Names can be a very powerful tool.
Sometimes they can also make you feel like just that, a tool.
Humans try their best, and they can be really creative, but sometimes, every once in a while, the name they choose for you is just garbage. Take Hermes for instance. Now there was one angry god when he learned what the people decided to call him. I always liked the name, but he was full of fury when he found out. After all these years I can still remember word for word what he said.
“Hermes? What kind of crap is that? It sounds like a venereal disease.”
He’s one funny guy.
Aphrodite on the other hand has always loved her name, no pun intended. She claims it’s exotic. I once asked her why she didn’t use her Roman name more often.
“Venus sounds vulgar. I don’t understand how a goddess can end up with a name that rhymes with a man’s special purpose.”
To this day she believes Athena was behind the Roman name. She’s still convinced there was subterfuge on the naming committee, that the Romans were bribed. Ask Athena about it and all you’ll get is a knowing smile. You know how it is with kids and their shenanigans. What I never understood was why Ouranos never got mad about his Roman name.
Now there is a god with a legitimate beef.
Of course divinity had a name before humans dreamed us into existence. An ageless name, made from stardust and centuries, folded into a soundless portrait. A name that is unpronounceable, unimaginable and unknowable. The kind of name that would break your mind you the instant you even thought about thinking about it. But you human beings require connection. You need to feel the earth under your feet even though you like to keep your heads in the clouds. From your earliest grunts to the later days when you got around to speaking words, you’ve insisted on labeling your universe. It was only natural that when you looked to the heavens for the first time you called out a million different names.
And you still do.
Zeus once told me, at a party, that he handpicked his own name. He claims he sent one of his priests a dream bearing the name on golden wing. The rest, as they say, is history. He got angry when I pointed out to him that it was dangerous to mess around with the human mind.
“What good is being a god if I can’t have a little control?” he asked.
I could only nod my head and agree. He’s not the kind of god you argue with.
When it comes to most immortals, their names suit them. Hermaphrodite, Narcissus, Echo and Arachnid all stand as excellent examples of how a name fits the owner. But to be fair the words you now use to portray most of them actually originate from their own names. Quite the conundrum, isn’t it?
Dionysus is probably the exception to the rule, but then again he was always the exception to every rule. The name Bacchus, a pseudonym for his work with the Romans, brought about the word Bacchanal, meaning of course one hell of a party. But the young god is more than just a drunk; he has so much depth to him, and so much fire. Let’s just say that he is a great guy to party with but he is one god you do not want to make angry. Not unless when you say, “Let’s get tore up!” you really mean it.
Dionysus brings new meaning to the word wasted.
What so few humans realize is that a name not only defines, it also delineates. A name can change the way you guys think about each other, and names most definitely changed the way you related to us. The names you assigned us gave us personalities, they gave us life, and importantly they humanized us. In one word divinity shattered from some unknowable cosmic power into aspects you could actually address. With that our whole relationship shifted. We became divine parents, celestial siblings and sacred lovers. You also changed somewhere along the way. You became bolder, stronger and self-sufficient. Then the inevitable happened. One day you were sending your desires skyward on the smoke of a slaughtered lamb, and the next day you realized the sun would rise with or without the rituals.
You didn’t need us anymore.
Hephaestus always had my sympathy. Poor god was strapped with a bum leg and a face that would stop a sundial. Then to top it all off you burdened him with a mouthful of a name. Where did that one come from? Even worse, ask the average human today who Hephaestus is and they’ll only give you a puzzled look. Being pushed into obscurity is a hard row to hoe, but Hephaestus always took these kinds of things well. Even in the height of his popularity he had a hard time with the name. I can still remember him trying to explain the proper pronunciation to Psyche when she first joined us.
“Ha-fess-tuss? Your name sounds like a donkey farting.”
The laughter that followed shook Olympus to the very core of the mountain. Hephaestus just smiled and shook his head; he was used to that kind of treatment. He also knew Psyche never was very bright as a human, and things didn’t improve when she moved upstairs. Then again Eros didn’t marry her for her brain, if you get my meaning.
I hear that the folks down on the Delta have some great names. Out of the ones I’m familiar with I have always been partial to the name Set. I suppose I just like names that are short and to the point. Trust me when I say Hephaestus would have traded his good leg for a name like Set.
I don’t consider myself a pantheon-ist, but I’m ashamed to say I don’t know much more about the other gods of the world. We do meet occasionally on vacations and conferences, but you will find most pantheons stick together, few cross over that fine line. Again Dionysus is the exception to the rule. Search any pantheon and there he will be, the slain and risen son of a god, bringing enlightenment to the masses. In fact he has a pretty big aspect going right now. The kid has a good gig, servicing a multitude of hungry souls.
We’re proud of him.
So some of our names are obviously better than others, and some we could have done without, but over all you did a fairly good job. The majority of us here in Greece are pleased, even with the shift to our Roman titles. We are also happy with how our names have graced everything from geography to architecture. It seems like every day someone is naming something after a god of some sort. You might not need our divine guidance any more, but somewhere deep inside you still need to connect to us. You keep saying our names, using our names, and redefining our names in the human mind and as a result we are never truly forgotten.
My own name is not important, but I thank you for it all the same.