Middle English caudron, caldron, from Anglo-French cauderon, diminutive of caldere basin, from Late Latin caldaria, from feminine of Latin caldarius used for hot water, from calidus warm, from calēre to be warm
The Norman-French word replaces probably the initial Old English word ċetel (German (Koch)Kessel "cauldron", Dutch (kook)ketel "cauldron"), Middle English chetel. The word kettle comes from the Old Norse variant spelling ketill "cauldron".
- 1: a large kettle or boiler
- 2: something resembling a boiling cauldron in intensity or degree of agitation <a cauldron of intense emotions>
Cauldrons have largely fallen out of use in the developed world as cooking vessels. While still used for practical purposes, a more common association in Western culture is the cauldron's use in witchcraft—a cliché popularized by various works of fiction, such as Shakespeare's play Macbeth. In fiction, witches often prepare their potions in a cauldron. Also, in Irish folklore, a cauldron is purported to be where leprechauns keep their gold and treasure.
In some forms of Wicca, incorporating aspects of Celtic mythology, the cauldron is associated with the goddess Cerridwen. Celtic legend also tells of cauldrons that were useful to warring armies: dead warriors could be put into a cauldron and then be returned to life, save that they lacked the power of speech. It was suspected that they lacked souls. These warriors could go back into battle until they were killed again. In Wicca and some other forms of neopagan or pagan belief systems the cauldron is still used in magical practices. Most often a cauldron is made of cast iron and is used to burn loose incense on a charcoal disc, to make black salt (used in banishing rituals), for mixing herbs, or to burn petitions (paper with words of power or wishes written on them). Cauldrons symbolize not only the Goddess but also represent the womb (due to the fact that it holds something) and on an altar it represents earth because it is a working tool. Cauldrons are often sold in New Age or "metaphysical" stores and may have various symbols of power inscribed on them.
The holy grail of Arthurian legend is sometimes referred to as a "cauldron", although traditionally the grail is thought of as a hand-held cup rather than the large pot that the word "cauldron" usually is used to mean. This may have resulted from the combination of the grail legend with earlier Celtic myths of magical cauldrons.