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The Goa'uld (pronounced go-ah-OOLD, commonly GOOLD, or go-OOLD) are a fictional parasitic alien race in the science fiction television series Stargate SG-1 universe. They look like snakes but they normally insinuate themselves into the brains of large animals, which they can then control. They find humans particularly suitable as hosts.

Most Goa'uld pose as gods to control slave armies and are considered evil, egocentric and megalomaniacs by those who do not worship them. "Goa'uld" means "God" in the Goa'uld language. The higher echelon of Goa'uld formed a loose association of System Lords. However, there exists a rebellious offshoot of the species, the Tok'ra, that rejects the God/Slave paradigm of the mainstream Goa'uld and prefers to merge only with voluntary hosts. A singular Goa'uld is sometimes referred to as a symbiote, more often when the host and parasite have a free, benign, synergistic relationship as with the Tok'ra.

The Goa'uld were the primary enemies of SG-1 for most of the series, although in Season 9 they were supplanted in this role by the Ori after the fall of the System Lords.

On their native homeworld (known only by its SGC designation, P3X-888 and its address () the Goa'uld begin their lifecycle as relatively helpless aquatic larvae, spawned in large numbers by a Goa'uld queen. Those that survive to maturity develop elaborate fins that allow them to spring powerfully out of the water to burrow into a suitable creature's neck. The Unas evolved on the same world and were their original favored host. Rather than remain on their homeworld P3X-888, the Goa'uld, inside their Unas hosts, used that planet's Stargate to emigrate to other worlds. They then infiltrated and invaded other alien races until they had conquered the entire Milky Way Galaxy. Eventually, their race began dying out, until Supreme System Lord Ra discovered Earth and the ancient humans living there; humans proved to be a much more suitable host-race for the Goa'uld, as human bodies were easier to repair, and human hands and voices offered much greater opportunity for expression and technological use; use of the Unas as a host was phased out. Once a Goa'uld takes a host it is not easy for it to switch to another; it loses its fins and its body appears to atrophy significantly. Starfaring Goa'uld developed an alternative lifecycle from those in the wild; modifying a race of humans into Jaffa to act as incubators for their larvae. This was apparently done both to produce powerful warrior servants and to improve the ability of the larval Goa'uld to take a human host on maturity; Goa'uld larvae that grow up "in the wild" have only a fifty percent chance of being able to take a host whereas Jaffa-reared larvae are universally capable. Nevertheless, the Goa'uld are not a numerous species. Selmak estimated that there were "dozens of the ranks of System Lords, thousands of [adult] Goa'uld in general."

The native Goa'uld on their original world did not have naqahdah in them, but the ones on other worlds did. The show offered no backstory to explain how this happened and only stated it.

The era of the political dominance of the Goa'uld over the galaxy is believed to have begun soon after Ra's discovery of human hosts sometime in the ninth or eighth millennium BC and lasted until the Replicator invasion of the galaxy in 2005.


In 8000 B.C., the Goa'uld were a dying race. They infested the native Unas and learned on how to activate the Stargate. But even with their hosts, they couldn't sustain themselves for long. One Goa'uld, Ra came upon a world called Earth and named the native sentient species Tau'ri (The First Born). Realizing that within a human host the Goa'uld could remain alive indefinitely, they then enslaved Earth and took the people as hosts, using the Jaffa as incubators and the rest as slaves. They posed as Earth's gods (excluding the Norse). They transferred the humans across many planets to mine naquadah, later abandoning those planets when the mines ran out. However, the Tau'ri of Earth rebelled, forcing Ra to abandon the planet, and the Goa'uld forgot about Earth for almost 5000 years.

The Tau'ri became a threat to the Goa'uld again in ca. 1996, when Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson traveled through the Stargate, killed Ra, and later managed to thwart an invasion by Apophis. After the death of the Goa'uld queen Hathor, the Goa'uld System Lords—the governing body of all Goa'uld—made plans to attack Earth, but were forced to change their plans when the Protected Planets Treaty between the Goa'uld and the Asgard was amended to include Earth.

After the death of the Goa'uld Cronos and Apophis, there was a massive civil war between the remaining System Lords to fill the power void. A mysterious force was taking advantage of the war to gain power for themselves. At a meeting of the System Lords, a truce was settled on and an alliance discussed. The final guest who arrived, Osiris, claimed she (Osiris had a female host, despite typically having had male hosts before) was representing Anubis, a System Lord long thought dead who proposed to destroy the Tau'ri in exchange for being allowed to return as a System Lord. All of the major System Lords except Yu supported Osiris' proposal. Although, when Anubis failed, the System Lords then joined forces to destroy him, but his massive mothership held a strategic advantage over them.

When Lord Yu was unable to lead the Alliance (He had to use the sarcophogus often), Ba'al was chosen to lead them and successfully destroyed Anubis' mothership over the planet Langara. But still Anubis' forces kept Ba'al's forces at bay.

The Protected Planets Treaty was broken when Anubis attacked Earth, thinking the humans knew the location of Lost City of the Ancients. His defeat by the Ancient drone weapons in Antarctica only widened the power vacuum, and the System Lords tried to avoid further war by dividing his forces and territory. Ba'al then found Tartarus (The location of where the Kull Warriors are created) and reprogrammed the drones to serve him. Using all of Anubis' forces, Ba'al began a full scale assault against those Goa'uld, who were not loyal to him.

Desperate, the System Lords tried to convince the Tau'ri to use their weapons from the Ancients against Ba'al, but the Tau'ri had no interest in interfering with the Goa'uld affairs. The System Lords were then forced into a standoff. Soon after, the Replicators began to defeat the System Lords and eventually killed every last one. But the Replicators were defeated by the Tau'ri, Tokr'a, Asgard and Ba'al using an Ancient Weapon on the planet Dakara, a place sacred to the Jaffa.

The taking of Dakara was a catalyst for the rebellion of the Jaffa, and the remaining Goa'ulds lost most of their Jaffa after it was liberated, thus ending the eight year conflict.

Most Goa'uld like to take the name of a classical god from Earth, especially those of ancient Egypt, but not the Norse gods (whose identities were assumed by other alien races). Only three Goa'uld, Cronus, Ares, and Athena have been seen to pose as Greek gods, as the Goa'uld predate the olympian pantheon. No known Goa'uld has ever used a name from the Abrahamic religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) either, though one Goa'uld (Sokar) pretended to be Satan to a group of medieval Christians. This is probably because these faiths deny a pantheon of gods and explicitly state that God chooses not to show his face, while the average Goa'uld's egomania is inherently publicity-seeking.
The Goa'uld are so egomaniacal that the term Goa'uld means either "Children of the Gods" or "Gods" in their language. There is still debate as to whether the Goa'uld assumed the names of deities that humans already worshiped or if the Egyptian, Chinese, Japanese, Hindu, Mesopotamian, Greco-Roman, and other ancient mythologies stem from the Goa'uld's one-time domination of (ancient) Earth.

The most powerful Goa'uld are called System Lords. They rule several planets, lead huge armies of Jaffa warriors, and maintain fleets of powerful spaceships that resemble pyramids. Major Goa'uld System Lords included Apophis, Ba'al, Heru'ur, Cronus, Nirrti, and Yu. Sokar, Osiris, and Anubis were former system lords. Many of them have since died during the progression of the show. The most powerful System Lord was Ra — until the Tau'ri killed him in the 1994 movie Stargate.

Goa'uld are able to pass their memories directly to their offspring through genetic memory. This can also occur when a pair of Goa'uld hosts mate and produce an offspring; the resulting child is biologically human but possesses "all the knowledge of the Goa'uld." Such a child is known as a Harcesis. Such a child would know the secrets of the Goa'uld, most importantly that they are not gods and the secrets of their technology, and could reveal to other humans that the Goa'uld were not gods and teach them about Goa'uld technology, which would cripple the Goa'uld's hold over their human and Jaffa slaves. For this reason, producing Harcesis children was strictly forbidden by the Goa'uld, and was one of the relatively few rules all Goa'uld abided by, and enforced by punishing Goa'uld who broke such rules. The genetic memory is considered to be a contributing factor to the cruel and power-hungry nature of the Goa'uld—essentially, they are born evil.

A Goa'uld-occupied host usually speaks in an eerily flanged, bass-augmented register, except when allowing the host to act freely, or when imitating a normal human. Recently, however, one Goa'uld has stated that the voice is not necessary, and that they can talk in normal tones. The voice may simply be used to differentiate between host and symbiote (as the Tok'ra do) or to frighten slaves.

Extreme emotions in the Goa'uld may cause the host's eyes to briefly glow; this also happens when the Goa'uld takes control of its host and when the host is killed.

The Goa'uld instill increased strength and remarkable healing abilities in their hosts. The host can continue to function even after sustaining injuries that would incapacitate or kill most humans (although the destruction of their vital organs is still immediately fatal for them), and has a lifespan of centuries (which System Lords commonly extend almost indefinitely through the technological means of a sarcophagus). Being a host is regarded as a living hell, and those hosts who have been under the control of Goa'uld for extended periods of time are widely suspected of having become insane. Most of the Goa'uld killed in Stargate SG-1 have been in a host which died along with them. The death of the host in these instances has generally been considered merciful. If any attempt is made to forcibly remove a Goa'uld from a host the Goa'uld may release a deadly toxin into the bloodstream of the host, killing the hapless individual. Nevertheless, the Tollan and the Tok'ra have found a surgical method of safely removing Goa'uld parasites with only minimal risk to either party, and the Asgard technician Hermiod recently discovered a method of removing a Goa'uld parasite using Asgard beam technology ("Critical Mass").

Goa'uld are parasitic in a technological sense as well. While many races in the galaxy, like the Asgard and the Ancients, developed their own technology over many thousands of years, the Goa'uld achieved their current level of technological strength by discovering or stealing the technology of other races and adapting it to their own use. It is unknown if any individual pieces of Goa'uld technology were actually developed originally by the Goa'uld themselves. More often than not the Goa'uld, in their arrogance, will claim to have 'invented' a piece of technology that they in fact did not. There is little doubt, however, that the Goa'uld do have inventors and technicians who have been seen to improve earlier technologies (for example, extending a cloak around an entire Ha'tak mothership, as in "The Serpent's Venom"). The Stargates themselves are a prime example of this. While they were created and built by the Ancients, the Goa'uld have controlled so many of the galaxy's Stargates for such a long period of time that they automatically take credit for their invention. This fiction is just another of the claims that helps reinforce the Goa'ulds' position as gods in the minds of those who are ruled by them.

Possibly because the Goa'uld spend no time developing new technologies, and because they likewise keep their servants from innovating and expanding, Goa'uld society has not changed noticeably in the millenia since they originally contacted the Tau'ri.

The Goa'uld are a strictly parasitic race. They rely on hosts for life, Jaffa for strength, and deception for power. Their technology is no different. The Goa'uld are scavengers, and their technology is a conglomeration of the discoveries and ingenuity of multiple races, including the Ancients.

All (or the vast majority) of Goa'uld technology contains, in some form or another, naqahdah, the material of which the Stargates are constructed. This material also flows in Goa'uld veins, and is often used as a key to their technology, much like the ATA gene. The devices of the Goa'uld, it should be noted, are mostly warlike in nature, reflecting the megalomaniacal nature of the species. It should also be noted that much of Goa'uld technology resembles real world Egyptian artifacts.

Known ships types include; Death Gliders, Ha'tak motherships, Tel'tak cargo/scout ships, and Al'kesh bombers.

  • Goa'uld symbiotes can be ground up, refined, and used as a drug called Tretonin. When used, the user gains many of the same health advantages having a Goa'uld symbiote allows. However, use of the drug also kills the human user's immune system. The drug also enabled the Jaffa to abandon the use of symbiotes to stay alive.
  • A sub-faction exists within the Goa'uld called the Tok'ra (meaning literally "Against Ra"), a group of Goa'uld who are opposed to the ways of the System Lords. Descended from the Goa'uld Queen Egeria, they share the desire to have a truly symbiotic relationship with their hosts. They are a resistance movement which attempts to overthrow the System Lords' tyranny. In addition, they have come up with several inventions that are truly their own, including force shields which allow specific one-way travel, a poison lethal solely to Goa'uld symbiotes, a derivative of the Re'ol chemical, and a method of artificial production of Tretonin. Although biologically the same species, Tok'ra prefer to not be referred to as Goa'uld.
  • Jack O'Neill pejoratively refers to all Goa'uld (even the Tok'ra), as "snakes" or "snakeheads" because of the serpentine shape of the Goa'uld symbiote.
  • Very Few Goa'uld Queens have been encountered in the Stargate SG-1 series. Only three have been seen in the show's run, and all three have since been killed. The first encountered by the Tau'ri was Hathor who, based on dialogue within the episode, might have been the oldest of the Queens and the first to spawn the Goa'uld as they are known today. The second queen encountered was the Tok'ra Egeria, who literally gave birth to the Tok'ra rebellion. The last was a nameless Goa'uld who was in league with Anubis in his plot to create his newly formed Kull Warrior army.
  • In Need it is revealed that continued use of the Sarcophagus causes changes in the user's brain chemistry which makes them more aggressive, an effect which increases with each successive use of the device. Samantha Carter suggested that the Goa'uld became so warlike and uncivilized because of their frequent use of the sarcophagus, a belief which the Tok'ra share.
An Ash'rak is a highly trained, highly dangerous Goa'uld assassin, usually employed by a System Lord. Ash'rak exhibit such techniques as technically advanced rings which can alter memories of those it is used upon, and one Ash'rak was seen to use a cloaking device similar in technology to that of the Goa'uld Nirrti.

An Ash'rak usually uses a Harakesh (aka Ash'rak device), which is a smaller version of the Goa'uld hand device, taking the form of an elaborate ring. Its function is to kill the Ash'rak's victim, but it is also frequently used to torture victims into releasing information. It is also capable of affecting other people to make them obey the Ash'rak's commands. Afterwards the victim remembers nothing of the Ash'rak.

Although Ash'raks have been important in the plot, and they have been mentioned numerous times, they have only been seen in two episodes.