A device connected with water symbolism during the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age in Europe, although its precise historical function is somewhat confused. The vessels vary considerably in size and some are massive. The largest discovered to date is the Bra Cauldron from Jutland which holds more than 600 litres.
In Irish and Welsh Traditions the cauldron symbolized plenty, and that of the god Dagda possessed magical powers of rejuvenation and Inspiration.
The cauldron was also a symbol of death during the Iron Age.
The writer Strabo describes the practice of the Cimbrians whereby they slit the throats of prisoners over sacred cauldrons, while other commentators described the ritual drowning of victims in such vessels. Arguably the most famous cauldron is the solid silver Gundestrup Bowl, embellished with mythical scenes, which was unearthed from a peat bog in Jutland. It should be clear that these vessels bear no cultural relationship to the Viking Era which arose many hundreds of years later.
Contrary to popular belief, in most modern forms of Paganism, very little spell working is actually performed in a Cauldron and its use is largely symbolic.
The cauldron is often used as a symbol of the uterus and is employed in many forms of Wicca to represent the creative aspect of the Goddess.
Also known as the Cauldron of Regeneration, a ceremony described by Gerald Gardner, is performed at Yule during which the Cauldron, containing spirit, is placed in the centre of the circle and its contents ignited. Leaves, herbs and other ingredients are added and the Priest and Priestess stand either side of the vessel leading a Chant. The other Coven members, bearing lighted torches, form the Circle and Dance around the Cauldron deosil (clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere - anti-clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere). They may also leap across the Cauldron. The rite is followed by a feast.
see also: CAULDRON MYSTERIES
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.
Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans. Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.
Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church. Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.
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