The cauldron is one of the items that are most familiar and easily recognizable as a ‘witch’ or ‘pagan’ object. Cauldrons, however, are a symbol found in many cultures. Cauldrons are closely associated with the hearth. In some Pagan traditions, cush as hearthcraft, the cauldron plays an integral part in a witch’s practice and spirituality.
What is a Cauldron
First things first, origins. The world cauldron originates from the Latin word caldarium, meaning ‘hot bath or caldaria meaning ‘cooking pot’. A cauldron is essentially a large metal pot used for cooking over a cooking fire. In times gone by, the cauldron was essential in hearthside cooking, and can still be found in rural communities. It was often set on a tripod rack or sometimes hung inside of a hearth or large inner fireplace used in cooking.
Spiritually speaking, the cauldron is seen as a connection to the Otherworld, a place of mysticism, and a realm of the Divine. It can be seen to signify the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Cauldrons are seen as a feminine symbol, like most cups, bowls and other vessels. As with most other vessels, the cauldron is associated with the element of water.
Cauldrons are associated with everyday cookery magic. Thinking about it, anytime you cook something, really it’s a bit like casting a magical spell. The intricate combination of ingredients, application of heat to create something new, and the intent of the chef, bring about a magical (and delicious) result. Due to this practical use, the cauldron has become a symbol of abundance, source, warmth, nourishment, and transformation.
Transformation and transmutation are two of the most important things associated with cauldron myths. To transform means to undergo a change in form or appearance. To transmute means to change in substance from one thing into another.
Cauldrons also allow you the opportunity to explore your inner self, your emotions, etc. It represents inner wisdom and hidden knowledge. This is why cauldrons are sometimes used for divination. Symbolizing the realm of dreams, intuition, and healing.
In some traditions, the cauldron can represent the Underworld and the realms of the dead. Especially in Greek iconology and belief (I myself favor the Greek myths and often use them in my practice). In Greek legend, the underworld was reached through a body of water, often through caves, which makes the darkness of water filled cauldrons a perfect symbol of the afterlife.
Types of Cauldrons
Cauldrons have come in many forms over the years. From dried and hollowed gourds to thick cast-iron heavy types. Because it is a customary cooking vessel, the material must hold up to heat, liquid, and fire. As such, the most popular cauldron types will be the metal ones. Below are the most popular metal types available and what their common correspondences are (which is helpful if you cast spells in your cauldron, the material it is made of could alter or enhance the results of magical work).
- Brass: often used as a substitute for gold, its common associations are; prosperity, health, fire energies, protection, and deflection of negativity.
- Iron and Steel: grounding, protection, deflecting magic and psychic energy, and increasing physical strength.
- Copper: revitalizing, refreshing, healing, kindness, fertility, love, beauty, harmony, friendship, peace, balance, and money.
- Aluminum: travel, communication, intuition, flexibility.
- Tin and Pewter: money, business, fame, legal issues
Uses for Cauldrons
Cauldrons have nearly endless uses! Depending on your personal belief system or tradition, you may have different uses than those listed below. These are just some suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.
- Candleholder – metal cauldrons easily double as fairly safe candle holders. Tealights are a favorite, but filling your cauldron halfway with sand or kitty litter and placing tapers or taller candles is also popular.
- Incense stick holder – much like holding candles, you can place long incense sticks in your cauldron by partially filling it up with sand. It’s a fairly safe method to burn incense and keeps the ashes in one location.
- Offering bowl – placing floral, food or other offerings in your cauldron and placing it on your alter is another popular use.
- Meditation – there are many visualizations that can be aided with a cauldron. Such as placing it in the middle of a room, and visualizing all the negativity being pulled into the darkness of the cauldron.
- Visualization – as a method of stress relief, you can place some water into the cauldron and have a mediation session by peering into the depths. This can also work with an empty cauldron, and staring into the darkness.
- Floral receptacle – placing freshly cut flowers in your cauldron on your altar, it’s not only pretty but easy to clean!
- Ritual – there are many rituals which use cauldrons.
- Magic – there are many spells and magical work which can be aided by the use of cauldrons.