Valaška


The valaška is a long, thin and light axe used in the past centuries by Slovaks in the rural parts of the country as a weapon, stick or a tool. It has symbolic historical and cultural connotations and is used as a prop in many traditional dances like the odzemok. The valaška was popularized by the Slovak historical legendary figure Juraj Jánošík, a forest robber who robbed the haves and gave to the poor ones.

Appearance

A valaška is a smaller light-weight axe on a long straight wooden shaft with a metal butt. The length of the shaft is slightly above 1 metre. The shafts were usually engraved as their owners had plenty of time for the creation. The mettal axe on top is small and thick. It is sharp on one side while the other side can be used as a hammer. The top of the axe is always formed in a way that it would fit in ones hand and could be used as a walking stick.

Today's valaškas are mostly decorative, some having a golden or silver head and many are considered a work of art.

Usage

Valaškas were mostly used by shepherds, because they are a versatile tool, providing a small axe, small hammer and a walking stick. It can not be, howerver, used to cut heavy trees. A valaška is an inseparable tool of a shepherd or a Slovak forest robber as well as a heavy decorative belt.

At present times valaškas are still made and sold as souvenirs or for decoration purposes. Occasionally they may be seen in the rural parts of the country where older men may still use it as a walking stick. It is also still used for the traditional dances. They are not used as a tool or weapon anymore.

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