THE THREE PILLARS OF GOR (#23, Version 5.0)
Effectively understanding the Gorean mindset requires an understanding of the differences between Gorean society and Earth society. Civilized Gorean society has three primary societal institutions that differ from most of Earth. By civilized Gor, I mean the cities, towns and villages of Gor. It does not include the barbaric lands of such people as the Torvaldslanders, the Wagon Peoples, the Red Savages, or the Red Hunters. These three differences permeate Gorean society and make it a vastly different world from Earth. They are not the only differences but they are very important matters and may be difficult for Earth people to understand.
The three pillars of civilized Gor are the Homestone, Caste System and Slavery. Each one of these items is essential to Gorean society. Earth has nothing like the concept of the Homestone. The patriotism of the United States as evidenced by the American flag is a pale comparison to the Home Stone. India is one of the last bastions on Earth with a caste system though it is still very different from the system used on Gor. Slavery exists in some corners of Earth but no where even close to the extent it exists on Gor. Understanding these three areas will enhance comprehension of the Gorean mindset. You will be able to think and act more Gorean for either your role-play or real-time.
“Do not ask a Gorean what the Home Stone means because he will not understand your question. It will puzzle him. It is the Home Stone.” (Magicians of Gor, p.485-6)
To define the concept of a Home Stone is a difficult task. It is a cultural concept that resists definition by outsiders and needs no definition within its own society. “It is not a word, or a sentence. It does not really translate. It is too important, too precious, to mean. It just is.” (Magicians of Gor, p.485) A Home Stone has very deep meaning to a Gorean. The very word “Gor” means Home Stone in all of the languages of Gor. I shall try to give one an idea of the basics of a Home Stone though this will be insufficient in actually truly defining the idea.
Goreans view their cities as almost living things. They see a city as an entity with a history, tradition, heritage, customs, practices, character, intentions, and hopes. To be “of” a city gives a person a sense of immortality though Goreans know that even a city can be destroyed. This love of their city is invested in the Home Stone, that in many respects is the very soul of a city. The Home Stone is a valuable symbol of sovereignty and territory.
Home Stones can be of various shapes, sizes, and colors. There is no standard for them. Some are intricately carved while others simply have a single letter etched into them, the initial letter of the city. Some large cities have small stones of great antiquity. The Home Stone of Ar is accepted by tradition as being the oldest Home Stone on Gor. It is allegedly over ten thousand years old. Other cities have only recently acquired a Home Stone. Port Kar acquired a Home Stone in 10120 C.A. A rock was picked up from one of the streets, Tarl Cabot etched the initials of the city into it and the people accepted it as their own.
Long ago, in peasant villages, each hut was built around a flat stone placed in the center of a circular dwelling. The stone was carved with the family sign and called the Home Stone. Each peasant within his hut thus became a sovereign. Later, Home Stones were used for villages, then towns and cities. In the villages, the Home Stone was commonly placed in the market area. In most cities, it is usually placed freely in the top of the highest tower, though it is well guarded. All it takes to have a Home Stone is for someone or a group to choose to have one.
There is no clear origin for Home Stones though there are several mythical accounts. One of the most popular legends involves Hesius, the mythical first man of Gor. Hesius once performed great labors for the Priest-Kings and was promised a reward greater than gold and silver. When he finished his toils, he was presented with a flat piece of rock with a single character inscribed upon it, the first letter of the name of his home village. Hesius confronted the Priest-Kings, feeling that he had been cheated. They told him that this item was truly more valuable than gold and silver and was called a “Home Stone.”
Hesius brought the Home Stone to his war torn village, placed it in the market and told them what the Priest-Kings had said. A wise man stated that it must be very valuable if the Priest-Kings had so spoke. The warring factions wanted to know who’s stone it was. Hesius told them that it belonged to all of them. All of the factions then put their weapons away and peace came to the village. This village was named Ar.
Where a man sets his Home Stone, he claims, by law, that land for himself. “The Home Stone says this place is mine, this is my home.” (Magicians of Gor, p.485) There is also a hierarchy of Home Stones. Men who would fight each other over an acre of land will join together to protect their village or city. “The sharing of a Home Stone is no light thing in a Gorean city.” (Slave Girl of Gor, p.394) The common bond of a Home Stone unites such people and they will support and protect all those who share their Home Stone. Some hope or dream of a single Supreme Home Stone for all of Gor. Others believe that the Priest Kings already have such a Stone and it is the source of their power. “A palace without a Home Stone is a hovel; a hovel with a Home Stone is a palace.” (Slave Girl of Gor, p.142)
The Home Stone is the center of various rituals in each city such as the Planting Feast of Sa-Tarna in Ar. Each city has a citizenship ceremony where children, who reach intellectual majority, swear an oath of allegiance to their city while touching or kissing the Home Stone. This ceremony may also require vouching by existing citizens. Another requirement may also be a questioning by a committee of citizens to determine your worthiness to the city. Nonperformance of this ceremony can be cause for expulsion from the city. You can renounce your Home Stone and change your citizenship to another city but this is rarely done. You cannot be a citizen of a city without pledging yourself to its Home Stone. You cannot belong to two Home Stones of different cities either.
You may have multiple Home Stones due to the hierarchical nature of such items. But those Home Stones must fit within the hierarchy to be acceptable. That is why you cannot belong to the Home Stones of two different cities as that would be outside the hierarchy. You could have your own personal Home Stone and also belong to the Home Stone of your city. If you once lived in a town or small city that was subsumed into a larger entity, such as Tetrapoli, then you muts also have a Home Stone for the town or small city as well as the larger entity. Thus, you might belong to three Home Stones.
Stealing a Home Stone is a heinous sacrilege and punishable by the most painful of deaths. It is also the greatest of glories to steal one from another city. In Tarnsman of Gor, Tarl Cabot steasl the Home Stone of Ar. This earned him glory in the eyes of many though the city of Ar wished him to die horribly. Even when Tarl and Marlenus become almost friends, Marlenus cannot forgive him for the prior offense of stealing the Home Stone. As Ubar, Marlenus could never do so. The theft of a Home Stone does not automatically signal the death knell for a city.
While a Home Stone survives, then so does the city. When Koroba was destroyed by the Priest-Kings, Matthew Cabot retained the Home Stone, thus still keeping the city alive. Even though all of its people were scattered all over Gor and no building stood on the spot where the city once was, the survival of the Home Stone ensured that the city was still living. Ko-ro-ba was later rebuilt around its Home Stone at its same location.
Stealing a Home Stone is not an easy task as it engenders great reservoirs of strength in those who belong to it. “One does not lightly dispute the passage of one who carries his Home Stone.” (Nomads of Gor, p.1) Even a trained warrior would be very wary of a mere peasant who was carrying his Home Stone. The loyalty and pride in your Home Stone seems to release the floodgates of hidden strengths. When it is directly threatened, a Gorean is able to overcome many obstacles to ensure its safety.
A Home Stone unifies the people of a city. It is more important than caste prejudices or other forms of prejudice. It inspires intense loyalty, great enough that everyone would die to protect it. There is a popular Gorean saying that: “One who speaks of Home Stones should stand for matters of honor are involved.” (Tarnsman of Gor, p.27) This is taken to an extreme where a man might be killed who does not stand when he speaks of his Home Stone. There is no symbol on Earth which has a similar function to a Home Stone. Patriotism to our flag is but a pale analogy to the Home Stone. Flag burning would horrify Goreans who would treat it as a capital offense rather than an exercise of free speech. Goreans look down on Earth because it has no Home Stone. Thus there is no reason why Earth people cannot be enslaved.
In your role-play, you should try to put your Home Stone in its proper perspective. You should love your city and be intensely loyal to it. You should be proud of your city. You should participate in matters important to your city. You should unite with your fellow citizens against intruders and outsiders who threaten your city. Warriors will defend their city and Home Stone to the death. Take an active role in your city and make it worthy.
Gorean society has a firmly established Caste System and almost all Free Persons belong to a Caste. The Caste system is a vital component of civilized Gorean society. In its most basic form, a Caste is your profession though there is much more involved than that. Your Caste defines your codes of conduct, generally limits those you interact with, sets your place within the Gorean hierarchy, and so much more. Your Caste defines much of who you are on Gor, far more than any job on Earth ever would.
There are three basic categories outside of the caste system: Priest-Kings, outlaws and slaves. Priest-Kings are the “gods” of Gor and live hidden away in the Sardar Mountains. A man who refuses to practice his livelihood or strives to alter status without consent of the Council of High Castes is by definition an outlaw. Outlaws belong to no city and usually live hidden in the forests, mountains or other isolated areas. Outlaws do not have identifying devices on their garb. Most cities will impale outlaws if they try to access the city gates. There are few outlaws on Gor as being cut off from Gorean society so to such a degree is a great onus. Slaves are considered property and have no status in the caste system. Any Caste they once had is stripped from them when they are enslaved.
There are also some peoples who do not fall into these three primary exceptions but are still outside the caste system. There are some people who have lost caste or been deprived of caste for various reasons. Some are born outside of the caste system. A few occupations are not traditionally associated with a caste, like gardening, domestic service and herding. There are also cultures and peoples on Gor without any caste system. But these peoples are traditionally considered barbarians and not a part of civilized Gor. These include such cultures as the Wagon Peoples, Torvaldslanders, Red Savages and the Tribesmen of the Tahari. All of these people are not considered outlaws though and are able to enter cities realatively freely.
Caste is primarily governed by birth. Children take on the caste of their father. If the mother does not share the caste of the father, there might be a problem if their Free Companionship eneded. In this case, it makes sense that the children would remain with the father as the children belong to his caste. Caste is far too important a matter to let the children go off with someone not of their caste. If mother and father shared caste, then the children could go with either parent. The books though do not make clear what happens to children when a Free Companionship ends.
The Caste system has little upward mobility though the opportunity does exist. Changing your Caste is generally not an easy task. Free Companionship is one method for free women to change their caste. Normally, relationships remain within the same caste. But, if of mixed caste, the woman can keep her own caste or take her partner’s caste. This can serve to raise her caste. Generally, a woman would not change her Caste to a lower one. Though her Caste changed, the woman could not fully practice her new Caste until she had been properly trained and met all other prerequisites. Another way for man or woman to change is their caste is through a showing or lack of ability. This can serve to either raise or lower your caste. To lower your Caste through a lack of ability, the High Council of the Caste would have to make that decision. To raise your caste or willingly change caste, the High Council of the city must approve the change, based on your qualifications for the new Caste and the willingness of the new Caste to accept you. Women are promoted and demoted by the same criteria as men though it varies from city to city.
To most Goreans though, it is unthinkable to alter their caste. Most Goreans are proud of their caste, even peasants and laborers. It is recognized that all, or at least most, castes perform necessary, useful or commendable tasks. Their skills are appreciated by others and not generally looked down on. Each caste views itself as special in some way. Each Caste has its place and worth in Gorean society. Metal Workers state: “Where would the dwellers of cities be without us?” (Dancer of Gor, p.293) This is a way of saying that their skills are essential for civilization. Even the lowest Caste, the Peasants, consider themselves the “Ox on which the Home Stone Rests.” They are the ones that provide the food for all other Castes.
Despite this respect for the place of each Caste within Gorean society, Caste discrimination is very common. “Language and city, and caste, however, are matters of great moment to them, and provide sufficient basis for the discriminations in which human beings take such great delight.” (Beasts of Gor, p.156) Entertainment and Free Companionships generally follow Caste lines. There are paga taverns that cater to the different Castes and a Peasant would not dare enter a High Caste tavern. Many Castes will not use the Long Bow because it is seen as a Peasant weapon and beneath higher castes. The Double Knowledge is a method of discrimination meant to keep the Lower Castes in their place. The Low Castes are generally not permitted to vote or be on the High Councils. The Castes are ranked from Highest to Lowest which alone signifies that some are better than others.
Castes are divided into High Castes and Low Castes. There are only five High Castes and include Initiates, Scribes, Builders, Physicians and Warriors. Each has its own color, respectively white, blue, yellow, green, red, which is also their ranking of order of importance. The High Castes elect the Administrator and Council of a city for stated terms. There are subcastes of some of these castes. For example, cartographers and lawyers belong to the Caste of Scribes. The Lower Castes includes all the other established castes. These includes such castes as assassins, bakers, bleachers, carriers of wood (woodsmen), charcoal makers, cloth worker, cosmeticians, dyers, goat-keepers, growers of rence, leather workers, metal workers, musicians, peasants, potters, saddle makers, singers (poets), smiths, tarn keepers, vintners, and weavers. There are many more castes and some subcastes. These castes are also ranked in order of their importance with peasants at the bottom of the ranking order.
Each caste has its own Caste Code to govern the conduct of its members. “The ethical teachings of Gor, ?,amount to little more than the Caste Codes—collections of sayings whose origins are lost in antiquity.” (Tarnsman of Gor, p.40-41) Unfortunately the books provide little details on the Caste Codes for each different Caste. Only the Warrior Caste receives any siginificant details on its Caste Codes. These Codes are vitally important to the Caste members and are generally followed by all. “It is the codes which separate men from sleen and larls,” (Slave Girl of Gor p.227) Failing to follow the Codes could lead to sanctions from your Caste.
Belonging to a Caste also gives you certain privileges. Charity is administered through the caste structure. Goreans do not favor begging and some even view it as an insult. When charity is in order, the caste or clan comes to the rescue. Caste Sanctuary, the protection of caste members in times of need, is another privilege. A Caste protects its own members and they form a cohesive unity. Caste rights are a matter of birth and you are entitled to them automatically, even if you never practice your caste work.
One commonly cannot practice a craft in a Caste until an apprenticeship is done though you might be able to do some subsidiary work in that craft without such practice. A Metalworker, who has not completed his apprenticeship, might be able to paint iron or transport it though he could not work the iron. An apprenticeship helps to guarantee the quality of the Caste’s products and services. Thus a Caste will consist of full working members of the Caste, members in training, and non-practicing members. Women of a caste often do not engage in caste work. Women generally do not work in Castes where physical strength is required. For example, women of the Metal Workers do not commonly work at a forge and women of the Builder’s do not supervise the construction of fortifications.
But, women do commonly work as Scribes and Merchants. There are even female slavers. Another notable exception is that of the Physician’s Caste. The Physician’s Caste though does restrict women in one way. The Caste will not permit a woman to practice medicine until she has first born two children. In many cities, at age fifteen, a woman of the Physician’s Caste dons two bracelets. One is removed for each child born, and when both are removed, she is allowed to practice medicine. The reason behind this is that it is understood that professional women tend not to reproduce themselves. This would serve over time to diminish the quality of the caste. Thus, the rule helps to preserve the future of the caste.
The future of the caste is vitally important to Goreans. The welfare of the caste takes priority over the ambitions of specific individuals. The welfare of a larger number of individuals is more important than the welfare of a smaller number of individuals. Caste is crucially important to Goreans in ways that those of Earth cannot easily comprehend. The importance of the caste to Goreans cannot be underestimated. Thus, the logic behind this restriction on women in the Physician’s Caste should apply as well to the Warrior Caste.
Why would the Warrior Caste allow women to risk their lives in combat? There would be more women dying in combat which would lead to fewer births. In addition, dead women could not raise their existing children. Goreans would not want their children to grow up with mothers. This would all diminish the quality of the caste over time. With the welfare of the caste at stake, Warriors would not permit women to engage in combat. In addition, women would not want to endanger the welfare of the caste so they would accept their role in the Caste. This may be one of the strongest single arguments against female warriors.
There are a number of key differences between the High and Low Castes. First, each learns a different type of knowledge concerning their world. The Low Castes learn the First Knowledge that is a simpler knowledge with a number of falsehoods and half-truths. They learn that the world is flat and are not taught of the existence of Earth. The High Castes have the Second Knowledge. They know about Earth and most of the true information about Gor though they know little of the true nature of the Priest-Kings. Most of them would have uncovered these truths on their own anyways. There is a Third Knowledge belonging to the Priest Kings, a knowledge of the many secrets of Gor.
The Low Castes are also very superstitious normally. They are reluctant to reveal their true names. They thus have both a use name and a real name. Often only close relatives know their real name. High Castes usually use their names freely though the Lowers believe they have use names. Knowing a real name supposedly gives one power, a capacity to use the name in spells and insidious magical practices. Many of the Low Castes believe in magic and that some people can read thoughts. They believe the stories of the wizards and monsters of Anango.
There is an accent that differentiates the High and Low Castes, though some of the higher artisan castes speak almostlike the High Caste. Illiteracy is common on Gor and is not taken as a mark of stupidity. Literacy usually follows by caste lines and many Goreans of the Low Castes cannot read. Even some of the High Castes, primarily warriors, may be illiterate. Some warriors feel that they should not be literate so they hide the fact that they can read.
The caste system is vital to the proper functioning of Gorean society. The caste system contributes considerably to the stability of society. It reduces competitive chaos, social and economic, and prevents the draining of intelligence and ambition into a small number of envied, prestigious occupations. By making each Caste important and instilling an attitude that the good of the Caste outweighs individual ambitions, people tend to remain in their Caste. Gorean society is not a battle over climbing a social ladder.
In your role-play, you should be proud of your caste and participate in Caste matters such as Caste leader elections. Goreans care about the future of their Castes. They place their personal desires below the welfare of their caste. If you are a Low Caste, remember the differences from the High Castes. Remember that you only have the First Knowledge and are likely illiterate. Respect those of Higher Caste than you. Follow your Caste codes.
On Gor, slavery is a complex institution, with its hundreds of aspects and facets, legal, social, economic and aesthetic. It is an ancient institution with a lengthy history of development. Gorean mythology even provides a story justifying the creation of slavery. Long ago, there once was a war between the men and women of Gor. The women were defeated. But, the Priest-Kings did not want all of the women killed so they made them beautiful. But as a price for their beauty, the Priest-Kings decreed that they would forever be slaves to men.
Long ago, there were a series of wars called the Slave Wars. They occurred among various cities in the middle latitudes, off an on, for over a period of about a generation. Though the wars involved large-scale slaving there were other causes too, like the levying of tribute and control of trade routes. Much of the merchant law about slaves grew out of these wars. The wars also developed some of the standardization of the slave as a commodity.
Goreans view slavery as a natural institution. Slavery has its basis in the biological differences of men and women. Male dominance is pervasive among mammals and universal among primates. Men see it as their right to be dominant. Many women also feel that is true. Female slaves are normally very satisfied in their bondage. Though initially they may rebel at the idea, they eventually grow to revel in their slavery. Feminism does not really exist on Gor. There are very few Goreans who wish an end to slavery.
Slavery is an important part of the economic fabric of Gorean society. The business of slavery keeps many castes working. From Metalworkers who create slave steel to Perfumers who make slave perfume, almost every caste benefits from slavery. Even Peasants benefit by using slaves as beasts of burden. Slaves perform many tasks on Gor, from the fields to the cities. Without the institution of slavery, there would be a vast economic hole in Gorean society.
The primary thing to consider is that slavery was not instituted solely to bring pleasure to men. Slavery has many other effects throughout society. Do not think only about paga slaves. Think of the many kettle and pot girls out there working. Think of the slaves to peasants toiling in the fields. Think of the state slaves cleaning the streets and working in the public laundries. Slavery is a vast entity with many aspects. Slavery is about far more than just sex.