THE LABRYS AND AMAZON WOMEN
It is said that the Amazon warrior women used the labrys, a double-headed axe, as a battle weapon. Some lesbians wear labrys jewellry as a tribute to the Amazons, and as an identifying symbol to other ‘sisters.’
Are the Amazons mythical? There is certainly evidence of ancient Greek warrior women in art and sculpture. Archeologist Dr. Jeannie Davis-Kimball has unearthed evidence in Russia of female warriors buried with their weapons. For women, Amazon myths are a source of mysterious delight.
What is the role of myths? Myths are important stories that point to issues confronting a society. Amazon women bonded together for a number of reasons. In numbers there is strength, and life was often a dangerous existence dominated by patriarchs. Apart from the political bonding, and gathering together for safety, Amazons are also said to have bonded in lesbian relationships.
Can certain myths cause anger? For myself, the Biblical story of Adam and Eve is a simple story to explain the presence of the first humans. I can understand ancient Hebrews trying to grapple with the presence of evil in their world. For them, the first couple ate “forbidden fruit” which caused the Creator to banish them from a “Paradise” into a harsh world. However, my anger rises when this simple myth is used by homophobes to provide religious “proof” that there should be no same sex marriage. They believe that Adam and Eve is the only form of ‘natural’ coupling.
Myths can provide a sense of pride. For lesbians, the mythical stories of Amazon warriors are a source of empowerment. Strong females fighting side by side for their self-preservation is a source of enchanting pride. It is not hard for the lesbian imagination to envision shoulder-to-shoulder endeavours by day, and breast-to-breast manoeuvres at night!
Scholars tend to think that the Amazons were not a blood-thirsty bunch of women but, rather, women who bonded together to protect their female society from outside attacks. Today, women world-wide are still concerned with these issues of safety and protection of their property. The symbol of the labrys is, therefore, still applicable for modern women’s fight against any form of tyranny, cruelty and inequality. Documentaries such as “Half the Sky”, a book and movie dealing with modern women’s struggles, demonstrate this clearly. (www.halftheskymovement.org)
Let me take you to Kenya, for a moment, where the “Half the Sky” team visited the Umoja Women’s Village. They interviewed Rebecca Lolosoil, who I would describe as a modern Amazon woman. Rebecca is the matriarch of a family of women only, who live together with their children. Many of the women living in Umoja have been victims of male violence. They have been raped, beaten and emotionally abused by husbands, male lovers or strangers. The name of their village is “Umoja”, the Swahili word for “unity.” The Kenyan women sustain themselves by raising chickens, creating beadwork and opening up their village to tourists. Their hard work has paid off. These Amazons have managed to build a school for their children.
Male children are allowed to live with the women. Adult men are not welcome. One teen boy spoke positively of the lack of violence in the village. He felt loved and safe in a peaceful environment. Umoja is a predominantly heterosexual village, but the camaraderie of women can be likened to that of the Amazons of bygone days. They have bonded for friendship, for protection and to forge a livelihood free from male domination. Of course, all of us know gentle, kind, and wise men that we hold dear in our hearts and minds.
For women, there is still much axing to do in order to chop down racism, poverty, homophobia, gender inequality and discrimination against sexual orientation. Women today still need to wield a symbolic labrys.