These mysteries, within the legends of Wicca/Witchcraft, represent the inner and sacred teachings of creation, transformation, and regeneration. In both myth and legend the cauldron brews potions, aids in casting of spells, produces abundance or decline, and is a holy vessel for offerings to the powers of the Night, and to the Great Goddess. Its chief attribute is that of transformation, whether of a spiritual or physical nature. When symbolizing the Goddess it can bestow wisdom, knowledge, and inspiration.
It is within the tale of the cauldron of Gerridwen that many associated aspects of the Mystery Teachings are found. Gerridwen is preparing in her cauldron a brew designed to give enlightenment to her son. The potion is required to brew for and year and a day. Such a time period is symbolic of Wiccan initiation and reflects the teaching in many traditions that each degree requires a year and a day of training. In this tale of Gerridwen, Gwion, for whom it was not intended, tastes the potion. This makes Gerridwen angry, and she pursues the offender. Both of them transform into various cult animals during the chase.
Included in the potion of Gerridwen were yellow flower known as Pipes of Lleu (cowslip), Gwion’s silver (fluxwort), the borues of Gwion (hedge-berry), Taliesin’s cresses (vervain), and mistletoe berries mixed with sea foam. The dredge of the brew was poisonous and had to be handled properly. In early Greek tradition, this potion was prepared in the cauldron of Ceres whose residue was likewise poisonous in substance and whose herbal ingredients were also mixed with seawater.
This potentially fatal potion was prepared for willing initiates whereby by their consciousness would retrieve the genetic memories of their ancestors. Such is related to the teaching that trauma or extreme introversion can bring about a dramatic increase in psychic abilities. In incidents of near death, the survival mechanisms engage to tap into the cumulative knowledge of the person’s genetic material, search for a way to escape from the impending death. Surviving such an experience can result in a conscious merging with the atavistic collective consciousness of ancestors as retained in DNA (the cauldron of the hidden Underworld).
In the Celtic myth the cauldron of Gerridwen was warmed by the breath of nine maidens and produced an elixir that that conferred inspiration. Here, in comparison, are striking similarities to an earlier Greek tale in which the nine Muses gave inspiration to humans. In the Celtic legends that most probably evolved from the Mediterranean Mystery Traditions Gerridwen’s cauldron was said to have a ring of pearls around its rim. It was located in the realm of Annwn (the Underworld) and, according to the Taliesin’s poem “The Spoils of Annwn” the breath of nine maidens kindled the fire beneath it. Oracle speech reportedly came forth from the cauldron. This, of course, is another connection to the nine Muses that were associated with the Oracle Delphi. The vapors emanating from the volcanic pit below the oracle were said to bestow the gift of prophecy.