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The concept of chakras never really sat well with me. I could certainly understand having different centers of energy in the body; you don't even have to be into metaphysics to get that. Just from a scientific point of view, when studying the human body, each of the systems functions very differently: nervous, circulatory, digestive, respiratory, skeletal, reproductive, etc.
I could reason that chakras are from a spiritual system different from my own. Yet it's very hard to ignore the presence of Hindu deities in my household, and even on my person. Every day, I wear a pendant that bears the likeness of Ganesh, the elephant -headed god—the first piece of jewelry my husband ever gave me. And gracing my upper back is a tattoo that many will recognize as an incarnation of the face of Kali Ma, or Durga. It's also likely that if you follow down my family tree far enough, you'll find a few ancestors originating from East Asia.
So no, I don't have a good solid reason for eschewing them, except they didn't resonate with my practice. My eyes tend to start glazing over and my attention goes elsewhere. But let me tell you about something that has lit my fire: a triplet of cauldrons!
I came across the Cauldron of Poesy while doing research for The Witch's Cauldron: The Craft, Lore & Magick of Ritual Vessels. To be honest, I wasn't exactly thrilled. I had been doing so much research and thought I was near the end of that stage. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, BOOM! Cauldron of Poesy.
What is it? Well, the Cauldron of Poesy is a medieval Irish bardic poem extolling the virtues of a trio of metaphysical cauldrons located within the human body. Luckily, I was able to poke my friend Erynn Rowan Laurie, who is very familiar with the work. She shared some of her articles with me, and pointed me in few directions so I could explore it deeper for my book. Because she's awesome like that.
The three cauldrons the poem talks about are the Cauldron of Warming, the Cauldron of Motion, and the Cauldron of Wisdom. Each cauldron is positioned in a different part of the human body. The Cauldron of Warming is located within the pelvic region, in the depths of our bellies. The Cauldron of Motion is located in the center of the chest, where our heart and lungs reside. Lastly, the Cauldron of Wisdom can be found within our head or sitting on top of it like a crown.
The poem further explains that when we're born, these spiritual cauldrons are situated differently. Upon birth, the Cauldron of Warming is found in the upright position—basically how we expect a cauldron to sit normally. It is said to contain the basic energy and wisdom we need to live, breathe, grow, and survive at the instinctual level. It can be upset by sickness or unhealthy choices, though.
The Cauldron of Motion is supposedly on its side when we are born, meaning that it is partially empty. Being situated close to the heart, we can connect the Cauldron of Motion to what inspires us—what makes us move. As we pursue what we love and immerse ourselves in culture, the cauldron shifts into the upright position. When we deny ourselves artistry and emotional exploration, we can feel drained and unbalanced. If we immerse ourselves too much, we can flood ourselves and unbalance ourselves physically and mentally.
Lastly, we come into the world with the Cauldron of Wisdom completely overturned and empty. This cauldron guides our spiritual development—exploring the divine, our own places in the universe, and each other. We can upright and fill this cauldron as we become aware of our purpose and seek to make wise choices on our paths.
While I can't say my personal path is particularly Celtic-influenced either, I found this triple cauldron concept deeply inspiring in many ways. As a performer, as an artist, as a Witch, as a physical and spiritual being, they occupy interesting spaces in the body and mind.
First, it resonates with a threefold idea of how I have long-viewed human consciousness/divinity. Coincidentally, there are a multitude of practices and belief systems from all over the world that see the human soul as being made of three parts. In the Modern Tradition of Witchcraft, we identify the three parts as the animal/physical self (our most basic raw form), the conscious self (that which is aware on this plane—it has reason, emotion, and artistry), and the self-divine (our connection to the tapestry of the universe, the gods, and our own god-selves). So we could connect each of the parts to a different cauldron: animal/physical self to the Cauldron of Warming, conscious to the Cauldron of Motion, and self-divine to the Cauldron of Wisdom.
As a performer, especially a bellydancer, I am extremely conscious of the power of movement originating in the pelvis. It physically embodies both sensuality and sexuality. There is also the raw emotional response from within your own body that comes from executing the movements correctly. We also "receive" energy through the belly from the audience. These traits align well with the Cauldron of Warming. Through my chest, I "speak" to the audience, adding artistry and a more conscious later of emotion. The power that moves outward from my chest is essential to what capitivates the observer, fitting perfectly with the Cauldron of Motion. Then in my head, I bypass my analytical left brain to work with visualizing right brain, connecting to a deeper sense of self. I don't perform to satisfy ego, but to share an experience with others, to channel divine energy on some level. This is the realm of the Cauldron of Wisdom.
As an artist, I'm being driven by the Cauldron of Motion, while trying to maintain balance with my body and mind. As a Witch, I need to work with all of my being to access the liminal, connect with the metaphysical, and impact the world around me—accessing all of the Cauldrons in turn. As a human being, life is a constant challenge to keep all of the cauldrons upright and flowing. We can compare and analyze the state of our emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being by evaluating the state of our cauldrons.
Since I've become familiar with these Cauldrons, I've created trance meditations for them (one is included in the The Witch's Cauldron), connected them with movements that help us evaluate and activate the cauldrons in practice and ritual, discovered paths to access them mentally, and made art based on them. I am sure there is more to explore as time passes, as well!
I hope you are now similarly inspired to consider your own cauldrons. In what state are they? Is there a bit of "rust" and gunk, or are they full and shining? What's going on in your life that's working—and what's not? What are you doing that truly moves you? What are you doing to follow your path and find a sense of connection to the world?
May your cauldrons be stirred with inspiration and ever-flowing!
Laura Tempest Zakroff is a professional artist, author, dancer, designer, and Modern Traditional Witch. She holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and her myth-inspired artwork has received awards and ...