Tools of the Craft - Cauldron

26th January, 1999

In practical terms, the cauldron is a large, usually iron cooking pot with three legs, that hung over the hearth-fire of the house and was used as an all purpose cooking pot. It was used to prepare food and medicine. Within both ancient and modern mythology, it has taken on many other attributes.

The cauldron played an important part in the mythology and religious life of the various Celtic peoples. In Welsh myth, the cauldron of Regeneration, sacred to the goddess Branwan, became the Holy Grail of Christian mythology and the great Welsh bard Taliesin received his wisdom and skill from the goddess Cerridwen. Cauldrons were also used in rites in Ancient Egypt and by the ancient Jews. They burned incense on or near their altars using cauldrons, often as part of purification rituals.

In some mythology, the cauldron was also associated with male gods. The Dagda ("the good god") is one of the most prominent gods and the leader of the Tuatha Dé Danann, in Irish myth. He is a master of magic, a fearsome warrior and a skilled artisan. One of his symbols is a cauldron with an inexhaustible supply of food, which again ties in the cauldron representing regeneration.

To the modern-day Witch, the cauldron is a symbol of the Goddess and corresponds to the element of Water and thus represents female energy. It is used in ritual as a container in which magickal transformations can occur and is often a focal point of a ritual. During spring rites, it can be filled with water and fresh flower petals and in winter, fires can be lit within the cauldron to symbolize the rebirth of the Sun.

It is possible for the cauldron to be used in almost any ritual, as it is possible for it to represent any of the four elements. It can be used to house a ritual Fire, to hold Earth, when conducting a ritual indoors, to represent Air when incense is burned in it or finally Water, when used to hold that element on the altar.

It also has traditional associations with healing. The cauldron was used to brew the healing potions of traditional village healers. It is perhaps here that its association with witches began, as the traditional healer and her brews were transformed into the witch and her spells and potions.

It can also be filled with water and used for scrying (using still water, steam or wax patterns) into the future. Cauldrons often are three-legged and made of iron. They come in all sizes ranging from a few inches in diameter to several feet across.

Personally, I have found it very difficult to find a cauldron. I use a small three-legged bowl that I found at a home decorating shop. As this isn't as heat resistant as a traditional cauldron, if I am using it for anything that generates heat (such as burning incense) I fill it with sand first. It also makes a nice offering bowl for putting fresh flowers and other offerings in.


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