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Labrys


Labrys (Greek: λάβρυς, lábrys) is the term for a symmetrical double-bitted axe originally from Crete in Greece, one of the oldest symbols of Greek civilization; to the Romans, it was known as a bipennis. The symbol was commonly associated with female divinities.

The double-bitted axe remains a forestry tool to this day, and the labrys certainly functioned as a tool and hewing axe before it was invested with symbolic function. Labrys symbolism is found in Minoan, Thracian, and Greek religion, mythology, and art, dating from the Middle Bronze Age onwards, and surviving in the Byzantine Empire.

Plutarch relates the word labrys with a Lydian word for "axe": (Λυδοὶ γὰρ ‘λάβρυν’ τὸν πέλεκυν ὀνομάζουσι).R. S. P. Beekes rejected an Indo-European etymology and proposed a Pre-Greek one; he also suggested that labrys has the same root as labyrinthos.

Labrys was a cult-word that was probably introduced from Anatolia, where such symbols have been found in Çatal Höyük from the neolithic age. In Labraunda of Caria the double-axe accompanies the storm-god Zeus Labraundos. In Crete, the symbol of the double-axe always accompanies goddesses, and it seems that it was the symbol of the beginning (arche) of the creation. The word labyrinth, which the Greeks used for the palace of Knossos is possibly derived from labrys. It seems that the goddess of the double-axe presided over the Minoan palaces, and especially over the palace of Knossos. The Linear B (Mycenaean) inscription

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