Home Stone

To define the concept of a Home Stone is a difficult, if not impossible, task. It is a cultural concept that resists definition by outsiders and needs no definition within its own society. Thus, it is almost a contradiction to try to define it here, as it may be unfathomable to non-Goreans. Clarification will be attempted as to the basics of the Home Stone though this may be insufficient in truly defining the concept.

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, which in many respects is the very soul of a city. The Home Stone is a valuable symbol of sovereignty and territory. The very term "Gor" means Home Stone in all of the languages of Gor. It should also be mentioned that in the books, the term "Home Stone" is always capitalized and separated into two words.

Cities are vitally important to Goreans, far greater than the average Earth person considers his own city or country. A city is considered to be almost a living entity, one with a past, present and future. It is a complex entity, with many varied layers. Cities instill great loyalty and pride within their citizenry. As many Goreans rarely travel, their city may be the only location they ever truly know. Thus, the city is the center of their lives, the focal point of their existence. And thus, citizens work hard to defend their city and make it prosper.

A Home Stone is an actual stone and can be of various shapes, sizes, materials and colors. There are no standards for them and a Home Stone could be the most simple and common of rocks. A Home Stone could also be an intricately carved, valuable stone while others simply have a single letter etched into them, often the initial letter of the city. Some large cities have small stones, though the stones are of great antiquity. By tradition, the Home Stone of Ar, allegedly over ten thousand years old, is accepted as being the oldest Home Stone on Gor. Other cities have only recently acquired a Home Stone. For instance, Port Kar only acquired their Home Stone in 10120 C.A., during the events of Raiders of Gor.

A rock was picked up off the street and given to Tarl Cabot who then etched the initials of the city into it. Next, he presented it to the people of Port Kar who chose to accept it as their own. The acquisition of a Home Stone can be that simple. Basically, all it takes to create a Home Stone is for someone or a group to choose to have one. When Tarl offered the Home Stone to the people of Port Kar, it transformed them, unifying them when they faced a dire enemy who sought to conquer their city. It may seem like merely a rock, but it is a very potent symbol.

The history of the concept of the Home Stone extends back thousands of years. Its actual origin is unknown but there are some theories as to its creation. It is said that long ago, peasants used to construct circular huts, built around a flat stone. This stone would be carved with their family sign and eventually was called a Home Stone. Thus, each peasant, within his own hut, became a sovereign. Over time, as communities developed and expanded, the use of Home Stones extended to cover and unite villages, then towns and cities. In a village, the central Home Stone would be commonly placed in the central market area. In a city, the central Home Stone was usually placed freely in the top of the highest tower, often the Central Cylinder, though it was kept well guarded.

There are also several mythical accounts of the origin of the Home Stone. One of the most common of these stories revolves around the actions of Hesius, the mythical first man of Gor.

"One popular account has it that an ancient hero, Hesius, once performed great labors for Priest-Kings, and was promised a reward greater than gold and silver. He was given, however, only a flat piece of rock with a single character inscribed upon it, the first letter in the name of his native village. He reproached the Priest-Kings with their niggardliness, and what he regarded as their breach of faith. He was told, however, that what they gave him was indeed worth far more than gold and silver, that it was a 'Home Stone.' He returned to his native village, which was torn with war and strife. He told the story there, and put the stone in the market place.

'If the Priest-Kings say this is worth more than gold and silver,' said a wise man, 'it must be true.' 'Yes,' said the people. 'Whose Home Stone is it?' asked the people, 'yours or ours?' "Ours,' responded Hesius.

Weapons were then laid aside, and peace pledged. The name of the village was Ar.'"--Dancer, p. 302

Where a man sets his Home Stone down on a piece of land, he is claiming by law that land for himself. The Home Stone is integrally linked to a certain territory, from as small as a tiny hut to as large as a great city. Yet its power extends beyond that territory as well. For a Home Stone can be moved though that is rarely done. It most often occurs when the territory covered by the Home Stone is seriously threatened. Rather than allow the Home Stone to be conquered, taken as booty, the Home Stone may be secreted away. Thus, if a city is attacked, conquered and destroyed, then it may not signal a final death knell as long as the Home Stone survives. For example, when Ko-ro-ba was completely destroyed by an edict of the Priest-Kings, Matthew Cabot retained the Home Stone, thus keeping the city alive. Even though its citizens 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 still survived. Ko-ro-ba would later be rebuilt around its Home Stone at its original location.

There is a hierarchy of Home Stones as a person could be subject to multiple Home Stones. For example, a man may possess a household Home Stone but also live in a village that possesses its own Home Stone. The common bond of the Home Stone unites its people and they will support and protect all those who share their Home Stone. Even bitter enemies will assist each other to defend a shared Home Stone. Some Goreans desire a single supreme Home Stone for all of Gor though such a dream, considering the fierce independence of Goreans, is very unlikely to ever occur. Some people though believe that the Priest-Kings possess such a Home Stone, which is also the source of their great power.

The Home Stone is the center of various rituals within the cities such as the Planting Feast of Sa-Tarna. Each city has a citizenship ceremony where individuals, who reach the age of intellectual majority, swear an oath of allegiance to their city while touching or kissing the Home Stone. You cannot be a citizen of a city without pledging yourself to its Home Stone and you may not be pledged to the Home Stones of two different cities. You cannot possess such a split loyalty. You can renounce your Home Stone and change your citizenship to another city but this is rarely done. Loyalty to one's Home Stone is firmly ingrained in most people so such an idea is almost incomprehensible.

Stealing a Home Stone is a heinous sacrilege and punishable by the most painful and torturous of deaths. But, it is also considered one of the greatest glories to steal a Home Stone from another city. In Tarnsman of Gor, Tarl Cabot stole the Home Stone of mighty 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 became almost friends, Marlenus could not forgive him for the prior offense of stealing the Home Stone. As Ubar, Marlenus could never do so. The theft of a Home Stone is devastating to a city, almost as if you have torn its very soul from it. It most often means the death of a city, or at least a terrible decline.

But, stealing a Home Stone is not an easy task as it engenders great reservoirs of strength in those who cherish it. Even a trained warrior would be very wary of the lowest of Castes who were carrying their Home Stone. The loyalty and pride in your Home Stone seems to release 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 most would die to protect it. It is said that:

"Indeed, there is a saying on Gor, a saying whose origin is lost in the past of this strange planet, that one who speaks of Home Stones should stand, for matters of honor are here involved, and honor is respected in the barbaric codes of Gor."--Tarnsman, p. 27

This is sometimes taken to an extreme where a man might even be killed if he does not stand out of respect when he speaks of his Home Stone. There is no symbol on Earth that has a similar function to a Home Stone. Patriotism to a flag is but a pale analogy to the Home Stone. Goreans look down on Earth because there are no Home Stones there. They also believe that the lack of a Home Stone means that there are no legal reasons why the people of Earth cannot be enslaved.