I grew up in a world where all of the stories I heard were based on a two-sided binary. Male vs female, then vs now, war vs peace, day vs night, good vs bad were presented to me as the unarguable basis for everything else in the stories I heard as a child.
What I perceived with my senses as I grew up did not always agree with what I had been told. Day and night blended gently together as one became the other during sunsets. War and peace were sometimes hard to tell apart as I read news stories. I visited sites of historical interest where then is performed by now. I lived between male and female or in both categories at once. After years of active study into the theology of the dominant religion where I was born, I came to feel that good and bad really seemed to be about following orders. To follow was good. To disobey was bad.
I began to feel that binaries are in fact very effective weapons. They simplify the complex choices of life into the logic of a toddler’s emotional outburst, where there are only two possibilities for the toddler. One is what they want. The other is what they don’t want. A binary applies the same simplified logic to the complex world of adult interpersonal and spiritual relationships. The binary of good/bad is the most powerful because it is the most versatile. It can be applied to almost any situation. Humans have regularly proven themselves capable of taking actions that produce imbalance, death, disconnection and environmental destruction in the name of good. The details of what precisely “good” is are continuously shifting, but the type of actions carried out to prove that a person is “good” have remained relatively consistent since the introduction of that binary. To be “good,” a person must be able to demonstrate their willingness to destroy “bad.” Depending on who is defining those two terms, the target of the destruction changes, but the violent actions directed at the individual, group or ecosystem are still happening.
Binaries are also just as impassioned as a toddler’s outburst. They are deeply stirring to be involved with. It is dramatic and exciting to attack, to destroy and to hate. It is also deeply satisfying to stand against. Defining an organization by what it is against is a great way to add new members.
I offer the labrys as a way to participate in life in a way that honors the situations where two things are needed to get a result that is greater than either alone. For me, this ancient symbol is a way to bring healing into our world that has been cut in two so many times that it has forgotten how to be one. Part of the reason the labrys is well suited to this is because of the way it looks like an axe to those who haven’t yet learned to see that it is a butterfly, a shining beacon in the sunlight, and a pair of twins perfectly joined in prayer, plus many other things. The labrys is not a symbol against anything. It is an old, old way of talking about being together. To see and understand some of what it is, we have to be willing to look close enough to realize that things with two parts do not have to be about destruction.
People with one type of body can get together with people with another type of body in order to do the things that result in making beautiful, respectful magic together or both can coexist in one person so they can understand more people. The darkness of night is the best place for dreams to come that can then be enacted under the brightness of the sun. An awareness of what has already happened can help inform how to act now so that the future benefits from the healing we do today. Conflict is sometimes a necessary part of setting boundaries that lead to open spaces for greater balance.
The labrys is a reminder to me that there is a way to approach life where I can see the value in joining and honoring what comes from two that is more than one.
The labrys is a reminder for me that there is a way to dream about wholeness where difference can be the best thing.
The labrys is a reminder to me that I don’t need binaries in how I view the world because there are pairs and there are twins.
The thrill of destruction can be replaced in the stories I choose to tell by the joy of coming together.
The temporary security of being good can be composted into the long-term support of being connected.
Two blades always seeking to cut one from the other can be transformed into two active participants dancing towards becoming more than they were alone.