Ariadne's Tribe: Minoan Spirituality for the Modern World

Walk the sacred labyrinth with Ariadne, the Minotaur, the Great Mothers, Dionysus, and the rest of the Minoan family of deities. Ariadne's Tribe is an independent spiritual tradition that brings the deities of the ancient Minoans alive in the modern world. We're a revivalist tradition, not a reconstructionist one. We rely heavily on shared gnosis and the practical realities of Paganism in the modern world. Ariadne's thread reaches across the millennia to connect us with the divine. Will you follow where it leads?

Find out all about Ariadne's Tribe at We're an inclusive, welcoming tradition, open to all who share our love for the Minoan deities and respect for our fellow human beings.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Birds Have Boobs? Minoan Nippled Ewers and Beaked Pitchers

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

You may have noticed that the Minoans had something of a breast obsession in their art. This is apparent not just in the many images of topless women, but also in the artwork showing animals suckling their young and in the many teat-shaped conical rhytons (ritual libation pitchers).

What you may not have noticed is that the Minoans put nipples on a lot of their pitchers and jugs, like the one at the top of this post, from Akrotiri. Why the heck would they do that?

Same reason as the other breast imagery in the art: a reminder of the Mother Goddess in her  many forms, her nurturing and nourishing and support of her children.

Yep. They're religious symbolism.

Like the ones on the far left and right in this photo, also from Akrotiri:

Minoan ceramics from Akrotiri
Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

These vessels are called nippled ewers. They're a subset of a larger group of vessels called beaked pitchers, which are bird-symbolic; they have a painted or 3D eye that turns the vessel's spout into a beak. Like this one from Vasiliki:

Terracotta beaked pitcher from Vasiliki
Image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Turning a pitcher into a bird-symbol is pretty intuitive, if you think about the shape. But why the breasts? I mean, birds don't have boobs, do they?

Maybe not, but bird goddesses do. Mother goddesses give milk; that's part of the symbology that helps us understand them and connect with them. It's kind of a crazy thing to think about, but it's possible the Minoans, along with other ancient people, believed that birds did give milk - crop milk shows up in folklore and is often confused with breast milk, as if birds had breasts. Around the Mediterranean, it's still called "dove's milk."

The Bird Goddess pitcher was such a popular concept that it shows up with decorations you wouldn't normally connect with birds, as if the beaked pitcher had become such a basic, background item that you could do just about anything with it. Witness this lovely round vessel from Akrotiri with its leaping dolphin. Note the 3D eyes on the spout, complete with the kind of eye-ring that many kinds of birds have:

Beaked pitcher from Akrotiri with dolphin
Image CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

So to answer the question in the title: In some cases, birds have boobs. And they're sacred. They're yet another way the Minoans maintained Neolithic religious practices all the way into the Bronze Age.

Last modified on
Laura Perry is a priestess and creator who works magic with words, paint, ink, music, textiles, and herbs. She's the founder and Temple Mom of Ariadne's Tribe, an inclusive Minoan spiritual tradition. When she's not busy drawing and writing, you can find her in the garden or giving living history demonstrations at local historic sites.


Additional information