Book Review: The Witch’s Cauldron by Laura Tempest Zakroff

The Witch's Cauldron by Laura Tempest ZakroffLlewellyn’s Witch’s Tools series contains six small books, one for each of the major tools in witchcraft (athame, book of shadows, broom, cauldron, mirror, and wand) though I hope more are forthcoming. The author varies by the book with no author having more than two books in the series at the moment, similar to the Sabbat Essentials series. “The Witch’s Cauldron: The Craft, Lore and Magick of Ritual Vessels” is sixth book in the series and was written by Laura Tempest Zakroff. I am happy to say that I enjoyed this book far more than The Witch’s Book of Shadows, which is the only other book in the series that I have read thus far.

You may notice that this book looks different than the others in the series, and that is because Llewellyn decided to change how the covers looked before the publication of this installment. All of the covers are going to be changed as they are reprinted, so if you like the original covers, buy the first five books as soon as you can. By the by, I know this because of an Amazon comments conversation with a Llewellyn rep that I jumped in to because I really do care that much about book covers.

Strange as it may sound, I really love the original covers; it was the cover of “The Witch’s Mirror,” which features a tattered crow looking at a magickal, beautiful version of itself in a mirror that made me pick up the first book. Alas, the eternal bane of book collectors is the non-uniform set, which seems to be part of our destiny. The original cover, for the record, is super cute; I put it below so you can decide for yourself, but I like it much better than the final release version of the cover above.

The Witch's Cauldron by Laura Tempest ZakroffThe books in this series are presented as a guide to the major tools in witchcraft, including uses, history, folklore, notable references in myth, a craft section, and various spells. The Witch’s Cauldron is broken into nine sections to cover these topics, with guest blurbs interspersed throughout. When I reviewed The Witch’s Book of Shadows I complained about the way these blurbs appear. While I would still prefer the author credited at the beginning, they work much better in this installment; the guest articles have a different title font and a star graphic, but I think I still would have preferred “guest article!” so I’m not confused about who I’m reading. Once you know what to look for, however, it’s not as much of an issue. On the topic of complaints, one of my greatest fears going into this book was that the author, whomever they were, would force the old cauldron = womb Wiccan party line. Happily, Zakroff openly rejects this near the beginning of the book, and even discusses the issue of the Wiccan Great Rite and heteronormativity. I tremendously appreciate that Zakroff addresses these issues directly and doesn’t read gender or sexuality as simplistically as many others do.

On to the substance of the book itself. My absolute favorite chapter was Chapter 2 “Gather Round – The Cauldron in History and Myth” which starts with information about historical uses for cauldrons and some very notable cauldrons that have been discovered. One of the most famous is the Gundestrup Cauldron that features an image of Cernunnos that is also October 2017’s Llewellyn calendar image. I had no idea why there was a naked horned man holding a torc (which I thought was a weird horseshoe or giant piece of body jewelry) and a snake on the calendar, and now I know. Mystery solved! Within this chapter “The Mythic Cauldron” section was a real standout, going through some notable cauldron stories including Ceridwen, Medea (a personal favorite), Baba Yaga (another favorite), Circe, and others. Each closes with a “cauldron consideration,” or moral of each story. This section was enjoyable to read, memorable, and I feel that I learned a lot from it as well.

My second favorite chapter would have to be Chapter 9 “The Spiritual Cauldron,” a relatively brief chapter which features information on the cauldron inside. That sounds hokey when I say it, but the way it’s explained, using the three cauldrons from the poem “The Cauldron of Poesy,” is actually quite lovely. There are two meditations included to help you contemplate this inner cauldron, both of which are very good. Chapter 4 “Getting Started” is also quite helpful, with information on how to cleanse, bless, and consecrate a cauldron, including what the differences are.

A lot more is covered in this book, of course, including the use of cauldrons in rituals, various suggested spells and activities, and information on materials. The least useful section for me was about how to make your own cauldron, which I’m just not going to do, but I’m under the impression that Llewellyn requires a ‘craft’ element to each of these books, so it can’t be helped. The modern cauldrons section was fun and it made me really think of how the cauldron functioned practically throughout history, and how many items we have ‘replaced’ it with now. Sometimes modernity feels excessive, but Zakroff has ideas for how to incorporate these banal, modern cauldrons (like washing machines and tea kettles) into our Craft as well.

Conclusion

I highly recommend this book to any witches who want to learn a little more about their cauldron or who want more ideas of how to work with it. Beginner witches will get an extra lot out of it as well, since there’s nothing that you need to know going in, and a lot of solid baby witch information. Blessed be, friends!

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