Here Be Monsters Podcast

The Podcast About the Unknown

HBM103: Fate's Notebook

Somewhere in Maritza Gulin’s basement, there’s a typewritten notebook that belonged to her father, Reynaldo. The notebook contains essential advice and warnings to Reynaldo, his wife Flora, and their five children.

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Content Note:

- Suicide
- Mental Illness
- Animal Sacrifice
- Language

In his younger life, Reynaldo’s atheism was strong and biting. But chronic migraines would often flatten him for days at a time. A stranger approached Reynaldo one day on the subway to tell him that he’d always suffer until he got right with God.

Reynaldo subsequently became an adherent to two related Afro-Cuban* religions: Palo Mayombe and Santeria. Palo focusses on veneration of spirits of the dead and of the earth. Santeria focusses on a pantheon of demigods called “Orishas”, who are usually represented by equivalent Catholic saints.

The notebook in Maritza’s basement is notable for its specificity. When she recently rediscovered it, she found warnings for her father against eating beans, sleeping with all the lights off, a requirement for white pajamas, a prohibition on horseback riding. Reynaldo followed these rules. He believed in fate, and was pretty accurate at predicting the time of his ultimate death from old age.

 A dream about flamingos avoiding deep water, as interpreted by Reynaldo. (Photo by Maritza Gulin)

A dream about flamingos avoiding deep water, as interpreted by Reynaldo. (Photo by Maritza Gulin)

Michelle Santana is a childhood friend of Maritza’s. She’s a psychic medium who’s not been formally initiated into Santeria, but she often consults the Orishas and the dead while working with her clients.  She’s done a number of readings with Maritza. Michelle, too, believes in fate, saying that, cruel as it seems, some people are just destined live bad lives, die young, and nothing can be done to change that.

Maritza’s youngest sister, Vanessa, was born when Maritza was already an adult, so Maritza helped take care of her youngest sister. Vanessa experienced severe depression, especially after the birth of her first child. She committed suicide.

After her Vanessa’s death, Maritza and her mother Flora lost their faith. They asked: if the future’s written, why weren’t they warned? Why weren’t they told either in the notebook or during their regular psychic readings. Flora says she’s mad at God. Maritza says she no longer believes in destiny.

 Reynaldo Gulin at his funeral, wearing the clothes he wore on the day he was initiated into Santeria. (Photo by Maritza Gulin)

Reynaldo Gulin at his funeral, wearing the clothes he wore on the day he was initiated into Santeria. (Photo by Maritza Gulin)

Despite this, Maritza still treads lightly around some of her father’s belongings. Some of this is due to respect for her father’s desires, and some of it is based on an abundance of caution. She recently deconsecrated a black metal cauldron that her father used in ceremonies. Michelle told her to bury it in her backyard or throw it in a river. Marita did the former. Inside, she found a toy revolver, a pair of ram’s horns, railroad spikes, and other small items.

Santeria’s practice of live animal sacrifice wound up in the US Supreme Court in the early 90’s as Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, in which a city in Florida passed an ordinance banning the practice of killing animals “in a public or private ritual or ceremony not for the primary purpose of food consumption”. The court ruled unanimously that this ordinance was unconstitutional, citing its attempt to restrict religious practice.

Jeff Emtman produced this episode with help from Bethany Denton.

Music: Circling Lights | | | The Black Spot | | | Serocell

*Today, Santeria and Palo are practiced across much of the Caribbean, especially Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic. Other areas of Caribbean diaspora like Florida, New York and New Jersey also have significant populations of believers. However, solid numbers of followers are hard to estimate due to the religion’s decentralization, which also contributes to the varying beliefs across adherents of different origins. If you practice or used to practice Santeria/Palo/Ifa, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode. Tweet at us @HBMpodcast.

If you are feeling suicidal, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline can help in the USA (phone: 1-800-273-8255). Outside the USA, consult Suicide.org’s list of hotlines. If you’re experiencing postpartum depression, Postpartum Support International has links to local organizations that can help you.

HBM102: Breath Holder

Archer Mayo has always loved finding lost things. He grew up on several navy bases and spent much of his childhood swimming and looking for human detritus–sunglasses, teacups, glass bottles. That’s why he takes such delight in searching for old lead weights in the murky waters of the Columbia River in Washington state.

Archer is a free diver and uses no breathing apparatus when he dives. He just holds his breath and gives in to his mammalian dive response. It’s a reflex that allows mammals to hold their breath underwater longer by slowing the heart rate and shifting blood from the limbs to the torso. “Once my mammalian dive response kicks in... I feel much more calm and centered.” Archer says, “I call it ‘The Flip’.”

Archer envies whales and dolphins for living in a world that seems weightless. He can only go so long living as a bipedal mammal on the surface before he feels the urge to dive again.

In this episode, HBM producer Bethany Denton watches from a river bank as Archer dives just outside of his home in White Salmon, Washington.

MUSIC: Circling Lights ||| The Black Spot

HBM101: Much Corruption

Growing up, Jeff Emtman had a hard time balancing his piety for the One God with his piety for the Gnomish lord Berwyn.  Generally, he deferred to the latter, though he lost favor eventually with both.

Jeff’s scoutmaster, a retired surgeon with a habit of collecting unusual boats, was always trying to get Jeff outside, away from the computer where he spent most of his free time playing a game where he tried to save the world from corruption and evil.  

Ancient Domains of Mystery (more commonly called “ADOM”) is an massive roguelike game that’s inspired heavily by Dungeons and Dragons.  Developer Thomas Biskup released the first version of it in 1994.

Jeff, a gnomish wizard of status, is susceptible to corruptive background radiation.  Once pure, his breath became ever more sulphurous, thorns that sprouted from his hands, etc. And he failed in his quest to save the world.

Example of a character bio created in ADOM. This character, a dwarfish wizard was born in the sign of the Falcon, which garners benefits to initial willpower and charisma. Also has increased ability to survive in in wild. Dwarves tend to be good with magic and subterranean skills.

Character ‘@’ engaged in combat with goblin berserker ‘g’ in a partially explored dungeon. Hostile ice vortex ‘V’ approaches. Far right: Staircase leading upwards ‘<’, lawfully aligned altar ‘_’ and an ancient statue ‘&’. Also pictured: walls ‘#’, floors ‘.’, and doors ‘#’.

The Surgeon invited Jeff to join him for kayaking on the Naches River of Washington State.   The river holds a small irrigation dam that the two must navigate--the Surgeon with ease, and Jeff with no small amount of existential, religious struggle.

The “burning hands” spell in this episode comes from a Esperanto-language reading of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, released as public domain audiobook by Librivox. The excerpt used can be translated to “...and the chain was bound around the arm.”

Jeff Emtman produced this episode with help from Bethany Denton.

Music: Serocell ||| The Black Spot ||| AHEE ||| Circling Lights ← New music!

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HBM100: Faraway Minds

Anna Klein thinks that tea tastes better on the Faroe Islands.  She thinks the water’s more pure there, and the Northern Lights let the sky be whatever color it wants to be.  She often thinks about moving there.

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Content Note: 
- Violence (momentary)
- Language (fleeting)

But she also worries that her fantasies of running away to the remote corners of the world may be a familial urge to isolate herself, the same way her father did...a tendency that ultimately contributed to his early death.

It was a loving and hurtful relationship that led Anna to retrace her father's life.  From her home in Aarhus, to his dying place of Copenhagen, to his hometown of Skagen, and then back to Aarhus again via the museum at Moesgaard.

Anna Klein produced this episode.  Jeff Emtman and Bethany Denton edited.  Nick White is our editor at KCRW, where there are a lot of people we don’t often get the chance to thank, but help us to make this show: including Gary Scott, Juan Bonigno, Adria Kloke, Mia Fernandez, Dustin Milam, Christopher Ho, Caitlin Shamberg, JC Swiatek, and many others.

We’ll be back in the fall with new episodes.  In the meantime, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for updates from the off-season.  Rate us on iTunes and tell a friend too.

Music:  Lucky Dragons ||| The Black Spot

 A sandy beach in Skagen, the northernmost town of mainland Denmark

A sandy beach in Skagen, the northernmost town of mainland Denmark