What is that big ax?

The labrys is less popular now that it once was, even though its connection to lesbianism and women began thousands of years ago. The labrys is basically a double bladed axe or hatchet which can be used for both harvesting and as a weapon. The first  labrys is believed to have been created over 8,000 years ago. It was favored by tribes of female Amazons that roamed the area around what is now Kazakstan in central Asia. It has also been linked to the early town of Catal Huyuk in what is now Turkey around 6,000 BCE as a tool for clearing ground. Catal Huyuk was a peaceful town which worshipped the Earth goddess and prospered without conflict for 1,500 years.

An ancient civilization on the island Crete in the Mediterranean Sea also held the labrys in high standing. Little was known about the Minoan civilization (it lasted from around 3,000 to 1,100 BCE) except myths until archaeologists began excavating relics from Crete’s pre-Minoan era around the beginning of the 20th century. The most amazing discovery on the island was the palace of Knossos, believed to be the royal palace, along with a 35,000 square foot maze of rooms and hallways. This maze was prolifically decorated with a double-axe motif, especially the principal reception room. The term labyrinth is derived from labrys. This site is believed to be linked to the myth of the minotaur.

The Minoan society, although possessing both a king and queen near its end, was predominantly matriarchal. Their religion centered around a bare-breasted Great Goddess who is believed to have been a protector of women. This goddess is often shown holding snakes in her hands, a symbol of fertility and agriculture, and surrounded by female worshippers with double axes which were used for tilling soil. Preserved frescos from the time period also tend to show more girls than boys, usually in such dangerous sports as bull jumping (bulls were also a reoccurring theme in Minoan art).

The double axe quickly spread across Europe, becoming popular with the Etruscans, the Gauls, the Druids, and the Scandinavians. The labrys kept its religious connotation even when it was adopted by other cultures, having been scratched into a good many surfaces during pagan times. When the Roman Empire came along, the plow replaced the labrys as far as farming went, but it remained a formidable weapon. The labrys began to be seen less and less religiously, and soon took on the name “battleaxe” instead. From there it was passed through successive generations of war-torn Europe until it was replaced in popularity by the sword.

The labrys was resurrected as a female symbol in the 1970s by a number of lesbian and feminist organizations. It’s popularity grew when articles about its origins were published in feminist literature of the time. Today, the labrys has been superseded by other symbols, but can still be seen adorning jewelry and women’s specialty stores.



19 responses to “What is that big ax?

  1. This is RACISM !
    WE are ALL HUMANS ! WE all have a heart and soul. WE ALL have masculine and feminine at different degres. We’re one ! Be open to oneness ! Love your enemies, really, you hate them because of your perception, nothing else. Open your eyes, learn, be humble. And learn more, and more… This will “open” yourself to the universe, and you’ll be content. Complaining of “others” is a mark of not loving yourself ! Can’t you do better than this ? This is regression 70S style… In Ontario, Canada, in the Human Rights Code, since summer 2011, the gender identities and expressions have been added to the black or white identities ! There’s so many shades of gray, every single one of us is DIFFERENT. Facism is proof of unintelligence. I wish I was born in the years 3,000…

  2. I am reading “the Creation of Patriarchy” by Gerda Lerner and just got through the part about Catal Huyuk – cool coincidence I ran across this page! She didn’t mention this badass axe, though, which is unfortunate. Thanks for the history lesson on this, I am going to have to do some more research to satisfy my curiosity!

  3. i take comfort in knowing that 98% of the “actual” feminists out there believe that the kind of hate speech promoted all over this website is bullshit and does not represent actual feminism. just because you took a college class on privilege, it does not mean that you are a victim everywhere you go, and it does not mean that your hatred is whats being victimized. this website is ignorant bigotry and everything you learned about trans women was probably either at the dumb michigan festival (i dunno why anyone with any sense of what is cool would ever want to attend a festival in michigan regardless of its purpose), or in a club that is for lesbians and gays, or on jaded malignorant websites like this. the kind of political agenda you have here is a microcosm of your urge to put all transwomen in concentration death camps. we are not your enemy, but you are ours. not just transwomen, but the greater view of feminism as a whole. please continue by either silencing my voice, or making some kind of cognitively dissonant joke that only your hater friends will cheaply chuckle at in the face of pure reason. or maybe you want to talk about how my flacid inoperable castrated dangling little white penis is somehow a threat and representative of male dominated porn? whatever your defense, the world can be sure that it is full of irrational hatred, ignorance and fear. a constant state of fear about something is scientifically proven to dumb you down.

    • Most women know you’re a man. They’re afraid to say that out loud.

      • Well, most women know you’re a b**tch. But no one’s afraid to say that.

        (Cue 90’s, Meredeth Brooks song.)

      • Calling women “bitch” is misogyny when men like you say it.

      • Right. Because you can only be misogynistic, and hateful, if your body is shaped a certain way.

        Nope. Nothing bigoted or evil about that philosophy.

        You don’t vilify people for their body parts, right?


        No, you’re for EQUALITY.

        You would never do that.


        Besides, you’re just going to dismiss me as misogynistic for even existing, anyway.

        So what does it matter, what word I use?


        The good thing about being trans, you get to be a “A douchebag, a bastard, a cunt, a bitch, an asshole, a dick, a monster, a freak, an ABOMINATION OF SCIENCE”.

        You pretty get called, all of those things.

        The slurs directed at you, cease to be grounded in gender, depending on who’s insulting you.


        So to me, it just a word.

        (A slightly offensive word, with somewhat positive connotations, on occasion.)


        But I apologize, if I offended you.

        I know only YOU, truly get to decide who’s a woman, and who’s not.


        Like, I’m sure 50 years ago, you would have said those “Coloreds” weren’t really women either,

        (Not the same way you were, anyway.)


        Because feminism has always been about middle class white ladies pissing on anyone that’s not them.

        (And portraying anyone with a different anatomy than their own, as a fucking monster.)


        That’s the “equality” you like to promote.

        So that’s cool. I applaud you for it.

        Way to go.


        Most people wouldn’t be brave enough to stand against medically established facts and evidence.

        But as a transphobic, hate filled lesbian – you obviously DO.


        You’re kind of like the creationists, in that regard:

        “Who needs science, when you got a gut feeling, and some prejudice”?


        So yeah, fine.

        I’ll by your monster.

        I’ll be your sacrificial witch.

        I’ll be your huckleberry.


        I mean really, what choice do I have?

        (Even if I don’t want to be.)


        So go get your pitchforks, and your torches.

        Lets get this “Kill the monster” jamboree started.

      • I didn’t read this. You’re boring.

  4. I thought the axe was for sex change surgery.

  5. actually, most people both men and women alike don’t consider me a man. only your small hate group considers me a man when i identify as trans publicly. you do not speak for the majority of women. you speak for the nazi sisterhood known as radfem.

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