Tools: Chalices, Cauldrons, and the Properties of Water and Other Liquids.

Chalices and cauldrons are magical elemental tools associated with the element of water. This is because they’re used to hold liquid. You can literally put liquid in them for your ritual. You’ll notice I’ve been going through each of the five elemental tools one by one. To understand how chalices and cauldrons work, I need to review how water works and what it does.

Water is a feminine element, and because of this it is a passive element. Water is passive in its flexibility, it takes on the shape of its container, unlike earth which is passive in its stagnation. Because it doesn’t hold a shape water is in a constant state of flux, it can change completely moment from moment. Because of this we associate water with the future, which is ever changing, and anything else that may be associated with a state of constant change.

For many of the same reasons we associate water with emotion. Emotions, like water, are constantly changing. Emotions are passive. They are a direct result of the environment, the container a person is put within if you will. Water also has unique properties in regard to holding emotional energy, or any energy for that matter, which we’ll discuss in a bit.

Suppose I have two jars of water, each containing one liter (you can do this experiment yourself at home if you wish, there is no danger with it). If I take both jars and pour them into one bucket, what happens? I have my two liters of water, but they’ve combined together seamlessly. You can no longer tell which parts of the water came from jar one and which came from jar two. You can’t tell where one begins or the other ends. You can take this one step further and say there are no longer two separate liters of water. You could say that those two liters came together, and in their union created something new, a bit of water that is now two liters in volume.

This experiment shows where water gets a lot of its properties from. It is the element of unions. It’s the element of two things coming together. The obvious meaning is a romantic relationship, and this can be extended to make water the element of not just relationships, but also love, marriage, and sex. But it’s also the element of all other unions too, be it platonic relationships like friendship or companies merging together, or even symbiotic relationships shared by different entities.

We also said that we could take the experiment a step further, and see the two liters merging into one new entity. This is sexual union and the act of procreation, which is also associated with water. Both fire and water are elements of creation, however fire represents the masculine creative force, the act of singular creation, where as water represents the act of creation via a union of two.

Lastly we need to look at the properties of water concerning energy. Water is sort of weird because it does two completely opposite things. First off, it acts like a sponge. It will take in any energy that is around it. It will even forcefully suck it out of something. The more water you have, the more dramatic this will be. Crossing large bodies of water, especially running water, can be very draining because of this property of water.

The second thing that water does is that it gives off the energy that it takes. Water is not so great at hanging on to energy. Meaning that once water takes energy from something, you can put an item into that water in order to charge it.

Because of these properties, water in motion, running water, is generally clean and without energy, and is good for cleaning the energy from something or someone. For this reason cleansing rituals are best done in the shower. However between when the water hits your body and takes some energy from it and when it hits the drain it loses quite a bit of that energy, and so showers tend to be one of the most haunted places in a home, with spirits conjugating there and things going in and out of portals that have been created. The other really haunted place is over a bed that is slept in. Your entire life is a peep show for spiritual beings :)

Where as running water is clean and constantly giving up energy, stagnant water holds it a bit better, and is thus dirty and will charge you with whatever water is in it. In the same way if you’re in the woods you’re supposed to drink running water from a stream or the rain, not stagnant water like from a puddle.

Buying Chalices and Cauldrons

The majority of chalices and cauldrons will be metal. Sometimes you may find one made out of stone (and this is fine) or even something more exotic, like an ivory chalice. The one thing you need to stay away from are chalices and cauldrons made from plastic. These are going to prove to be vastly inferior tools. In fact plastic tools are almost always worthless, the one saving grace of a plastic chalice being that the water inside it is not plastic.

Chalices and cauldrons are feminine, and so ideally you’d want them made out of silver. Silver items tend to be pretty pricey though. Alternatively you can get one with a silver finish and this will work almost as well. A copper chalice, if you made one, would make an interesting tool and you could, no doubt, do some interesting things with it. This is far from mandatory though and a metal chalice that is neither silver nor copper will work just fine.

Cool Things to do With Chalices and Cauldrons

Chalices are unfortunately feminine, and thus passive, objects. Magick is largely concerned with action and doing, feminine objects don’t usually do things, they have things done to them. Because of this, chalices tend not to get much ritual use. Cauldrons are a bit more useful because of their larger size.

Certain religions that involve active magical practice, particularly many of the Wiccan sects and other neopagan religions influenced by Wicca, try to stress either an equality of the sexes or a feminine agenda. Because of this chalices are included in many rituals either to add balance to the masculine tools (like wands and knives) or in some extreme cases to try to elevate the role of the feminine by having it also encompass what it is not, often times devaluing the role of the masculine in the process. It’s important to remember that, in regards to spiritual practices, masculine and feminine refer to absolute and primal ideals, not gender. A boy is not spiritually masculine and a girl is not spiritually feminine (although they could represent these things). Nobody is entirely one or the other, and most people only slightly lean moreso in one direction than the other, and which direction they lean in has nothing to do with gender.

Back to the important point I was making, you probably won’t see much use out of these tools. Every once in a while they will come in handy, but unless you’re designing rituals to specifically use them, you won’t find much need for them. Some uses for them though:

Marriage Rituals: Chalices and cauldrons represent union. They are a staple of marriage rituals. You almost always see at least one if not two chalices at a wedding. Either the bride and groom should drink from the same cup to solidify their union, or the bride drinks from the groom’s cup as the groom drinks from the bride’s cup.

Energy Holder: This can be done with a chalice, to some degree, but works much better with a cauldron. During a ritual a cauldron can suck in a lot of the ritual energy. The ritual may be about empowering the cauldron, or it could just be that the cauldron is there to get the excess energy you plan on producing. Either way afterwards a lot can be done with the water. It can be bottled up and later thrown on things to release the energy on to it (this could be purifying or aggressive energy to attack with, for instance), an item (like a ring) can be dropped into the cauldron to be charged with the energy, or you could leave the cauldron open so the energy can seep out into the room to set ambience or for use in another ritual.

Sex Magick:
A lot of interesting ideas come to mind, especially with the cauldron. For one, a cauldron could be set up to capture some of the energy from the sexual act. Most people using sexual energy use the preorgasmic energy because this is very easy to raise in large amounts. However at the point of orgasim the energy surges eventually hitting a peak. Unfortunately this only lasts moments and you happen to be in the middle of an orgasm at the time, making it very difficult to utilize this energy. You can set it up to capture some of that energy into the cauldron, although the vast majority of the energy will still be lost (the cauldron is not going to be big enough to hold it all). The bigger the cauldron, the more energy you’ll be able to hold. You could also charge the cauldron beforehand in order to use the energy during sex. It could be used as an aphrodisiac, to direct or heighten the sexual experience, or it could be incorporated into a sexual ritual depending on the specific energy used. You could also incorporate the chalice or cauldron into a ritual meant to create a more meaningful and permanent union during intercourse.

Fertility Rituals: A chalice, and cauldron too, is actually fairly useful, although by no means necessary, in fertility rituals. The chalice is representative of the female, more specifically her genitals, in procreation. It represents both the sexual union of two people, and the female party in that union.

Bonding and Pacts: Remember how water represents all unions? One use of a chalice or cauldron is in a ritual designed to bond yourself to another entity. This means that the entity will somehow be attached to you or even become a part of you, or you a part of it. This is usually done for a variety of reasons, and typically both parties at least think they’re getting something they want or need out of the deal. A chalice can also be used to seal a pact with an entity.

Scrying: Water has a reflective surface. Anything with a reflective surface can be used to scry. Water is even better for scrying when you’re trying to divine the future though because the element of water represents the future. You can’t scry with a chalice, but you can with a cauldron, or even just a bowl. It needs to be a darker color though, since bright colors (and flashy designs for that matter) tend to hinder scrying.

Liquids Other Than Water

There are things other than water you could fill your chalice with other things. Generally most liquids will share some or even all of water’s properties. Traditionally most ritual liquids were either water, juices, teas, alcohol, or other drugs. I would recommend sticking to these and not trying to incorporate weird things like soda pop into rituals (soda, especially cola, is acidic and destructive, and actually would be useful in an infertility ritual. Also some people can use the high sugar content and caffeine to recharge themselves post-ritual).

Juices: Generally juices tend to have properties that are close to the fruits they are made out of. Apple juice is associated with fertility, pomegranate with the underworld, ect.

Teas: Teas are awesome drinks. They both relax you and refresh and heal you. Teas are associated with bringing one to a calm and peaceful state, recharging energy, increasing mental capabilities, and healing. The less refined the tea, the better (black is the worst, white is the best).

Alcohol: Typically the alcohol used is either beer or wine. Beer is used mainly because traditionally it has been more prevalent than anything else in some regions. Wine is preferable  to any other kind of alcohol though. When you’re drunk on wine its not as sloppy as hard liquor, or even beer. Even when you’re drunk, and you know you’re drunk and you can feel it, mentally its more like being buzzed. The loss of mental focus and intelligence, and the cloudiness that result from drinking are counterproductive to magical work. With wine, these effects are lessened. With hard liquor these effects are magnified quite a bit, and so generally we don’t use hard liquor in ritual.

All alcohol is associated with removing inhibitions and freeing oneself or bringing oneself to a more natural and honest state. Wine is associated with sacredness and the divine, and is also associated with certain gods (like Bacchus). Beer and ale is also associated with certain gods, and along with hard liquor is associated with the dulling of emotions or emotional healing. Alcohol being a drug, when used in large enough amounts it can lead to a spiritual catharsis. Alcohol can both open up your psychic senses, most commonly occurring with wine, or dull your spiritual senses, most commonly occurring with hard liquor. The actual effects, and their severity, will vary with the individual. Excessive drinking and alcohol addiction are counterproductive to any spiritual work.

4 Responses to Tools: Chalices, Cauldrons, and the Properties of Water and Other Liquids.

  1. magickfortherealworld says:

    It seems that you are contradicting yourself in this post. If water is like a person’s emotions and the cup is the environment, then the cup must be active rather than passive. This is a strange thought because cups are considered to be feminine and passive, as you have stated.

    Throughout your post you have stated that water holds the unique properties of sucking up energy as well as releasing it. This makes absolute sense when looking at water’s physical actions. It flows, and can be pushed in a given direction, but can also push other things. This changes its properties doesn’t it? It makes it both active and passive rather than the generally accepted passive.

    When brought back to the original contradiction, this makes perfect sense. The cup represents both the environment and water. The water represents a person’s emotions as well as water. Obviously the environment is active (the environment actively affects the person), and the person is passive (the person is passively affected by the environment). If we take the element of water to be exactly the same as the physical water, we are lacking the opposing properties in both the cup and the water within the cup…except we’re not.

    Looking a little deeper we realize that we are not just talking about mundane effects. The emotions are a major source of magickal effects, even without meaning to (e.g. the Evil Eye), thus they actively affect the environment as well, and the environment is affected by the emotions.

    What can we learn from this? I’d say that the element of water is a misunderstood element, and requires more in depth analysis.

    Thank you for the inspiration for the insight, Rob.

    Magick for the Real World

  2. Rob says:

    Interesting thoughts. Being able to think about elemental tools and the elements critically is one of the most important aspects of understanding spellwork. I’d say if you can figure out element theory and elemental tools you’re about 70% of the way to understanding just about any spell. Now if you’ll allow me to add some further insight to some of what you’ve said.

    There seems to be some confusion about the role of the chalice as an elemental tool. The chalice itself is a big, solid, probably metal thing so it would technically belong to the element of Earth. So would a wand or a knife. You have to understand that these tools are not what they are, but what they represent symbolically. You’re assuming that the liquid itself in the chalice represents the element of water. In reality the chalice itself represents water, regardless of whether or not its empty.

    Now we could use exact elemental representations. In that case we would have a table of:
    Fire = Flame
    Water = Liquid Water
    Air = Air (Kinda hard and gets left out)
    Earth = Dirt or Sand
    Spirit = Energy

    Some spells actually do use this method. A lot of times you’ll have spells that use dirt from the ground or where a candle represents fire.

    This though is still a symbolic form. The element of fire is not actually a flame, in the same way the element of air is not actually the wind that blows. All of the things mentioned are physical things. They only appear in certain parts of the universe. Once you reach the mental planes, everything is thoughts, and ideas, and intelligences. There is no physical matter and there is no energy. We actually identify the mental planes as being airy, even though air cannot exist there.

    Fire, water, air, earth, and spirit are just things we use in comparison to describe something that we really don’t have words or thoughts for on this world. The elements are the basic building blocks of the universe. All of them exist very high up in the universe, and you have to ascend a very long way before they start breaking down. They are not even ideas because they exist before ideas. They are completely abstract ideals in their purest form. They are the five most basic parts from which all things that come after them spring forth.

    Now we can use the actual physical things we use as symbolic of the elements to be the elements. It is sometimes done in spellwork. It makes it difficult to utilize air or energy in that regard. We can also use the elemental tools which are:

    Fire = Wands and Staves
    Water = Chalices and Cauldrons
    Air = Knives and Swords
    Earth = Sigils, Jewelery, Stones, ect.
    Spirit = Flame (typically as kept in a candle or lantern)

    So yes, if you pour water into a chalice the chalice is the environment the water conforms to, the chalice itself belonging to the element of Earth. However as an elemental tool the chalice represents water. Many of the rituals that use chalices use water or liquid in the chalice, but then many of the rituals that use a chalice use an empty chalice. In either case the chalice is still representative of water.

    Maybe I went a little too in depth, but hopefully I’ve managed to explain why the chalice represents water and not the environment.

    On to the second point. Yes water does have an active state. In the same way air, which is an active element, has a passive state. Fire and Earth, alternatively, are absolutes. Fire is always active and Earth is always passive. Spirit meanwhile is always active and always passive. We can look at water as being the lesser passive element and air as being the lesser active element since neither are absolutes. If they were absolute, they would be Earth and Fire. Even though it has an active state, water is still mostly passive, the same way that air is mostly active, so we categorize them as such.

    Also don’t confuse the idea of power with active. Water can be very powerful, but it is a passive power. Emotions are a good example. Emotions can be strong and devastating. But they are a passive force. They are not acting upon the environment in any controlled way. They are a byproduct of their environment, and they act upon it in the way in which they have been sculpted and molded.

    Now we can control emotions. Quite a lot of magic focuses on controlling emotions. However we control emotions through mental acts and energy manipulation. Mental acts falls into the realm of air and energy manipulation falls in to the realm of spirit, two active elements, which in turn are used to mold the passive element water into its form.

    In the same way if we have a slope, and we pour water on to the top of it, the water will move down it pushing anything in its way. If we pour the water into the bottom of the slope, it will not move up the slope on its own. Water, although a force, is ultimately a slave to its environment. Compare this to air. The wind can blow in any direction. It doesn’t matter where you are, the wind will can come from any direction. The only way it won’t is if you have something to physically block the wind, and even then the wind will blow around it, and it will hit it, and it can even blow down the sturdiest of structures sometimes. And thus air is an active force.

    Take a look at Earth for another example. Earth is always a passive force. It has no active form. Yet if you build Earth into a wall, it will block wind. If you pour earth onto a fire, it will douse it. If you put enough Earth into a river, it will form a damn. Even though Earth is a passive force it is still a force, it still has power. It’s just a passive power.

    We can also define our elements as such:

    Spirit = Is always active and always passive (which is the same as saying it is never active and never passive).
    Fire = Is always active (if fire ceases to be active and burn it ceases to exist).
    Water = Is passive but is in some ways active – has an active form.
    Air = Is active but is in some ways passive – has a passive form.
    Earth = Is always passive (it has no active form).

    So if water were to be more active, it will become air. If it ceases to be active all together, it becomes Earth.

    I hope this all adds a bit more clarity to the idea of the elements and the elemental tools.

  3. magickfortherealworld says:

    I like the idea of a lesser passive and lesser active element, and I agree with the “greater” passive and active ideas as well as that spirit is both always active and always passive.

    I disagree about the cup analogy though. The emotional mind absolutely has an effect upon the environment. Yes, you can train your emotions and most serious occult work involves this, but if it were the conscious logical mind that was acting upon the environment, why would we need to draw upon anger or sadness? How do you explain the Evil Eye (jealousy causing a “curse” upon a baby) or any other subconscious sending of negative energy?

    In fact, it would seem that the emotional mind is the most active when dealing with the element of spirit because it is not bound by the unconscious boundaries of learned belief (belief in gravity, belief that diseases are always caused by infection of some sort, etc.). Which leads me to the next discussion point, much like the physical elements interact with each other differently (water and fire being in opposition, earth and air having distinct boundaries, and water and earth making mud), maybe the different levels of our mind work differently with the different elemental planes. Our logical mind (air) would have a hard time influencing the physical world (earth), while our emotional mind (water) would much more readily influence the physical world (earth) because earth and water can combine and then the mud is no longer immobile. Just a possible discussion point.


  4. Diogeneia says:

    What I have always found interesting about traditional western magick is the way water is viewed–and often taken for granted. First, I think it is important to consider water in all of its forms (liquid, solid and gas) when thinking about its magickal uses. Next, it is important to treat it as what it is–one of the most powerful crystals available to us.

    It is true that it pulls energy AND gives it off, but this is precisely the nature of a crystal. Water is a conduit of energy and it can be manipulated in the same way as any crystal. I recommend experimenting a bit to see what sorts of results you get.

    The reason showers are haunted is because the “unaware” way in which they are used. In life…the state of awareness in which moments go unnoticed… is the enemy of all humans, but especially of any practitioner of magickal arts. When working with water–which one can argue you are doing every moment of every day since humans are mostly water–it is extremely important to be “in the moment”. It sounds very cliche, but it is absolutely true. I have also experienced it stated this way when it comes to water: Whether it is active or passive depends on us.

    The shower can actually be one of the best places to do a bit of magick with some simple “in the moment” visualizations and/or spoken chants or spells. Take that time to visualize the water raining down health and positive energy and pulling out illness or negative energy. This is a simple “in the moment” bit of energy work you can do every day the cumulative effects of which are very noticeable. I recommend the same for any time you wash your hands. This is an effective way to shorten the duration of any illness as well.

    The energy of your thoughts, whether focused in the case of a spell or unfocused in the case of a simple “feeling”, will charge any water with which you are in contact. (Think about this in terms of your own self talk as well).

    Anyway, just some thoughts and things to consider on this topic. My magickal influences are a bit more “Eastern” then perhaps most folks. :)


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