classical music, a voice saying “-I was thinking-”, a voice saying “-Ballymena United-” and a voice saying “-keep giving military support-” before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-frankly distressing lack of pustules.

It's almost two o'clock on Thursday morning and time for our advice segment.

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

The Presenter

131.3FM – the voice of liminal Britain.

[End of background music]

The Presenter

Tonight's first letter asks how to introduce a new member of the household.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

Hello! I hope this letter finds you well. I've been listening to the programme for a while now and have been hesitant to write in but I've reached a point where I genuinely cannot find an appropriate answer anywhere else.

I'm a witch, and I recently moved house for the sake of my mundane job. It's a good position, and I find it absolutely delightful that this move means I now life in historical Salem, Massachusetts! [laughs] It's not entirely relevant to the problem – actually it's not relevant at all! [laughs] But don't you just love it?!

The move itself went perfectly swimmingly. It's a bit of a culture shock – there's nothing quite like the Nightfolk Network over here, for example, hence my writing, and I miss all sorts of things about England I hadn't thought I would. Next time you're in the shops, have some Hula Hoops for me, would you?

The issue is I'm now living alone and my familiar is spending a lot more time in the house without me. She's not what I'd call “jazzed” about it. She's been terribly reserved and rarely greets me when I get home from work. I get the most attention from her in the morning, when she tries to convince me not to leave.

I have been mindful about using the time we do have together for quality bonding. But it takes her a while to warm up and forgive, and I've had more bites and scratches in the last three months than I've had since she was a kitten!

So, I've been considering adopting another familiar, to keep her company at home. I know it's not conventional to have more than one familiar, but she just seems so lonely. I'd love her to have someone about the place, a-a real friend her own genus.

I think it will be very good for her and she'll enjoy it once it happens. But whenever I try to talk to her about it, she just refuses to engage in the conversation! Off she stalks, tail in the air, talk to the bum-hole because the face ain't listening.

How can I navigate this transition and help her accept that a new addition to the home would be better for the both of us? Sending love and kisses. Much thanks!

The Presenter (as themselves)

For what it's worth, listener, I think you're absolutely right. Another familiar seems like just the thing to help your current familiar feel more settled in her new home. It isn't perhaps common to have more than one familiar at a time, but it's certainly not unheard of.

A familiar does require a serious commitment of time, energy, money and magic, as you well know. I trust you have already considered the impact of a second familiar on your personal resources, both mundane and arcane.

Rather than trying to engage your familiar in a conversation about whether or not you adopt another familiar, I think you would do well instead to give her a time-frame within which to prepare. The decision has already been made. What matters now is helping her process her feelings about that.

I think six months or so would be a good time-frame. It will allow her to settle into the idea of having a new familiar about the place without being too distant. Bring it up with her gently, and brace for a little attitude in the aftermath.

Once the matter has been broached, you can start working on bringing her round to the idea. If she continues to show no interest in talking about it, don't push it. Mention the new familiar's arrival as often as feels natural, reaffirming that this is going to happen whether she ignores it or not. Otherwise, leave her to her feelings.

Over time, she may become more interested in the idea of a new familiar. Encourage any interest she shows, whether that's in researching adoption centres and rescue shelters in your area, or making magical preparations to the house. Ask her what she thinks would make a new familiar feel welcome, based on her own experiences of joining your home.

You've already mentioned making sure to spend quality bonding time with her when you can. It is vitally important that you keep this consistent after the adoption, even if her behaviour makes it difficult. Above all, she needs to feel secure in your love and affection.

Spend time with each of your familiars separately, and organise structured activities such as spell-casting and summonings that you can all enjoy together. In time, I see no reason at all your familiars can't become a family.

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

The Presenter

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[End background music]

The Presenter

Tonight's second letter asks what to do about an unexpected presence.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

Did you know, 87% of the world’s wetlands have been lost in the past 300 years? That’s rivers, lakes, estuaries, flooded forest, fens, marshes, bogs, all drastically damaged in the past three centuries.

But wetlands are incredibly important places, providing flood protection and temperature regulation for terrestrial genuses as well as a home for aquatic and semi-aquatic genuses. They can also be an integral part of various magical practices, including my own.

I am lucky enough to work at one of the last raised bogs in the north-west of England, as a reserve warden for one of the UK’s leading conservation charities. I love it, you should see the Sphagnum there!

But it’s near a residential area, and every few years it tends to be... vandalised. Ind by vandalised I mean burnt to a crisp. It takes a really long time to recover, and sometimes it can’t properly before the next blaze breaks out.

It was about a year ago when I was communing with the bog just before a butterfly survey. That's when I heard them. It was this low throat singing coming from beneath the moss. I asked one of my colleagues if they could hear it, but they said they couldn’t hear anything.

Over time I began to hear words in the singing. There was a bog body talking to me deep under the peat. Within a couple of weeks I managed to talk back, and we got chatting.

They couldn’t quite remember their name, and their description of the land from when they were alive suggests they lived around the 3rd Century BCE, and they love the smell of peat. Which is uh, convenient, I suppose!

They really like the peace they've found beneath the bog, and we don’t get a lot of visitors so they’re pretty happy. But when the bog last got burnt... I could hear them. Screaming. As if they were the ones being burnt. As if they were connected to the whole bog.

Education is our best weapon to prevent vandalising behaviour in the long-term, but in the short-term, we need something faster. The reserve isn’t big enough to have a population of breeding curlews or Will-O-The-Wisps. It doesn’t get that much funding.

I could fix that. I could get the bog all the attention and funding it needs – at a price. If the world knew there was an ancient singing bog body in our reserve, we'd get all sorts of legal protections, and media coverage and attention and funding opportunites... [sighs]

But the body below doesn’t like it when there’s more than three people walking on the bog. It unsettles them. If I tell the world what's hidden down there, people will come.

They'll come with their money and their questions and their hundreds of footsteps, and all the way beneath the peat my friend will never get their peace back. I just... don't know what to do.

The Presenter (as themselves)

It often happens on this programme that the advice I give is shrouded in a deceptive glamour of simplicity. You must not reveal the existence of the body below without their permission, and they must be included in future decision-making about the bog wherever the outcome will effect them.

Put like that, it sounds easy. It isn't. This is a vulnerable person with little to no ability to effect their situation directly. You need to consider carefully whether or not you're willing and able to take on the responsibility of their advocacy. If not, you need to set this idea aside and work on improving the reserve's prospects some other way.

If, however, you're ready to work on this person's behalf, centring their needs as you work through the issue, your first step is, I hope, a rather obvious one. Ask them what they want.

Keep in mind their long isolation from the world above. They may need more help than you expect to understand how knowledge of their existence will impact on the reserve's funding, marketing and legal protections. Take as much time as they need to make informed decisions.

Note here I say “decisions”. If they agree to making their existence public, you will need to decide together how to manage guests coming to the reserve.

If they prefer to have fewer than three people on the bog at one time, does this preclude the use of board-walks or raised walkways? Are there areas the body would prefer were off-limits? Is it more comfortable to have more guests spread over a long period of time, or fewer guests but their visits are more concentrated?

Again, if they refuse your request, you must respect that decision and keep their existence private. However, that doesn't mean you can't consult with them wherever possible. In fact, I encourage you to do so. This is their home, after all, and they deserve to have a say in what happens to it.

Listen to your friend, and work with them to protect them, their privacy, and their home. There is no quick fix here, but I do believe you'll find a way through with commitment, compassion, and communication.

Next on the Nightfolk Network, why stop at blood, sweat, and tears? The powerful properties of saliva, sputum and cerebrospinal fluid cannot be overstated...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through pop music, a voice saying “-look at that-”, a voice saying “-I do find it incredible-” and more pop music before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

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

Tonight's first letter was submitted by Vee, the second letter was from A Witch Named Ed, and this week's advert came from Changechildgremlin. Thanks, friends.

Hello and welcome to our latest supporters on Patreon, Nude Noodles and BEANS!! Join them at, or make a one-off donation at You can also help us grow our audience by sharing with your friends and familiars, and 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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