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Cauldron Magick

(Vessel Magick)

 

By Ardriana Cahill

“Every hollow holds a hallow.”

 

This essay began as an essay on cauldron magick but it was impossible for me to not see the comparison of certain kinds of magick and divination that can also be done where chalices or bowls are employed, such as in my family magickal tradition. So although it is primarily regarding cauldron magick, I will touch on other vessels.

The cauldron’s life began as a simple cook pot. It was a practical well of nourishment to a family. To the herbal wise woman or man, that definition was extended as a vessel for boiling healing brews and poultices. To the witch, its use moved a step away from the practical to the magickal where potions were brewed. The lines over the centuries have blurred trying to define when it took on magickal properties.

At its very essence the cauldron is made of metallic earth, heated by fire, cooled by air and tempered by water. It is a vessel of the elements. In contemporary Witchcraft, a cauldron will be a pot made of cast iron which stands on three legs and has a handle. For safety’s sake, it should also have a lid.

In modern witchcraft, the very shape of a vessel evokes the feminine divine, the sacred womb and the origins of life. This tradition is evoked and repeated from many cultures.

“This nine-fold power of the goddess, known as the Toradh of Ana, is especially potent in wells, springs and sacred vessels, such as cauldrons. The specific components of the Toradh are described in:

“Nine Gifts of the Cauldron”

The Cauldron of Life-Work
gives and is replenished,
promotes and is enlarged,
nourishes and is given life,
ennobles and is exalted,
requests and is filled with answers,
sings and is filled with song,
preserves and is made strong,
arranges and receives arrangements,
maintains and is maintained.
Good is the well of measure.”

Cauldron Lore

More than just a symbol of the goddess, the cauldron and its contents have specifically represented abundance, poetic inspiration (i.e. knowledge, wisdom and eloquence), physical restoration, regeneration, alchemical transformation, spiritual or psychic awakening or vision and the ability to discern truth.

In Celtic mythology, these abilities were gained from being near or in the cauldron or eating or drinking the contents mixed in a cauldron. Similar stories can be found using a chalice, a bowl or a horn.

The most commonly known stories of the cauldron can be found in Celtic mythology. In Irish lore, Eochaid Ollathair, also known as the Dagda, possessed a cauldron that was one of the four sacred objects brought to Ireland by the Tuatha De Danaan. Its name was Undry and it had the magical capability of providing infinite sustenance doled out by each man’s merit. In Tara, the home of the High Kings of Ireland, this was used to magically grant a royal claimant the authority of divine kingship after eating a meal prepared within it. Sacred vessels of the goddess often bestow sovereignty and kingship in the myths of Irish High Kings.

In Welsh lore, Cerridwen’s cauldron, Amen, bestowed knowledge and inspiration. Bran the Blessed had the Cauldron of Rebirth which resurrected slain warriors. His legend may be the forerunner to the Keeper of the Holy Grail, the chalice of Jesus. On the Gundestrup cauldron, a Celtic horned God popularly believed to be Cernunnos, is depicted being reborn after having been torn apart and boiled in a cauldron. In Norse mythology, a draught which bestowed poetic inspiration and knowledge was brewed in the kettle/cauldron, Odhroerir. In Greece, even today, every four years the modern Olympic flame is lit in a cauldron during a ritual at the site where the Greek temple of Hera used to stand. The great flame that oversees the games is carried by a torch but the vessel that holds that overseeing flame is called a cauldron.

 

    

The Gundestrup Cauldron is thought to have been crafted in Gaul circa. 100 BCE. It was discovered in a peat bog in Denmark in 1891 where scholars suggest the Druids may have placed it as an offering to the deities of Nature. One of the cauldron's 13 panels clearly shows the Celtic horned God known as Cernunnos.

 

Other forms of a cauldron with identical or similar lore include fire pots which have historically symbolized the god himself and were special pots made for the protection of a sacred flame. Censors are another form of cauldron used as a fire pot or bowl to hold either sacred fire or sacred incense.

 

Magickal Vessel uses:

The modern use of a witch’s cauldron is to represent the God on an altar or on the ground representing the element of Fire within the ritual circle. Placed on an altar or on the grass one must make sure it sits on a fireproof ceramic tile or hotplate.

Pour rubbing alcohol over the salts until the alcohol is about an inch higher than the salts. Hold a lighted match just above the alcohol. The liquid will light and produce a strong orange flame. The flame burns cool, unlike a wood fire, and is difficult to burn things in. When the flame gets low, cover to snuff out completely. Add more rubbing alcohol to the cauldron and relight carefully. The warmer the rubbing alcohol, the quicker it ignites. This fire recipe leaves a significant amount of sediment in the cauldron.

Other times the cauldron is filled with soil or sand to hold a small charcoal brick which is lit for loose incense to be burned upon. Cone incense can also be simply placed on the sand or stick incense is stuck into the sand and burned that way.

Letters to the divine or the ancestors, burnt spells and burnt offerings are often lit and place in the cauldron to burn.

Divination is one of the key uses for the cauldron given its historical nature to impart vision and truth. Several forms of cauldron divination can be done with fire or dry ice. Create the cool alcohol fire as above and look into the flames for images and their symbolic meaning.

In a cauldron filled with sand, (or as in my tradition use a sand-filled ceramic bowl) we do smoke divination. We judge the curl of the smoke from dried herbs or incense burnt on a charcoal brick placed in sand. Blow the smoke softly away from you as you concentrate on a question. Smoke twisting deasil (clockwise) means NO. Smoke twisting widdershins (counter or anti-clockwise) means YES. Burn dried Rose or Cherry blossoms for divinations of love. Use Pecan for questions of employment. Burn Mugwort to ask about prophetic dreams and Lilac for questions concerning the ancestors. Use Mint, Clove or Basil for money questions. Use Cinnamon or Sandalwood for questions of success. Try Carnation, Apple, Bayberry or Cedar for insights into health issues.

You can also fill the cauldron or a bowl with warm water and, with a pair of tongs, drop many small pieces of dry ice into it. (Dry ice can be purchased from a grocery store.) Keep adding warm water and more ice as needed to create a steady rise of mist. As the mist rises, look for images and their symbolic significance that may reflect your hidden desires.

Scrying with a cauldron or bowl filled with water or wine is an ancient practice. It is a meditation device whereby, if you can relax your mind and eyes, you may see images or get impressions of those things you need to attend to or might be calling to you to investigate further. If meditation is more difficult for you, add a teaspoon of olive oil or other sacred oil to the water. Stir with you finger and watch how the oil merges and separates to mesmerize or form symbolic pictures.

In my tradition, we never used a cauldron. We use a ceramic bowl on the altar for sympathetic or small burnt offerings such as herbs or flower petals. (Cauldrons were way too witchly for witches in hiding. A magickal bowl could be left on a table unnoticed.) I often place glass enclosed spell candles dressed with oils in the bowl then surround them with stones and sprinkle appropriate herbs. Here, I place written spells under the candle at the beginning of a spell or burn them before or after the completion of the spell. The bowl becomes a magickal altar unto itself, much like the cauldron which is used for many sacred purposes with or without an altar. Like the cauldron, the bowl is feminine in nature but is largely used with element of Fire in the tradition of Helios, the sun god, who completed his daily rounds “floating” back to his Eastern palace in a golden bowl.

Bowls called Phiales were also used by the ancient Greeks for oil or wine libations, poured into the ground or river to honor the dead or the gods. The Patera, a broad, shallow dish was used for ritual drinking and was thought to impart blessing. Much like the food or drink from the sacred cauldron, these vessels were first designed for material sustenance and later interpreted for use in spiritual sustenance. The cauldron or bowl can also be used filled with water for a floral offering to celebrate joy or to burn flowers in to denote sorrow.

Chalices of oil were burned on ancient Greek and Roman altars. In modern witchcraft, the chalice is another vessel of the goddess or feminine divine and not often used with the element of fire, but it could be with the same precautions of sand and fireproofing that metal cauldrons and ceramic bowls use. However, never try this with glass chalices. Chalices may also be placed on an altar or on ritual ground as a symbol of the element Water. Magickal chalices evolved in history much the same way cauldrons did, imparting the gifts of transformation, healing and immortality.

 

Ardagh Chalice, c. 800-899 AD.  Found in 1847 by a small boy digging for potatoes

The most famous chalice is the cup of Christ as told in Authurian lore which bestows immortality to anyone who drinks from it. The Cup of Jamshid, was a cup of divination and also bestowed immortality in Persian mythology. In Greek mythology, the cup of Circe brings Ulysses under her control. Apollo had a magickal cup called Crater. And Dionysus had a magickal cup called a kantharos, that like so many magickal vessels, would never empty.

What is stated in James Joyces’ Finnegan’s Wake is a long established tradition that “every hollow hold a hallow.” These “hollows”, be they cauldron, bowl or cup, have been used throughout mythology as magickal tools for divination, transformation and rejuvenation. Let these serve you this Samhain, to evoke abundance, poetic inspiration, restoration, regeneration, transformation, spiritual or psychic awakening or vision or the ability to discern truth. Or if not these, use them to connect you to the history of your magickal heritage.

© 2009 Ardriana Cahill

Sources:

Finnegan's Wake, James Joyce p.25
The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom ~ By Caitlin Matthews, and Matthews John, p. 229
Circle Round: Raising Children in the Goddess Tradition ~ by Starhawk, Anne Hille and Diane Baker  

Other References:

Wikipedia
Celtic Religion in Roman Britain ~ By Graham Webster
Giants, monsters, and dragons: an encyclopedia of folklore, legend, and myth ~ By Carol Rose
The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore ~ By Hilda M. Ransome
Wake Rites: The Ancient Irish Rituals of Finnegan’s Wake ~ by George Cinclair Gibson

Ardriana Cahill lives in Western USA and is a Hereditary Witch, den of Clan McCormick and a Kell of Brighid since 1998.

www.ArdrianaCahill.com

Best wishes and Blessed Be

 

Site Contents - Links to all Pages

 

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A Universal Message:

 

Let there be peace in the world  -   Where have all the flowers gone?

 

About me:

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Wicca & Witchcraft

 

Wicca/Witchcraft /  What is Wicca What is Magick

 

Traditional Writings:

 

The Wiccan Rede Charge of the Goddess Charge of the God  /  The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) /  The Witches Chant The Witches Creed Descent of the Goddess Drawing Down the Moon The Great Rite Invocation Invocation of the Horned GodThe 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief /  The Witches Rede of Chivalry A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality

 

Correspondence Tables:

 

IncenseCandlesColours Magickal Days Stones and Gems Elements and Elementals

 

Traditions:

 

Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /

 

Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /

 

Other things of interest:

 

Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) /  Esbats & Full Moons Links to Personal Friends & Resources Wicca/Witchcraft Resources What's a spell? Circle Casting and Sacred Space  Pentagram - Pentacle Marks of a Witch The Witches Power The Witches Hat An esoteric guide to visiting London SatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  Part 2  /  Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Native American Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection)  The History of ThanksgivingAuras  - Part 1 and Part 2 /

 

Sabbats and Festivals:

 

The Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)

 

Rituals contributed by Crone:

 

Samhain / Yule Imbolc Ostara /  Beltane Litha Lammas Mabon

 

Tools:

 

Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron Magick Mirror Gazing

 

Animals:

 

Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) /  AntelopeBatsCrow Fox Frog and Toads Goat / HoneybeeKangarooLion OwlPhoenix Rabbits and HaresRaven Robin RedbreastSheep Spider SquirrelSwansWild Boar Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat

 

Trees:

 

In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  Elder

 

Sacred Sites:

 

Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /

 

Rocks and Stones:

 

Stones - History, Myths and Lore

 

Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:

 

Apophyllite  / Amber Amethyst Aquamarine Aragonite Aventurine Black Tourmaline Bloodstone Calcite Carnelian Celestite Citrine Chrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / Fluorite Garnet /  Hematite Herkimer Diamond Labradorite Lapis Lazuli Malachite Moonstone Obsidian Opal Pyrite Quartz (Rock Crystal) Rose Quartz Ruby Selenite Seraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodalite Sunstone ThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble

 

Wisdom and Inspiration:

 

Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakening The Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods I have a Dream by Martin Luther King /

 

Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:

 

Murdered by Witchcraft The Fairy Witch of Clonmel A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) /  Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-Lantern The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark

 

Old Masters of Academia:

 

Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras

 

 

Biographies

 

Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)

 

Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)

 

Abramelin the Mage /  Agrippa Aidan A KellyAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” /  Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” /  Alison Harlow /  Amber KAnna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman Spare /  Biddy Early /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /   Charles WaltonChristina Oakley Harrington Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edward FitchEleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” Eliphas Levi /  Ernest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake /  Fiona Horne Friedrich von Spee /  Francis Barrett /  Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft /  Gwydion Pendderwen Hans HolzerHelen Duncan /   Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Isaac Bonewits Israel RegardieJames "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” /  Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" /  John Belham-Payne John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" /  John Gerard /  John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred /  John Michael Greer /  John ScoreJoseph John Campbell /  Karl von Eckartshausen /  Laurie Cabot  - "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis SpenceMargaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMarie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMatthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /   Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillPaddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsus /  Patricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPhilip HeseltonRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Robert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" /  Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) /  Rudolf SteinerSabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" /  Scott CunninghamSelena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" /  Silver RavenwolfSir Francis Dashwood /  Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough"S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  Starhawk /  Stewart Farrar /  Sybil LeekTed Andrews The Mather Family - (includes:  Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) /   Thomas AdyT. Thorn CoyleVera ChapmanVictor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" /  Vivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest /  

 

 

Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)

 

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