SLOVAKIA

Shepherd’s axe (valaška)

It is a long thin light axe used in past centuries by shepherds in the Carpathian Mountains, especially in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary. In the Slovak culture, the shepherd's axe was popularized by local historical legend Juraj Jánošík. In Slovakia, shepherd's axes were inseparable tools of Slovak  shepherds, together with heavy decorative belts.

It has symbolic historical and cultural connotations and is still used as a prop in many traditional dances, for example the odzemok.

A small metal head-piece is sharp on one side while the other side is flat and can be used as a hammer. The head-piece is formed to fit comfortably into the hand so the shepherd's axe could be used as a walking stick. Today's shepherd's axes are mostly decorative, some having golden or silver head-pieces. The main motifs were the sun, stars (whirl), comets, tree of life, flowers, trees and various geometric designs.