The condition of slavery does not require the collar, or the brand, or an anklet, bracelet or ring, or any such overt sign of bondage. Such things, as symbolic as they are, as profoundly meaningful as they are, and as useful as they are for marking properties, identifying masters, and such, are not necessary to slavery. They are, in effect, though their affixing can legally effect imbondment, ultimately, in themselves, tokens of bondage, and are not to be confused with the reality itself. The uncollared slave is not then a free woman but only a slave who is not then in a collar. Similarly a slave is still a slave even if her brand could be made to magically disappear or, if she has been made a slave in some other way, if she has not yet been branded." pg 273 Renegades of Gor
On Gor, it was much easier to distinguish the free from the enslaved, society permitted and encouraged the use of brands and collars to identify property. Here, the symbols are not as frequent, and society is not as nonchalant about their open display. Iron collars are rarely soldered onto the necks of young bond maids, nor is it as easy to brand a female as just taking her to the local metal workers shop.
Norman discussed on the psychological impact of varied markings, from the brand to the collar to the piercing of ears. Some of these symbols of slavery may lack significance in our society where ear piercing is a casual event. Often it becomes more of a "why" we do things rather than "what" the actual things are. While others may not understand the significance of a steel necklace, anklet, tattoo or brand... the slave knows... and just the mere presence of it can be a delicious reminder of her nature even when she is wearing a power suit or in other situations where her slavery may not be obvious to observers.
Norman describes two specific types of markings in the books, and their different uses:
"The brand is to be distinguished from the collar, though both are a designation of slavery. The primary significance of the collar is that it identifies the master and his city. The collar of a given girl may be changed countless times, but the brand continues throughout to bespeak her status. The brand is normally concealed by the briefly skirted slave livery of Gor but, of course, when the camisk is worn, it is always clearly visible, reminding the girl and others of her station." pg 187 Outlaw of Gor
This makes sense, even in todays society. Since no one is guaranteed a permanent ownership, even with the best of intentions, it simply makes sense for the man to permanently mark his property as "slave" but to save the personal markings for something that he can remove when his ownership of her ends. To do otherwise is to invite a fate similar to the sad tales of those lovestruck unfortunates who tattoo a lovers name on their flesh, only to have the relationship fall apart six weeks later.
kaylee was marked with a tattoo, two kanji symbols which read "woman under Masters hand". She is marked because she is slave, however, she is not slave because she is marked. The symbol was placed on her by the will of a man, without her opinion being asked or considered, and the complete helplessness of slavery was driven home very strongly. The mark is a more powerful symbol than the steel locked around her neck, because this will stay even when the collar is removed. It is etched into her flesh, not just enclosing it, to become part of *her*. The seriousness of the pain is not as important as the symbolism, and the knowledge it drove home. For that, she is grateful to him, for finding her worth the time to mark her. Did it make her any more slave? No. But it did impact her emotionally that her body was no longer her own, and the fact he was capable of permanently altering her body whenever and however he wished.
"It hurt terribly to be whipped, and branded," she said. "Yes?" I said.
"And yet, because of these things, I stand wonderfully and vulnerably in awe of you, and of men in general," she said.
"What thrills you, " I said, "is not the whip, not the iron, not the pain, but masculine domination. It is that to which you, unknown to yourself, are responding. What is not important is whether the Master whips you or not, but that you know he is fully capable of whipping you, and will, if you are not pleasing"pg 360 Tribesmen of Gor
She knew it was coming, as she does the other markings if and when he chooses to place on her (he saved the kef for her thigh if he decided to brand her later). But when she walked into the place, and the tattoo artist kept asking her what she wanted on her skin, and she kept having to tell him each time to speak with Master on *his* preferences... she was sure the tattooist thought she had lost her mind. Her belly was a mixture of fear, butterflies, and excitement.
Words cannot express her emotions, although it did not sink in truly till a few days later. She was terrified that she would not like the design, and would live with it even if the collar was removed from her neck, or that other men later might find it unattractive, if he is no longer in her life. She was terrified that something would happen to him, and she would wear something of his after his death, something she could not remove and put away while she mourned. That is why he chose to mark her as slave, but not as his slave... so that she does not sport any personal initials or names of men who have since ceased to be in her life. She was shy about showing it, because the depth that it affected her was so intimate.
At times, he marks her with pen or henna. His reasons might vary, at times it is simply because it pleases him, or to teach her a lesson, or to remind her of her place. But what it reminds her mostly is that he is capable of marking her as he wishes, and she has no doubt he will continue to do so, in his own way, for as long as it pleases him. She finally got to that peaceful place where she can be proud of the symbol of her slavery and say with grateful happiness, "I am marked because a man wished it so."
The marking of a slave is a giant step, a crossing over a point of no return. When a womans body is touched, by a mans will and not her own free choice, with inked needles or hot iron, she can no longer say, "I was just playing." The truth of her choices, and of her owners choices, is right there on her skin, silent but unavoidable. For those of you who have decided it is indeed time to mark your property, here are a few thoughts:
Brands have a powerful symbolism, but they also carry some disadvantages compared to tattoos. Sometimes, brands will heal completely over the course of a few years, whereas tattoos are typically more permanent, unless deliberately and painfully removed. Tattoos also lend themselves to finer detail; the scarring from a brand will widen a bit from the original strike, so more intricate designs dont really lend themselves to that technique.
The most-commonly discussed slave marks in the Gorean community on Earth are, of course, the staff-and-fronds of the classic Kef, and the rose for a Dina. The Chinese symbol "Nù" , representing the idea "woman under masters hand", is also popular. Think very carefully before placing a more personal sort of mark on your slave... just because a certain woman will always be, by nature, a slave, doesnt necessarily mean that shell always be your slave. Norman thought, and I agree with him, that the owners name should only be indicated on collars or tags which can, if necessary, be removed.
If you do decide to go for branding, make sure youre dealing with an experienced and skillful practitioner, and certainly dont try this at home. Fakir Musafar in San Francisco and Pere, in Chicago, are both reputable branders; there are plenty of others, but do your research first.
Until next month... I wish you well.
Gabriel and kaylee write a monthly column about issues pertaining to the lifestyles of Goreans on Earth. Questions, comments, and suggestions or requests for topics can be addressed to Gabriel@gor-on-earth.com