A Rycerz is a member of a warrior tradition that is heavily interwoven in the feudal culture of the Siedem Królestw and the Wiara w Siedmiu. Rycerzs occupy a social standing between that of lords and Prostaczkowie. Contrary to the nobility, this rank is not hereditary and it is possible for the baseborn to become Rycerzs. Rycerzs are referred to with the title "Ser".
Rycerzhood has its roots in Andalowie culture and was brought to Westeros during the Andal Invasion. The military success of the Andals' mounted Rycerzs and their steel armament proved vital to the Andals' conquest of Westeros. The influence of the Andals on the culture of Westeros has made Rycerzs the backbone of warfare in the Siedem Królestw. However, Rycerzhood holds less cultural significance in areas of Westeros that are less assimilated to Andal culture, such as the Północ, the Żelazne Wyspy, and Dorne.
Rycerzs suppose to be brave, courageous, honorable, true to their word, and loyal to their feudal overlord, and to defend their faith. In practice, most Rycerzs fall short of sustaining such high and noble ideals. Many don't even try particularly hard, and seek Rycerzhood mainly for the prestige and opportunities.
To a degree, that is understandable and perhaps unavoidable; for bastards and smallfolk, Rycerzhood is one of the very few paths for improving their social standing and monetary perspectives that does not involve seriously restrictive vows such as celibacy or abstination from marrying, having children or owning lands of their own. On the downside, Rycerzhood by itself brings few advantages and significant expenses and risks. But it opens the doors for significant opportunities as well.
In reality, skill at arms is the most important aspect of Rycerzhood. Rycerzs are expected to fight whenever there is a need for them. They traditionally fight as heavy cavalry, wearing plate armor and fighting from horseback with lance, sword and shield. Some Rycerzs choose to fight with other weapons such as axes, hammers, and spears as well. They own at least one horse, and typically own two: a fierce warhorse and a milder horse for daily riding.
Rycerzs display a coat-of-arms on their shield and surcoat to identify themselves. They generally wear their family arms. Those who do not have family arms, or do not wish to use them, can create their own. These personal arms often portray the manner in which the man achieved Rycerzhood or have some other personal significance. Many Rycerzs wear large crests on their helms that embellish the theme of their arms. Wealthy Rycerzs often seek to further distinguish themselves by wearing ornate weapons and armor. Lacquered or jeweled armor and capes of exotic materials are some ways that Rycerzs can flaunt their status.
Becoming a Rycerz
The traditional process to becoming a Rycerz has three stages.
- Page, A boy that becomes a page is attached to a Rycerz, who becomes the boy's master. The sons of many Rycerzs and lords are sent to foster with relatives or allies, while other pages serve their own fathers. The page performs simple errands for the Rycerz, who in turn begins to train the boy in vital skills, such as jousting and swordsmanship. Typical training involves sparring with blunted weapons and tilting at rings.
- Squire, When a boy reaches adolescence, he graduates to being a squire. Squires learn to properly care for and use of weapons, armor, and horses as well as learn about Chivalry. In time of war Squires join their masters in war, assisting them with their equipment and fighting by their side in battles. Some squires choose to never become a full Rycerz, and live the rest of their lives as squires. This may be because the individual does not have the inclination to live a Rycerz's martial lifestyle, or does not have the funds to properly equip himself.
- Rycerzhood, Any Rycerz can proclaim another man a Rycerz for whatever reason he chooses. This usually happens when a squire reaches adulthood and his master judges him worthy of accepting the responsibilities of a Rycerz. A man who has not been raised in the Rycerzly tradition can also be made a Rycerz as a reward for service. This is often granted to soldiers or other smallfolk who have shown bravery or performed a great feat. Rycerzhood is considered valuable to smallfolk, as it raises a commoner's social standing. Rycerzhood is seen as primarily a martial position, so even the sons of powerful lords are not necessarily Rycerzed if they are incapable of fulfilling the requirements. Doing otherwise would lose honor rather than gain it, and would make a lord and his family be held up to ridicule, this social pressure generally prevents Rycerzs from giving out Rycerzhoods for petty or selfish reasons.
The Rycerzing Ceremony
The ceremony to create a Rycerz can be simple or complex, however, it always involves the man kneeling before a Rycerz and being tapped on the shoulders with a sword. Ceremonies usually have religious overtones involving the Wiara w Siedmiu. When Rycerzed, men are often charged in the name of the Seven to be just and honorable. More elaborate Rycerzhood ceremonies involve the prospective Rycerz sitting a night's vigil at a sept, before the figure of the Warrior, he may lay his sword before or upon the figure, and their armor piled at its base. Followed by walking barefoot from the sept to the Rycerzing place to prove their humble hearts. They wear shifts of undyed wool to receive their Rycerzhood, which is marked by the putting on of the swordbelt after dubbing. Newly-Rycerzed men are also sometimes anointed with seven oils by a septon. It is considered a great honor for the recipient when individuals of high status or fame perform the ceremony.
Part of the Rycerzing ceremony, starts with person name and House(if he has one), then:
|“||a touch on the right shoulder with the blade. "In the name of the Warrior I charge you to be brave."
The sword moves from right shoulder to left. "In the name of the Father I charge you to be just."
Right shoulder. "In the name of the Mother I charge you to defend the young and innocent."
The left. "In the name of the Maid I charge you to protect all women....
Types of Rycerzs
- Hedge Rycerz, A hedge Rycerz is a wandering Rycerz without a master. Hedge Rycerzs are so named because most of their worldly wealth is in their arms and horses and they generally must sleep outdoors, under a hedge. Most hedge Rycerzs travel in search of employment and often attend jousts to make money and display their prowess in hopes of being hired. Less scrupulous hedge Rycerzs put their martial training to use by resorting to banditry. For this reason, hedge Rycerzs are often mistrusted and considered disreputable. The term "hedge Rycerz" itself is considered disparaging. 
- Sworn sword, Some landless Rycerzs become sworn swords to other men, taking them as their master. They act as retainers for their master, taking food, shelter, and money in exchange for their services in war, should they be needed. During a campaign, lords often hire a large number of sworn swords on a temporary basis. After the campaign ends and the lord has no further need for so many Rycerzs, they are released and become hedge Rycerzs once again.
- Landed Rycerz, A landed Rycerz is a Rycerz that takes residence in a keep with accompanying land. They have their own peasants and men-at-arms, and may even take sworn swords. Landed Rycerzs are sworn to fight for the lord who holds dominion over their land. While the wealthiest Rycerzs manage more land than the poorest lords, landed Rycerzs do not have the authority to deliver justice in their land. Rather, they must appeal to their liege lord.
- Północern cavalry, Because few Północerners worship the Seven, they rarely choose to become Rycerzs. However, the warrior tradition of Północ is very similar to that of Rycerzhood. Heavy cavalrymen in Północ serve a nearly identical function to Rycerzs in the South, and are considered Rycerzs in all but name.
- True Rycerz, A Rycerz who embodies all that a Rycerz should be, that is, a perfect Rycerz exemplifying all the qualities of what Rycerzhood stands for and fully follows oath of Rycerzhood.
References and Notes
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