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Labrys (Greek: λάβρυς, romanized: lábrus) is, according to Plutarch (Quaestiones Graecae 2.302a), the Lydian word for the double-bitted axe. (Greek: πέλεκυς, pélekus). The Ancient Greek plural of labrys is labryes (Greek: λάβρυες).
Plutarch relates that the word labrys was a Lydian word for "axe": Λυδοὶ γὰρ ‘λάβρυν’ τὸν πέλεκυν ὀνομάζουσι.[a] Many scholars including Evans assert that the word labyrinth is derived from labrys and thus, would imply "house of the double axe". A priestly corporation in Delphi was named "Labyades". The original name was probably "Labryades", servants of the double axe. In Roman times at Patrai and Messene, a goddess Laphria was worshipped, commonly identified with Artemis. Her name was said to be derived from the region around Delphi.
In Crete the "double axe" is not a weapon, however, and it always accompanies women, not a male god. Beekes regards the relation of labyrinth with labrys as speculative, and rather proposes a relation with laura (λαύρα), "narrow street", or to the Carian theonym Dabraundos (Δαβραυνδος).
It is also possible that the word labyrinth is derived from the Egyptian, meaning: "the temple at the entrance of the lake”. The Egyptian labyrinth near Lake Moeris is described by Herodotus and Strabo. The inscription in Linear B, on tablet ΚΝ Gg 702, reads da-pu2-ri-to-jo-po-ti-ni-ja. The conventional reading is λαβυρίνθοιο πότνια ("mistress of the labyrinth"). According to some modern scholars it could read *δαφυρίνθοιο, or something similar, and hence be without a certain link with either the λάβρυς or the labyrinth.[b]
A link has also been posited with the double axe symbols at Çatalhöyük, dating to the Neolithic age. In Labraunda in Caria, as well as in the coinage of the Hecatomnid rulers of Caria, the double axe accompanies the storm god Zeus Labraundos. Arthur Evans notes, "It seems natural to interpret names of Carian sanctuaries such as Labranda in the most literal sense as the place of the sacred labrys, which was the Lydian (or Carian) name for the Greek πέλεκυς [pelekys], or double-edged axe" and "[o]n Carian coins, indeed of quite late date, the labrys, set up on its long pillar-like handle, with two dependent fillets, has much the appearance of a cult image".
Minoan double axeEdit
In ancient Crete, the double axe was an important sacred symbol of the supposed Minoan religion. In Crete the double axe only accompanies female goddesses, never male gods. It seems that it was the symbol of the arche of the creation (Mater-arche).
Double axes in the Near EastEdit
In the Near East and other parts of the region, eventually, axes of this sort often are wielded by male divinities and appear to become symbols of the thunderbolt, a symbol often found associated with the axe symbol. In Labraunda of Caria the double-axe accompanies the storm-god Zeus Labraundos. Similar symbols have been found on plates of Linear pottery culture in Romania. The double-axe is associated with the Hurrian god of sky and storm Teshub. His Hittite and Luwian name was Tarhun. Both are depicted holding a triple thunderbolt in one hand and a double axe in the other hand. Similarly, Zeus throws his thunderbolt to bring storm. The labrys, or pelekys, is the double axe Zeus uses to invoke storm and, the relatively modern Greek word for lightning is "star-axe" (ἀστροπελέκι astropeleki) The worship of the double axe was kept up in the Greek island of Tenedos and in several cities in the south-west of Asia Minor, and it appears in later historical times in the cult of the thunder god of Asia Minor (Zeus Labrayndeus).
In the context of the mythical Attic king Theseus, the labyrinth of Greek mythology is frequently associated with the Minoan palace of Knossos. This is based on the reading of Linear B da-pu2-ri-to-jo-po-ti-ni-ja as λαβυρίνθοιο πότνια ("mistress of the labyrinth").[c] It is uncertain, however, that labyrinth can be interpreted as "place of the double axes" and moreover that this should be Knossos; many more have been found, for example, at the Arkalachori Cave, where the famous Arkalochori Axe was found.[original research?]
On Greek coins of the classical period (e. g. Pixodauros) a type of Zeus venerated at Labraunda in Caria that numismatists call Zeus Labrandeus (Ζεὺς Λαβρανδεύς) stands with a sceptre upright in his left hand and the double-headed axe over his shoulder.
Religion and spiritualityEdit
In the 1970s, the labrys was adopted by the lesbian community as a lesbian feminist symbol representing strength and self-sufficiency. The labrys lesbian flag, created in 1999, involves a labrys superimposed on the inverted black triangle and set against a violet background.
The double axe is used by Cretan folklore preservation societies and associations both in Greece and abroad, on occasion with the spelling "lavrys" reflecting modern Greek pronunciation.
In Greece, the labrys was employed as a symbol of Metaxism. During the totalitarian period of the 4th of August Regime (1936–1941), it represented the regime-sponsored National Organization of Youth (EON), as its leader, Ioannis Metaxas, believed it to be the first symbol of all Hellenic civilizations.
Double-bit axes were common in North American forestry, one blade would be sharp and used for felling whilst the other was a little blunter for limbing. As the forest workers (lumberjacks) were often away from civilisation for long periods of time they needed a way to amuse themselves. Thus the sport of double-bit axe throwing was born. In recent decades the sport has been formalised with Swedish company Gränsfors Bruk writing the rules most widely accepted. There are now multiple clubs across Europe that throw double-bit. Important to note that the sport of Double-bit was formalised in the 1990s, whilst hatchet throwing was formalised in 2006.
- "Herakles, having slain Hippolyte and taken her axe away from her with the rest of her arms, gave it to Omphale. The kings of Lydia who succeeded her carried this as one of their sacred insignia of office and passed it down from father to son until it was passed to Candaules, who disdained it and gave it to one of his companions to carry. When Gyges rebelled and was making war upon Candaules, Arselis came with a force from Mylasa to assist Gyges; Arselis then slew Candaules and his companion and took the axe to Caria with the other spoils of war. And, having set up a statue of Zeus, Arselis put the axe in his hand and invoked the god, Labrandeus."
- See Melena's overview in the third volume of the Companion to Linear B, p. 73 (available here).
- Cf. the parallel construction of a-ta-na-po-ti-ni-ja, perhaps referring to the “Mistress of Athens”, i. e. Athena, on a different tablet (KN V 52) from Knossos.
- "Women fought, as war leaders and in the ranks; women fought in troops, as regular soldiers; and the principal symbol of the Great Goddess, appearing widely throughout the Mediterranean and Asia Minor, was the double-headed battle axe or labrys."
- The forms taken by the labrys were classified by Caterina Mavriyannaki.
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- Rutter, Jeremy (2017-11-29). "Minoan Religion".
- Schachermeyr, Fritz (1964). Die minoische Kultur des alten Kreta. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer Verlag. p. 161. OCLC: 325167
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- Biedermann, Hans (1992). Dictionary of Symbolism: Cultural Icons and the Meanings Behind Them [Knaurs Lexikon der Symbole]. New York, New York: Facts on File. p. 24. ISBN 0-8160-2593-2.
- "Labrys". Labrys Kyrgyzstan. 2004–2014. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
- Zimmerman, Bonnie, ed. (2000). "Symbols, Christy Stevens". Lesbian Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia (1st ed.). Garland Publishing. p. 748. ISBN 0-8153-1920-7.
- Myers, JoAnne (2003). The A to Z of the Lesbian Liberation Movement: Still the Rage (The A to Z Guide Series, No. 73 ) (1st ed.). Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press. p. 205. ISBN 978-0-8108-6811-3.
- "Gay Symbols Through the Ages". The Alyson Almanac: A Treasury of Information for the Gay and Lesbian Community. Boston, Massachusetts: Alyson Publications. 1989. pp. 99–100. ISBN 0-932870-19-8.
- Murphy, Timothy F., ed. (2000). Reader's Guide to Lesbian and Gay Studies (1st ed.). Chicago, Illinois: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. p. 44. ISBN 1-57958-142-0.
- Pea, Georgie (9 August 2013). "LABRYS Tool of Lesbian Feminism". Finding Lesbians. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
- Bendix, Trish (September 8, 2015). "Why don't lesbians have a pride flag of our own?". AfterEllen. Archived from the original on September 9, 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
- Markessinis, Andreas (August 22, 2006). "The Labrys/Pelekys: The symbol of Thundergod Zeus and of the EON". Metaxas Project. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
- Karlsgodt, Elizabeth (2011). Defending National Treasures: French Art and Heritage Under Vichy. Stanford University Press. pp. 126–128. ISBN 978-0804770187.
- Giannuli, Aldo; Rosati, Elia (October 5, 2017). Storia di Ordine Nuovo: La Piú Pericolosa Organizzazione Neo-Fascista Degli Anni Settanta [History of Ordine Nuovo: The Most Dangerous Neo-Fascist Organization of the Seventies] (in Italian). Milan, Italy: Mimesis Edizioni. ISBN 978-8857538433.
- "Axes: Hephaestus's Labrys". Sword Temple. March 17, 2020. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
- "Yxanvändning – Axe Throwing". Gränsfors Bruks AB. 2 February 2019.
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- "Hellenic nativistic Collective LABRYS". Hellēnismôs. 2015.
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- "Λατρευτική Κοινότητα ΛΑΒΡΥΣ" (in Greek). Worship community LAVRYS.
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