Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Cauldron & The Besom

The Cauldron

The cauldron is considered a coven tool in many traditions rather than an
individual one. It represents water, the Goddess, reincarnation, immortality and
inspiration. As Cunningham states, it is "the container in which magical
transformations occur, the sacred grail, the holy spring, the sea of primeval
creation". He calls the cauldron "the witches tool par excellence". It is often
used as the focal point of group rituals and can contain flowers, a ritual fire,
charged water, or incense. It may also be placed empty on the altar as a symbol
of the Goddess or used to prepare brews or for divination by filling it with
water and using it as a focusing point.

Cunningham suggests that the cauldron should be iron, the Farrars agree but also
mention that brass or copper may be easier to find. Valiente considers the
cauldron a coven tool and mentions all the same uses described above and
discusses the symbolism but she also emphasizes that the coven must arrive at
it's own communal understanding of what the cauldron means to them.

If you would like to purchase a cast iron traditional cauldron online I suggest
that you search for a "potjie" rather than a "cauldron". The potjie is an
African cooking pot illustrated to the right above and is perfect for use as a
cauldron. By searching for it by the name of the cooking utensil you will save
allot of money over the witchy stores that sell the same thing but call it a
cauldron. They are available in very large sizes up to 75 gallons if you like.
Copper and brass versions are readily available at thrift stores and
occasionally you may even find a cast-iron cauldron in a smaller size. I collect
them and find most of mine at the Goodwill.

The Besom

Also called the broom, besom is pronounced beh-som. Traditionally made with an
ash handle, broom or birch twigs and a willow wrapping, the broom or besom is
one of the more well known of the tools uses by witches. Every Halloween witch
has a broom, and pretends to ride it, but not every real witch owns one. It is
often considered optional, particularly by solitaires. Round is preferred over
flat. The twigs can also be hazel or yew. The example illustrated above is made
with broom corn bristles which is a perfectly acceptable substitute and is
available from The Traditional Broom Company To care for your besom you will
want to clean the bristles if you actually use it to sweep once every month or
so by washing them in warm soapy water, then rinsing them and shaking out the
excess. Hang the broom to dry with the bristles down. If you don't actually
sweep with the besom you should rehydrate the bristles about twice a year by
putting the bristle end in a bucket of warm, clean water and letting it stand
for 10-15 minutes. Then rinse and shake out the excess water. Be sure to hang
the besom with the bristles down so they won't bend as they dry. The wooden
handle of the broom may be rubbed down with some linseed oil to keep the wood in
good condition unless it's painted or has bark on it.

According to Doreen Valiente the symbolism is as follows: the handle represents
the male aspect, the twigs the female, birch twigs represent birth and rebirth
through the combination of male and female; hazel stands for fire, fertility,
divination and knowledge; yew is the tree of death and resurrection. The message
of the besom is that only though birth will there be life, from that life will
come poetry, art and knowledge. Yet because of birth there must be death and
with death rebirth and resurrection. Cunningham states that the broom is
associated with water due to its purpose of purification. He states that the
broom is protective and purifactory, used to ritually cleanse and area or guard
a home and should be reserved for ritual use. Valiente and Farrar agree as to
the uses mentioned, in addition Valiente mentions using the besom as a gateway
to the circle by laying it at the north in the gateway of the circle as it is
cast. Buckland does not mention the besom, it is not used in his tradition.

It is nice to make your own besom and not really difficult. You need a branch
about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter and 3-4 feet long for the staff, a bundle of
small twigs about 18-20 inches long for the broom part and something to tie the
twigs to the handle with. Willow is traditional, but twine works well and is
easy to obtain. Just insert the handle about 6-8 inches into the center of the
bundle of twigs and wrap the twine tightly around them to tie them to the
handle. Be sure you wrap and tie them tight, so your twigs don't fall out. Hand
made besoms produced in this way are best used for more symbolic than actual

*author unknown

-The Crafty Witch

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