Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Nature and Structure of Guilds

Most professions in the city have an organisation, called a guild. In terms of our world they are, at least in theory, part trade union or cooperative, part secret society or lodge, part charity, and part social club.

At one extreme, some guilds ensure that all members receive the same income for their efforts, and the Masters are masters only of their craft, not of younger members. Others will simply ensure that minimum standards of work are met in the trade. At their worst, guilds are a means for Masters to exploit Apprentices, or to practice discrimination against particular folk.

If a profession has more than one guild, they are usually divided by philosophy and bitter rivals. For example there are three guilds of mahoots, or elephant-handlers. Each has their own method of training elephants, which their members also follow in their daily lives. One advocates Kindness; another Violence; and a third Trickery.

Guilds usually have three ranks: Apprentice, Journeyman (or Journeywoman), and Master (or Mistress).

These ranks are associated with the three times of a woman's life: maiden, mother, and crone. A carpenter explained to me that an apprentice does not produce work, but is instructed in what they will need to do so; a journeyman produces work; and a Master no longer brings forth work, but instructs apprentices, and supports and advises journeymen. Thus, he said, the works of a craftsman are like the children borne by a mother.

In some guilds female members will be called Maiden, Mother and Crone rather than the usual titles of rank. In others they will be called Journeyman and Master rather than Journeywoman and Mistress. In many guilds all members will temporarily take on "the titles of motherhood" in ceremonies.

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