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On names; or, why it rains at a hanging

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"Eugenides" is a name that carries blessings. When the god Eugenides was a child, his mother the Earth came to him with gifts of toys in bright colours, and gifts of summoning and immortality; so when Eugenides was an old man (in the way that gods are old men, which means only that sometimes they look down before they leap across roofs, as though their lives have gained a taint of mortality like ink stirred in water) the people of Earth named their children "Eugenides", so those children might also be blessed with earthly gifts. Eugenides took after his mother, but the woodcutter's wife as well as the Earth, and so he had no eternal life to give. From his hands there were no brightly-coloured toys for those blessed children, but instead they had lucky escapes, and safe passage past watchmen looking in the wrong direction, and mortality. Death is a kindness Eugenides gives to thieves, during those sacred moments after the fall and before the ground; any thief knows the look, when a brother is carried away with a trace of sweetness in his face, as though it did not hurt so much, after all.

But Eugenides is also a name that means "well-born", which means Eugenides' gifts are those given to all men. We are all the children of the Earth and Sky, with lineage as pure as spring water that has been filtered through sediment, and hard rock and ages. (Especially, Eugenides would say, that of the thieves, who honour their patron, but all of us born under the sun.) But there are dark places, where it is difficult to remember sunlight and spring water, and dark times, when the ways of the gods are mysterious to mortals: places and times where what will happen, must happen. When the god Eugenides comes, as a thief in the night, and sits cross-legged against dripping stone walls and reaches out to brush back sweat-darkened hair, and push manacles away from the worst of the sores, those attended do not often see clearly enough to look up, or find it strange that in this place they should have a friend. To those few prisoners who can lift themselves enough to ask, Eugenides merely answers, "I am a thief; my name is Gen" - and place drops of water, as precious as diamonds, into their mouths. In the morning when the men come with the hood, or the soldiers come with the knives, thunder rolls and smashes through the sky, and the rain comes down in sheets as though to remind the onlookers of the gifts that are given to all men.

Hephestia gives her name to children, and blesses them while they sleep. And on those dark mysterious days she says nothing until the thing is done, the crowds have cleared and the thief's body has been taken away. "Gen," she says, "Gen, give them back" - touching his arm, and they stand together as the storm clears around them and the wind grows silent, and the sky is washed clean and calm. It takes some time, but he gives back the thunderbolts that he stole from her, and answers to his name, for we all need someone to catch us when we fall.