In contemporary Witchcraft, the cauldron is an important magical tool that
symbolically combines influences of the ancient elements of air, fire, water,
and earth. Its shape is representative of Mother Nature, and the three legs
upon which it stands correspond to the three aspects of the Triple Goddess,
the three lunar phases (waxing, full and waning), and to three as a magical
number. Additionally, the cauldron is a symbol of transformation (both
physical and spiritual), enlightenment, wisdom, the womb, of the Mother
Goddess, and rebirth.
Since early times, cauldrons have been used not only for boiling water and
cooking food, but for heating magical brews, poisons, and healing potions.
They have also been utilized by alchemists and by Witches as tools of
divination, containers for sacred fires and incense, and holy vessels for
offerings to the gods of old.
If a large cauldron is needed in a ritual, it is generally placed next to the
altar, on either side. Small cauldrons, such as ones used for burning of
incense, can be placed on top of the alter.
In Middle Ages, most of the population believed that all Witches possessed a
large black cauldron in which poisonous brews and vile hell-broths were
routinely concocted. These mixtures were said to have contained such
ingredients as bat’s blood, serpent’s venom, headless toads, the eyes of
newts, and a gruesome assortment of animal and human body parts, as well
as deadly herbs and roots.
In fourteenth-century Ireland, a Witch known as Lady Alice Kyteler was said
to have used the enchanted skull of a beheaded thief as her cauldron. Also in
the fourteenth century, a male Witch by the name of William Lord Soulis
was convicted in Scotland for a number of sorcery-related offenses. His
peculiar form of execution was death by being boiled alive in a huge
According to an old legend, if a sorceress dumped the vile contents of her
cauldron into the sea, a great tempest would be stirred up.
Ancient Irish folklore is rich with tales of wondrous cauldrons that never run
out of food at a feast, while an old Gypsy legend told of a brave hero who
was boiled in a cauldron filled with the milk of man-eating mares.
It is said that bad luck will befall any Witch who brews a potion in a
cauldron belonging to another. If the lid is accidentally left off the cauldron
while a magical brew is prepared, this portends the arrival of a stranger,
according to a superstitious belief from Victorian-era England.
The cauldron and its powers are associated with many goddesses from preChristian
faiths, including Hecate (the protectress of all Witches),
Demeter/Persephone (in the Eleusinian mysteries), the Greek enchantresses
Circe and Medea, Siris (the Babylonian goddess of fate and mother of the
stars, whose cauldron was made of lapis lazuli), the Celtic goddess
Cerridwen, from whose cauldron bubbled forth the gifts of wisdom and
Although the cauldron has traditionally been a symbol of the divine feminine
since the earliest of times, there exist a number of male deities from various
Pagan pantheons who also have a connection to it. Among them are the
Norse god Odin (who acquired his shape-shifting powers by drinking from
the cauldron of wise blood), the Hundu sky god Indra (whose myth is similar
to Odin’s), Bran the Blessed (the Welsh god of the sacred cauldron), and
Cernunnos (the Celtic horned god who was dismembered and boiled in a
cauldron to be reborn).
Depicted on the famous Gunderstrup cauldron (circa 100 B.C.) is the staghorned
Cernunnos in various scenes with different animals. Believed by
many to be of Celtic origin, this large silver cauldron may have once been
used in sacrificial rites.
The use of sacrificial cauldrons can be traced to the ancient religious and
magical practices of various European cultures, as well as to some shamanic
traditions. Human and animal victims would first be beheaded over the
cauldrons and then have their blood drained out into the cauldron, where it
would be boiled to produce a mystical substance. Among the Celts, a potion
of inspiration was said to have been brewed in such a manner by the
priestess of the lunar goddess.
The cauldron is linked to the Holy Grail – a chalice that is believed by
Christians to have been used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper. However,
prior to its incorporation into Christian myth in the twelfth century, the Grail
belonged to British paganism as a symbol of reincarnation and the divine
womb of the Goddess.