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The Witches Cauldron

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

table with many magical instruments with cauldron in the center
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The witches cauldron is one of the most powerful and notable symbols of witchcraft, one that we still use prominently in many of our practices, but where did that symbolism come from? We know that we have Shakespeare to thank for the “boil, boil, toil and trouble” image but where did this image of the witches gathered around giant potions really originate?


Well let's start with the cauldron itself. Cauldrons were made and used in the everyday home beginning all the way back in the Bronze Age. These were large cast iron pots used for cooking and boiling water over the fire. That’s right, they were a soup pot. Heck Yeah! We are witches of the soup!


picture of a soup pot over and open fire
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See a cast iron pot is an incredible important item, I know as witches we feel this deeply. All you needed was an open flame and some potatoes and you could really make something. Not to mention that pot would last forever. You passed that pot on through your family line, we have archeological evidence of this. We still do, many of us clamor for our grandparents vintage cast iron and we now have the ability to go on down to the store and get a new one. A vessel with the ability to last the ages is, in itself, magical.


Many cultures all over the world have their version of this mythology. In many western mythos it’s a cast iron pot used for brews and potions, in Welsh mythology it was used to put the bodies of dead soldiers to be reborn and return to fighting, some African cultures have stories of it being used to capture a spirit to do to the sorcerer’s bidding, and in China we see it as a symbol of great power given to those who held important positions in society.


The one conclusion that I have come to is the life giving properties this vessel has. In every home, even when used for ritual meals, it is used to make food which equates to life and the ability to give life is magic. Food equals magic. In the right hands this vessel can be used to twist and transform that life giving power but at its core every pot and every person has the natural ability to transform ingredients into life giving potion. How beautiful is that?


Throughout history this hearth magic has come to represent the Earth and the Goddess and in many practices this life giving vessel can be attributed as the womb. Now in our modern times very few of us still cook over the open fire and very few of us have a 16 quart pot hanging from the hearth but we still use small versions of this in our practice. The powerful history of this humble pot has earned its place on many of our altars. Lets not forget that we all need a fire safe bowl to burn our incense, our charcoal disks, our petition papers, etc. Not only is it incredibly symbolic of our power and the alchemy of energy but it’s soooo practical. Also, the aesthetic is on point.


Henry Fuseli's Painting of three witches pointing
Henry Fuseli Painting 1783

Modern Uses for Our Cauldrons


small copper cauldron on a windowsill with smoke streaming out
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Burning Incense

This is the perfect vessel for burning incense. I personally add sand to my cauldron and lay the hot charcoal on top, just to buffer some of that heat. It also great for burning stick incense stick them in the sand and the cauldron perfectly catches the ashes. (most of the time)


Mixing Herbs

Of course mixing herbs for any of your rituals or potions may be an obvious one. Use your ritual bowl as a bowl, right?


Fire Rituals

Not many of us can go out and make a big bonfire on all the fire holidays but a cauldron is the perfect tiny little fire pit for your house. PLEASE BE CAREFUL! Use tiny versions of tinder and dried leaves to make it feel fun an authentic.


Moon and Rain Waters

Cauldrons can be used as a water vessel too. Many practices use the cauldron to represent their chalice. Fun fact: The Holy Grail was once a cauldron before it was a cup. Leave the cauldron outside in the rain to collect rain water or set it out under the full moon to imbue your water with the magic of the moon and the magic of your hearth.


Potions and Brews

Right, yeah. You can use the cauldron as it was always intended. Cast iron is MADE to conduct heat so you can place it over the coals and bubble bubble baby.


Oil Burner

The little tripod cauldrons can also be used as an oil burner. (I never even thought of that!) Place a tea light candle under the cauldron and go wild!


Scrying

Fill your cauldron with water and add a couple drops of food dye in for your scrying pleasure. Watch the swirls and clear your mind. What comes through?



How do you use your cauldrons? Looking this up gave me a lot more ideas, I'm definitely going to try some of these out. How about you?


three large cauldrons over open fire
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