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The Home Stone

"In peasant villages on this world," he continued, "each hut was originally built around a flat stone which was placed in the center of the circular dwelling. It was carved with the family sign and was called the Home Stone. It was, so to speak, a symbol of sovereignty, or territory, and each peasant, in his own hut, was a sovereign."
Tarnsman of Gor, 2:26

It is a rock, usually a simple looking stone on which a letter is carved although as rich a stone as a topaz has been used. It is the center of many rituals, myths, beliefs and even laws. It is said that none would ever stand in the way of a man carrying a Home Stone, first as a show of the deep respect which the Home Stone commands, and second, for the fierceness with which it would be defended.

My father had risen to his feet and had begun to pace the room, and his eyes seemed strangely alive. In time I would come to understand more of what he felt. 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 of Gor, 2:27

..."Beware," he said, "I carry a Home Stone."
I stood back and made no move to draw my weapon. Though I was of the caste of warriors and he of peasants, and I armed and he carrying naught but a crude tool, I would not dispute his passage. One does not lightly dispute the passage of one who carries his Home Stone.
Nomads of Gor, 1:1

It sits at the centermost point of the hut, the village or the city, and although the more commonly spoken of Home Stone is that of a city, we are told that each man having earned the right to have a Home Stone, would have such an item in his home.

"What is your caste?" I asked.
"I am of the peasants," he said proudly. It was a large, broad man, with yellow, shaggy hair. His hair, too, was sheared at the base of his neck; he, too, wore a collar of hammered iron.
"Do you have a city?" I asked.
"I had a free holding," he said proudly.
"A Home Stone?" I asked.
"Mine own," he said. "In my hut."
"Near what city," I asked, "did your holding lie?"
"Near Ar," said he.
Raiders of Gor, 8:84

The Home Stone, it would seem, holds the power to make or break a city by the mere fact of its existence and we are reminded at times, of the ancient rituals and beliefs surrounding tribal icons and totems, of the power they held in keeping tribes together and safe from disaster.

Historically, we are told that the very name of the planet, the 'rock' these people live on, is indeed the Gorean word for 'Home Stone'. We are also given the legend of Hesius, said to be one of the many mythical theories of the origin of the Home Stone, which claims to supply the origin of the tradition of Home Stones, and the origin of the very first of these Stones, that of the City of Ar.

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." It is generally accepted in Gorean tradition that the Home Stone of Ar is the oldest Home Stone on Gor.
Dancer of Gor, 20:302

There are, of course, less romantic theories on the origin of the Home Stone, socio-economic and political in nature. For example, some believe that the concept was born of a necessity to give the peasants and lower castes of the labor force a sense of belonging which would ensure their loyalty to a city, their willing participation to its development and survival.

...the free laborers share a Home Stone with the aristocracies of these cities, the upper castes, the higher families, the richer families, and so on. Accordingly, because of this commonality of the Home Stone, love of their city, the sharing of citizenship, and such, there is generally a harmonious set of economic compromises obtaining between the upper castes, and classes, and the lower castes, and the labor force, in general. Happily, most of these compromises are unquestioned matters of cultural tradition. They are taken for granted, usually, by ail the citizens, and their remote origins, sometimes doubtless the outcome of internecine strife, of class war, of street fighting and riots, of bloody, house-to-house, determinations in the past, and such, are seldom investigated, save perhaps by historians, scribes of the past, some seeking, it seems, to know the truth, for its own sake, others seemingly seeking lessons in the rich labyrinths of history, in previous human experience, what is to be emulated, and what is to be avoided. Some think that out of such crises came the invention of the Home Stone....
Dancer of Gor, 20:301-302

The various rituals which involve the Home Stone can be found scattered throughout the Chronicles of the Counter Earth, but would appear to have passed the barriers of distance in how alike they are, from city to city. Passage to adulthood, the time when a man or woman becomes full citizen of a given city, is habitually subject to a ceremony which involves touching and sometimes kissing the Home Stone. Planting feasts, those times of prayer for healthy crops, are also usually the source of Home Stone-centered festivities.

"I am surprised to hear such sentiments," I said, "from those who must once have held and kissed the Home Stone of Ar." This was a reference to the citizenship ceremony which, following the oath of allegiance to the city, involves an actual touching of the city's Home Stone. This may be the only time in the life of a citizen of the city that they actually touch the Home Stone. In Ar, as in many Gorean cities, citizenship is confirmed in a ceremony of this sort. Nonperformance of this ceremony, upon reaching intellectual majority, can be a cause for expulsion from the city. The rationale seems to be that the community has a right to expect allegiance from its members.
Vagabonds of Gor, 28:303

Warriors pledge their swords to them, and willingly die to protect them, not only that which they represent, but the physical rock itself. That the Stone remains intact, beyond even the people of its city, holds a degree of importance that gives the reader a sense of mythical power and life.

Home, on Gor, is not defined by territory, but by the presence of this Stone.

...The community could now, if it wished, the Home Stone moving, even migrate to new lands. In Gorean law allegiances to a Home Stone, and not physical structures and locations, tend to define communities.
Blood Brothers of Gor, 54:473-474

The concept of the Home Stone is perhaps one of the most intangible of Gorean beliefs. On one hand, we can compare the Stone to our Earth symbolism of flags, banners, armories. The warrior, for example, pledges his sword to it, citizens of a same city refer to each other as 'sharing a Home Stone'. Clearly, it symbolizes the heart of a city, a village, a home; the banner under which its citizens will rally.

We here on Earth fight for the flag, yet we understand that it is not the flag itself we fight for, but what it represents. In that, we can compare the notions to a degree. Yet limiting our study of this notion to this parallel is clearly not enough. Here on Earth, there is no one flag to a country, the symbol can then not be stolen as its representation would simply be replaced by another identical one. The 'concept' of the flag, does not reside in one physical item and in that we cannot sum up the concept of the Home Stone by comparing it to the flag.

...In the Home Stone-sometimes little more than a crude piece of carved rock, dating back perhaps several hundred generations to when the city was only a cluster of huts by the bank of a river, sometimes a magnificent and impressively wrought, jewel-encrusted cube of marble or granite-the city finds its symbol. Yet to speak of a symbol is to fall short of the mark. It is almost as if the city itself were identified with the Home Stone, as if it were to the city what life is to a man. The myths of these matters have it that while the Home Stone survives, so, too, must the city.

But not only is it the case that each city has its Home Stone. The simplest and humblest village, and even the most primitive hut in that village, perhaps only a cone of straw, will contain its own Home Stone, as will the fantastically appointed chambers of the Administrator of so great a city as Ar.
Outlaw of Gor, 2:22-23

Indeed, how to explain that the disappearance of what is physically a lifeless rock, could be the source of an entire empire's downfall? There are no easy answers to that question and one can only try to grasp the extent of the power which is accorded to the Home Stone and the depth of its influence on the Gorean people.

I looked at my father. "I am sorry," I said, "that Ko-ro-ba was destroyed."

My father laughed. "Ko-ro-ba was not destroyed," he said.

I was puzzled, for I myself had looked upon the valley of Ko-ro-ba and had seen that the city had vanished.

"Here," said my father, reaching into a leather sack that he wore slung about his shoulder, "is Ko-ro-ba," and he drew forth the small, flat Home Stone of the City, in which Gorean custom invests the meaning, the significance, the reality of a city itself. "Ko-ro-ba cannot be destroyed," said my father, "for its Home Stone has not perished!"

My father had taken the Stone from the City before it had been destroyed. For years he had carried it on his own person.
Priest-Kings of Gor, 33:304

Jason Marshall compares the Home Stone to the center point of a circle and in that perhaps symbolically at least, can we begin to glimpse at meaning. The Home Stone of a given home, village or city will indeed be central to the territory, but more importantly, the Stone is the center of the city's reason for existence. The example of Port Kar is undoubtedly the most powerful reminder of this.

The City of Port Kar, as we find it when Bosk first enters it, is clearly considered a land of 'nothingness'. The population of Port Kar is said to be of no particular belief or breed, composed of thieves, outlaws, and generally unwanted types rejected from other cities. Though it exists in the physical sense, buildings, ships, markets, various homes and such, we are given ample examples and comments on the absence of common purpose or value. The dark and unruly nature of the city is somehow acceptable and even expected that Port Kar cannot have this worth or value simply because it has no Home Stone. The men and women of Port Kar are, it seems, expected to behave in dishonorable and dishonest fashion and not truly found at fault for it, as if somehow, they could be no other way.

This becomes extremely vivid when the city itself is threatened and its people run. Port Kar, though it is their home and where their lives and assets lay, is unworthy of dying for, and as a Home Stone is produced, the mindset of an entire population changes. As if magically, the physical existence of this stone gives the city a life it did not have. We are witness to a complete turn about of attitude then, which is difficult to understand, as much as it was to grasp the lack of interest which was demonstrated before this Stone appeared.

"And what of Port Kar?" I asked.
"She has no Home Stone," said one of the men.
I smiled. It was true. Port Kar, of all the cities on Gor, was the only one that had no Home Stone. I did not know if men did not love her because she had no Home Stone, or that she had no Home Stone because men did not love her.
The officer had proposed, as clearly as one might, that the city be abandoned to the flames, and to the ravaging seamen of Cos and Tyros.
Port Kar had no Home Stone.
"How many of you think," I asked, "that Port Kar has no Home Stone?"
The men looked at one another, puzzled. All knew, of course, that she had no Home Stone.
There was silence.
Then, after a time, Tab said, "I think that she might have one."
"But," said I, "she does not yet have one."
"No," said Tab.
"I," said one of the men, "wonder what it would be like to live in a city where there was a Home Stone."
"How does a city obtain a Home Stone?" I asked.
"Men decide that she shall have one," said Tab.
"Yes," I said, "that is how it is that a city obtains a Home Stone."
The men looked at one another.
"Send the slave boy Fish before me," I said.
The men looked at one another, not understanding, but one went to fetch the boy.
I knew that none of the slaves would have fled. They would not have been able to. The alarm had come in the night, and, at night, in a Gorean household, it is common for the slaves to be confined; certainly in my house, as a wise precaution, I kept my slaves well secured; even Midice, when she had snuggled against me in the love furs, when I had finished with her, was always chained by the left ankle to the slave ring set in the bottom of my couch. Fish would have been chained in the kitchen, side by side with Vina.
The boy, white-faced, alarmed, was shoved into my presence.
"Go outside," I told him, "and find a rock, and bring it to me."
He looked at me.
"Hurry!" I said.
He turned about and ran from the room.
We waited quietly, not speaking, until he had returned. He held in his hand a sizable rock, somewhat bigger than my fist. It was a common rock, not very large, and gray and heavy, granular in texture.
I took the rock.
"A knife," I said.
I was handed a knife.
I cut in the rock the initials, in block Gorean script, of Port Kar.
Then I held out in my hand the rock.
I held it up so that the men could see.
"What have I here?" I asked.
Tab said it, and quietly, "The Home Stone of Port Kar."
"Now," said I, facing the man who had told me there was but one choice, that of flight, "shall we fly?"
He looked at the simple rock, wonderingly. "I have never had a Home Stone before," he said.
"Shall we fly?" I asked.
"Not if we have a Home Stone," he said.
I held up the rock. "Do we have a Home Stone?" I asked the men.
"I will accept it as my Home Stone," said the slave boy, Fish. None of the men laughed. The first to accept the Home Stone of Port Kar was only a boy, and a slave. But he had spoken as a Ubar.
"And I!" cried Thurnock, in his great, booming voice.
"And I!" said Clitus.
"And I!" said Tab.
"And I!" cried the men in the room. And, suddenly, the room was filled with cheers and more than a hundred weapons left their sheaths and saluted the Home Stone of Port Kar. I saw weathered seamen weep and cry out, brandishing their swords. There was joy in that room then such as I had never before seen it. And there was a belonging, and a victory, and a meaningfulness, and cries, and the clashing of weapons, and tears and, in that instant, love.
Raiders of Gor, 16:250

Similar situations are seen throughout the series; the theft of the luck of Ar for example, sending the entire city into a chaos so intense that we almost expect the skies to darken. The survival of the Home Stone of Ko-Ro-Ba, although the entire city has been destroyed, seeming to be more important than the walls and buildings themselves and unquestionably believed to be motive enough for the scattered citizens of the former city to travel back to its ruins and rebuild. The keeping of conquered cities' Home Stones in the conquering city as was done by Ar, ensuring its power over them, is yet another example of the powers attributed to the symbol as well as to the physical object itself.

...I think the explanation for the Gorean political arrangements and attitudes in the institution of the Home Stone. It is the Home Stone which, for the Gorean, marks the center. I think it is because of their Home Stones that the Gorean tends to think of territory as something from the inside out, so to speak, rather than from the outside in. Consider again the analogy of the circle. For the Gorean the Home Stone would mark the point of the circle's center. It is the Home Stone which, so to speak, determines the circle. There can be a point without a circle; but there can be no circle without its central point. But let me not try to speak of Home Stones. If you have a Home Stone, I need not speak. If you do not have a Home Stone, how could you understand what I might say?
Fighting Slave of Gor, 11:144

Confusing at best, this God-like property given to a single item, but then maybe it is that its meaning is simply not something we here on Earth have what it takes to understand. It is no wonder John Norman so often mentions the necessity of looking at Gor from the inside, and how impossible it is to understand this world from the outside.

...Perhaps the most significant difference between the man of Earth and the Gorean is that the Gorean has a Home Stone, and the man of Earth does not. It is difficult to make clear to a non-Gorean the significance of the Home Stone, for the non-Gorean has never had a Home Stone, and thus cannot understand its meaning, its reality. I think that I shall not try to make clear what is the significance to a Gorean of the Home Stone. It would be difficult to put into words; indeed, it is perhaps impossible to put into words; I shall not try. I think this is one of the saddest things about the men of Earth, that they have no Home Stone.
Slave Girl of Gor, 9:213-214



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Revised: August 07, 2011