Monday, January 24, 2005


A widespread belief in Southeast Asia associates the stone axe with the thunderbolt or with the teeth of a dragon that causes thunderstorms. In fact, ideas linking thunder with stone axes is rather widespread being found among Amerindians, West Africans, Northern Europeans and others.

However, a number of researchers have noted that the association with thunder is particularly linked with the battle or sacrificial axe consisting of a curved blade -- the round axe, the double axe and the throwing axe (tomahawk).

Earlier I mentioned the development of curved blades in Asia in relation to the Neolithic, which brought the technology needed to make good symmetrical curved weapons. Some early examples of these blades are the semi-lunar knife of Neolithic Asia and the crescent-shaped flint "sickle" of late Neolithic Denmark.

In China, were the battle axe was one of the first symbols of regal authority it was known by the name yuet ?. The name was the same used to describe the non-Chinese people of South China. Later the name Yuet was used specifically for the Vietnamese who pronounced it as Viet.

Jade axe or yuet from China

The stone battle axe was followed by the bronze axe of the same form. The ceremonial nature of the bronze axe is often connected with sacrifice. However, the myths regarding thunder refer usually only to stone axes and in certain areas specifically to those made of flint. This may indicate the Neolithic age and dispersion of the belief.

Bronze ceremonial axe from Roti, Indonesia

Bronze ceremonial axes from Scandinavia, top, and Irian Jaya, bottom.

The thunderstone was widely seen as having healing properties and as protecting against lightning. The god or king who wielded the battle axe was linked with thunder and thus with rain. In the case of the king, the battle axe represented the king as a controller of rain according to Frazer's notion of the "King of Nature."

In numerous cultures, we find that thunder is associated either with a dog or a bird. The thunder dog and thunder bird are totems that represent the sky as opposed to the dragon/serpent totem which generally represents the water. These emblems, of course, relate back to our original story of the two battling volcanoes.

Tala, the Morning Star, who descends to earth has as his totem, the dog. There is something similar to this elsewhere in the region where the Kimat, the dog of the Tinguian supreme thunder-god Kadaklan, is the personification of lightning. Tala's father Manalastas has the rooster totem. The descent of the star is viewed in the same sense as lightning and thunder and thus one can see a model for the thunder dog and thunder bird.

In his research, Torsten Pedersen has noted the resemblance of western words for the double axe such as pelekus in Europe with those in Austronesia, i.e. palakul of the Philippines. These words may stem from a root of the form *b/p-l-g.

Paul Kekai Manansala