Minoan Symbols: The Labrys (Butterfly Axe)πŸ¦‹

A “Weapon” That’s Far From It

The double-bitted axe may look like a robust weapon to use in war (and it was in various areas of the world), but in ancient Crete, it mostly served as a sacred symbol. In fact, its main symbolism is the brink of creation, which is referred to as Mater-arche (“arche” means “beginning”). Interestingly, The Labrys (pelekus: πέλΡκυς in Classical Greek) solely accompanied goddesses, never gods, and its spiritual significance can be confirmed by how often smaller versions were found alongside other religious objects. These little double axes were used as votive offerings. A less peaceful use for the so-called butterfly axe (often taller than an adult) was for bull sacrifice rituals conducted by priestesses.

Bronze votive double axe from the cave of Archalokori, Crete. Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Jebulon

A Timeless Symbol of Divine Feminine Power

Seeing as The Labrys was only used by Minoan women and was only depicted with mother goddesses, it encapsulated the sovereignty of the divine feminine and matriarchy. Although, it is posited that Minoan Crete was egalitarian and not a full-fledged matriarchal civilization. This powerful symbolism has carried on through the ages, even though it wound up becoming one of Olympian god Zeus’ prime symbols in Greek mythology. In the present day, it’s a symbol of Hellenic polytheism.

Reconstructed fresco of a goddess holding a labrys in each hand and worshippers
Photo source: www.sourcememory.net/art/crete/fresco.html


Much like the Horns of Consecration, the labrys was an all-pervading symbol throughout Minoan civilization. Not only were they created in numerous sizes with various materials like bronze, gold, or clay, but they were also carved in the outlines of the labyrinth at Knossos as well as engraved on sealstones and painted on pottery.

Hellenica World: www.hellenicaworld.com/Greece/LX/en/Labrys.html

Penn Museum: www.penn.museum/sites/journal/469/
Symbol Sage: www.symbolsage.com/labrys-symbol/
Featured photo credit: Votive double axes of gold sheet. Arkilochori Cave, 1700-1450 BC. Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. Found on Wikimedia Commons by Zde.