When people think about witches there is one popular tool before all other tools and symbols: The cauldron. The image of three witches, crowded around a big cauldron, laughing and stirring their green potion full of unspeakable things.
But what is the truths behind this image?
Cauldrons were once everyday tools. No home was without a cauldron. In the cauldron the meals were cooked on the hearth fire, or outside on bonfires. In cauldrons the brews from healing herbs were made, the only medicine over thousands of years. In cauldrons the water was cooked for drinking or for hygiene. The cauldron is strongly connected to the hearth.
The hearth was once the central point in every home, the focus (this latin word just means hearth) for the family and community, they gathered around the hearth.
And on the hearth the spirits of the ancestors were honored, the gods were invoked, the people prayed near the hearth and worked spells on the hearth fire. Goddesses like Hestia, Vesta and Hekate are strongly connected to the hearth and the household cults of ancient Greece and Rome.
The cauldron is symbolising all this- the sacredness of the hearth fire and for many witches who don’t have a hearth- the cauldron is a symbol to represent the hearth.
But the cauldron does not only symbolise the hearth, it is also a symbol of transformation. It is strongly connected to the archetypical witch. Even Medea in ancient Greek myths worked her witchcraft with a bronze cauldron. And the use of bronze cauldrons is very old. Many people think about cast iron cauldrons, when it is about witches. But in reality the bronze cauldrons were strongly connected to them. Bronze was a sacred metal of the Goddess Hekate and in the Greek myths about witches, bronze was a special metal in witchcraft. The greek witches used bronze knives, bronze sandals and bronze cauldrons in their rites. And bronze cauldrons were used until the late middle ages, then the cast iron cauldron got popular.
In cauldrons witches brew their potions, in reality these were brews of herbs, for healing, to make aphrodisiacs and love philtres, brews for protection and to break curses, potions to curse or to cure.
The cauldron can be a very powerful tool in modern witchcraft. Only few modern witches have a hearth, the cauldron can be used as a symbol of the sacred hearth.
It can be used to make brews and potions, to mix herbal powders, to burn herbs as incense, as offering bowl for the spirits, or as an focus point for them. It can be used in divination, in spell work and to make ointments. It can also be used like the pentacle of ceremonial magic- to put things inside of the cauldron that should get filled with power, like mojo bags, talismans, amulets, bones and stones, ribbons and strings or just to contain sacred water.
I have several cauldrons that I use in my witchcraft. Two big bronze cauldrons, these are my working cauldrons for practical magic or devotional rites. Then I have a copper cauldron hanging in my hearth shrine, this cauldron is a focus point for my familiar spirits and the good spirits in my home. I burn incense in this cauldron, or fill it with water and herbs and lightning an ethanol fire under it, so that the water begins to boil. The smoke and steam are offerings for the spirits.
Then I have a small offering copper cauldron, I put food and drink offerings for the spirits and gods into this cauldron. And I have some very small copper cauldrons which I use for the burning of incense.
For me the cauldron is also a symbol of the Witch Queen- Hekate. For me the cauldron is a strong connection to her, and her aspects as a goddess of witchcraft. And the cauldron that hangs in my witchcraft-hearth shrine is a kind of representation of her. In my other hearth shrine (in the living room) I have a bronze cauldron in my hearth shrine- and a iron cauldron there, too. For me they represent the light- and dark aspects of Hekate.