Turning the Cauldrons

Coire Érma - movement, vocation, aptitude

Coire Goriath - warming, incubation

Coire Áiged, Soís - spiritual knowledge

Coire Goriath

According to this tract, the Cauldron of Warming is the wellspring of Life for each of us. It is placed upright at birth and remains that way throughout our lives. This cauldron represents the fires of emotion, vitality and power that sustain all of our activity within the Three Worlds. The breath of our spirits enables the Cauldron of Warming at birth. It is empowered by the vitality of our blood. The mind is the well from which spiritual focus flows to regulate and control the nature of our inner fires. These three fundamental characteristics of the Cauldron of Warming are also duíle of the body: the breath, the blood, and the mind. Within the threefold Cauldrons we see a threefold division of the self. It can be shown that each Cauldron contains three Duíle.

Coire Érmae

The Cauldron of Vocation seems to be inverted in unskilled people, though it too can be turned by joy or sorrow. A person need only become aware of their "gifts" to turn this cauldron on its side. Within such people, there is a giving and receiving of vocation. These people are very active within the physical world. One might say that the evidence of their gifts is very fluid. The Cauldron of Vocation represents the connection between the self and the Middleworld of Land. Before we can fill the Cauldron of Wisdom, we must train ourselves in a Vocation. We must experience the many flows of the world around us. I equate the following elements of the self to the Cauldron of Vocation: The hair/skin, the flesh, and the bones. Our physical bodies must be made healthy to support the higher aspects of the self and to allow us to be able to exist as both creatures of thought and spirit.

Coire Soís

The Cauldron of Knowledge was said to be upside down in a person at birth. This is understandable, since we normally forget our previous lives from the shock of passing through the Otherworld. A person could spend an entire lifetime refilling and changing the position of this particular cauldron. It was thought that the cauldron would become upright after a strong major emotional event, such as, extreme sorrow or extreme joy. In such an "upright" person/position, the Cauldron of Knowledge was capable of holding much more knowledge and wisdom. I personally equate the Cauldron of Knowledge to the dúile of the Head, the Brain and the Face. The Head is the container of knowledge; the Brain is where Wisdom is held; the Face is were we gather, perceive and present information about the world around us. The Cauldron of Knowledge represents the connection between the Skyworld of the Gods and the mental/spiritual/physical aspects of the self.

The Three Cauldrons text represents the Druidís approach to the concept of "chakras," in my opinion. They seem to have an almost direct correspondence to the three gunas of Vedic tradition as well: Tamas - Érma, Rajas - Goriath, Sattva - Sois. These three sets of qualities represent experience, existence and consciousness in the Vedic culture and are considered to be the three parts of Wisdom in Celtic culture. The state of oneís being and the emphasis that we each place upon the individual Cauldrons, determines just who we are, and just how deeply we are involved within the activities of each of the Three Worlds.

The World of the Sky - Consciousness

Creation, Knowledge, Inspiration

The World of the Sea - Existence

Warming, Life, Health

The World of the Land - Experience

Motion, Tradition, Vocation

Consciousness of Consciousness - Head - Sky

Existence of Consciousness - Brain - Stars

Experience of Consciousness - Face - Sun

Consciousness of Existence - Mind - Moon

Existence of Existence - Breath - Wind

Experience of Existence - Blood - Sea

Consciousness of Experience - Skin - Nature

Existence of Experience - Flesh - Land

Experience of Experience - Bone - Stone

Consciousness has four parts: Awareness, Association, Focus, Clarity

Existence has four parts: Will, Activity, Interaction, Continuity.

Experience has four parts: growth, Opposition, Opportunity, Attempt, Accomplishment.

The Three Cauldrons are centers of being within each of us that were identified by Nede mac Adne and Amergin White Knee. Evidence for the concept and the functions of the three cauldrons within each of us is based upon text found within a 15th century manuscript that was transcribed by Annie Power into " Anecdota from Irish MS, vol. 5." It is commonly called "The Cauldron of Poesy." Erynn Rowan Laurie has done an excellent translation and discussion of the poems in this work which can be found on the Nemeton website and at Obsidian magazine's website. Caitlin Matthews also translated this text in a section of _An Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom_, which is widely available through bookstores and book clubs.

The basics of the Three Cauldron texts are these:

Everyone is born into this world containing three centers: a center of existence (The Cauldron of Warming), a center of experience (The Cauldron of Vocation) and a center of consciousness (The Cauldron of Knowledge). The Cauldron of Warming is that which is necessary for life. The Cauldrons of Vocation and Knowledge are those areas of ourselves that can be changed by our own efforts. The texts state the relationships of these three centers by describing the Cauldron of Warming as being upright at birth, while the Cauldron of Vocation is on its side and the Cauldron of Knowledge is inverted.

The work of the Poet is said to be the turning of the Cauldrons of Vocation and Knowledge to achieve imbas and to be filled with the ecstasy of poetical composition. These acts can be accomplished by several things. The first of these is a pursuit of knowledge and learning which can be accomplished by those who have been blessed with an aptitude for the task. This course of action can lead to great sorrow or great joy, either of which can turn the Cauldron of Vocation upright. Once it is activated, this center of being can be filled throughout the course of life. The Cauldron of Knowledge is said to be turned by great joy alone. This is the result of a triggering experience of ecstasy which is likened in the manuscripts to the feelings of exaltation that one receives when experiencing sex, excellent health, the thrill of graduation after long study or the excitement of an athletic competition (such as a horse race) or of an inspiration (such as an enlightenment or mystical experience). What the text clearly describes IMO is a period of intensive training and meditation which can be followed by an ecstatic experience in some people which leads them to greater wisdom and knowledge. I know that this has been the case in my own life regarding study, meditation, sex, health, athletic competition and ecstatic spiritual quests.

In my contemplations on the matter of the Three Cauldrons I have also developed a relationship between them and the dúile of the self and being (since both sets of concepts seem to address states of being in ourselves and the universe). As a guide in this development, I followed the lead of the ancient Vedic seers in seeing the actions of the Three Cauldrons upon one another. In their development of the three gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas, the qualities of life), they expressed these relationships in the following manner:


Sattva (the concentrating tendency)

consciousness, light, interlinking and cohesion

Rajas (the revolving tendency)

existence, periodic motion, rhythmic activity, creative thought

Tamas (the dispersing tendency)

experience, disintegration, darkness, dissolution

Consciousness of Consciousness - the Self or Atman

Existence of Consciousness - Divinity or Is/vara

Experience of Consciousness - Human Nature or Ji/va

Consciousness of Existence - the inner faculties or Antahkarana

Existence of Existence - life-energies or Pra/na

Experience of Existence - the feelngs and emotions or Rasa

Consciousness of Experience - the senses or Indriya

Existence of Experience - principals of the elements or Maha/bhu/ta

Experience of Experience - the inanimate world

I extended these concepts to the nine dúile and the Three Cauldrons in the following table:


The Coire Sois (Cauldron of Knowledge)

Consciousness - Future

Creation, Knowledge, Inspiration

The Coire Goriath (Cauldron of Warming)

Existence - Present

Warming, Life, Health

The Coire Ernma (Cauldron of Vocation)

Experience - Past

Motion, Tradition, Incubation


Consciousness of Consciousness - Head, Self, Sky

Existence of Consciousness - Brain, Spirit, Stars

Experience of Consciousness - Face, Image, Sun

Consciousness of Existence - Mind, Intuition, Moon

Existence of Existence - Breath, Creativity, Wind

Experience of Existence - Blood, Actions, Sea

Consciousness of Experience - Skin, Interaction, Nature

Experience of Experience - Flesh, Form, Earth

Existence of Experience - Bone, Structure, Stone

The Three Cauldrons (from the Cauldron of Poesy materials attributed to Amergin) almost directly correspond to the Three Gunas from Ayurvedic teachings. I'm not surprised that such commonality exists between the Vedic traditions and the Celtic practices, since both were very conservative, orally preserved traditions with a class/cast responsible for their integrity and preservation. Both groupings were derived from a common Indo-European traditional/cultural source and the vision seers, poets and holy teachers interpreted each.

The Three Gunas are known as Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.

IMO they correspond to the Cauldrons of Poesy as: Sattva - Sois (Wisdom), Rajas - Goriath (Warming), and Tamas - Érma (Vocation)

This relationship becomes more apparent when one considers a table detailing the properties of the Three Gunas (from Ayurveda and the Mind, the Healing of Consciousness, by Dr. David Frawley) and its corresponding cauldron:










White purity, harmony

Red action, passion

Black darkness


Day, clarity

Sunrise, Sunset,


Night, darkness





Sets things in motion


Retards motion


Sky - Heaven or Space

home of the gods

region of peace

Sea - Atmosphere

realm of the Fomorii

region of storms

Land - Earth

lands of the people

realm of inertia



Spiritual - Causal

Or Ideal

Mental - Subtle


Physical - Gross

or Physical


Deities and Sages


Ancestors - Minerals, Plants,





Deep Sleep

The relationship between Tamas and Erma appears to be inverted from what one would expect, since it is associated with Vocation. Some of the differences become similarities when the cauldronís other meaning of "incubation" is considered. Incubation occurs within darkness and inertia is only another way of describing the effects of cultural tradition and teachings on a society. Among the Druids, knowledge was learned through repetition and incubation of newly acquired knowledge within the darkness of the studentís bed or room. Among the Filidh, this place of learning was known as the "Bed of the Poets."

To further clarify the concepts of the three gunas and the elemental Vedic qualities of existence, I'd like to present a long excerpt from the seminal work by Alain Danie/lou, _The Myths and Gods of India_:


The silence which is at the origin and the end of manifestation is found at both ends of consciousness, in the supracouscious and the subconscious states. Thus 'tamas', the distingerating tendency, is said to be the nature of the transcendent faculties, beyond thought, as well as the nature of the unconscious inertia of matter. While dealing with the relative action of the three qualities within the manifest universe, we shall meet mainly the inert, subconscious form of 'tamas', since its transcendent aspect is the Unmanifest.

The hierarchy of the three qualities therefore varies according to the standpoint from which they are envisaged. From the point of view of worldly action 'tamas' is the lower aspect, 'sattva' the higher one. 'Tamas' is associated with death, evil, inaction where action alone seems to bring results. Yet from the point of view of spiritual achievement, where action is the main obstacle, 'sattva' is the lower state, that which binds with the bonds of merit and virtue, 'tamas is the higher state, that of liberation through nonaction. thus there are two main paths through which man can escape from the bonds of Nature (prakrti). The lower path, which is the way of merit and its fruits, leads toward concentrated power, toward union of manifest divinity, that is, toward the concepts of Heaven and salvation. On the other hand, the higher path is the path of liberation and nonaction, through which man becomes free from the bonds of individual existence and dissolves into the immensity of Infinite Bliss.

In the process of manifestation more and more complex realations between the three qualities appear. These give rise to different types of existence, different beings, different entities.

"Among the energies of each universe, those energies in which the disintegrating tendency predominates are the source of the world of physical-forms (bhuatika prapan/ca). In these lower aspects of existence, some elements of the cohesive and of the revolving tendencies are, however, found. From the cohesive element are formed the inner faculties (9) and the senses of perception; (10) from the revolving element arise the life breath and the forces of action; from the disintegrating element physical-bodies (sthu/la bhu/ta) are formed. Hence, from the mainly descending aspect of the universal power the perceptible world springs forth." (Karapa/tri/, "S/ri? Vis/n/u tattva," Siddha/nta, V, 1844-45, 73.)

The various stages of existence are differentiated by the relative proportions of the three qualities.

'Sattva' in 'sattva', consciousness within consciousness, is the nature of the Self, the A/tman.


'Rajas' in 'sattva', existence within consciousness, is Divinity, Is/vara.


'Tamas' in 'sattva', experience within consciousness , is the nature of the living-being (ji/va).


'Sattva' in 'rajas', consciousness with existence, forms the inner-faculties (antahkarana).


'Rajas' in 'rajas', existence within existence, forms the life-energies (pra/na).


'Tamas' in 'rajas, experience with existence, forms the senses (indriya).


'Sattva' in 'tamas', consciousness within experience, gives rise to the principles-of-the-elements (maha/bhu/ta).


['Rajas' in 'tamas', existence within experience, gives rise to form...this was added by me, since it appears that Danie/lou left it out....Searles]


'Tamas' in 'tamas, experience within experience, forms the inanimate world.

One or the other of the three tendencies predominates in each sort of thing, in each kind of being. In angels, ever attracted by the divine light, consciousness predominates. Experience-enjoyment is the main constituent of the spirits of darkness; existence, being activity, predominates in the rulers of creation and in men, whose nature is action.

Hence from the sattva part of the Cosmic Being are born the hosts of the gods (deva); from the rajas part spring forth the lords-or-progeny (Praja/patis); from the tamas part arise the losds-of-destruction (Rudras).

Human beings, according to their nature and their stage of development, are inclined toward these different aspects of the Cosmic Being. Those in whom consciousness is predominant worship the gods (deva); those in whom action or existence predominates worship genii (yaksa) and antigods (asura); and those in whom enjoyment or sensation predominates worship ghosts and spirits (bhu/ta and preta).

In the microcosm, that is, in man, the three qualities are more particularly localized in certain subtle centers. Hence Brahma/ (existence) dwells in the heart, the physical center, Visnu (consciousness) in the navel, the sublte center, S/iva (experience) in the forehead, the abstract center, and in the sex center, the center of enjoyment. In the 'daily meditation' (sandhya/) the three gods are worshiped through mental concentration on their respective centers.

In plants, the physical center is in the root; hence the formula if veneration of the sacred fig tree:

"I bow to the sacred fig tree, to Brahma/ in the root, to Visnu in the trunk, and to S/iva in the foliage." (As/vattha Stotra 16. {35})

All moral, mental, and physical impulses in living beings belong to the sphere of Nature, and are the effect of the relative combinations of the three basic tendencies. Thus we can understand that moral values are essentially relative, true only on a certain plane, at a particular moment of our development. All that goes against the preservation of life, that is, all pleasure (self-destruction), passion, cruelty, but also all renunciation and detachment, is of the nature of disintegration (tamas). All that goes toward preservation, maintenance, devotion, purity has cohesion (sattva) for its nature. All creative qualities, those virtues which take us toward one form of realization, take us away from another. Every virtue or vice gets its reward, every good or bad action brings a result, (11) but these results, these rewards, are themselves within the limits of the three qualities. They chain us further within the prison of existence. It is only in nonaction, in the liberation from virtue as well as vice, from good as well as evil, from pleasure as well as pain, that we may be freed from the bondage that crarries us endlessly from one world to another, from earth to heavens or hells and again to earth once the fruit of our action has been enjoyed.

"Having enjoyed these immense heavens, once their [accumulated] merits have been spent, they come back to the world of death and, following the triple paty of merit, those seekers of enjoyment keep on coming and going [endlessly]." (Bhagavadgi/ta/ 9.21. "37})


9 The inner faculties are four: a. Mind (manas), the nature of which is discussion, deliberation. b. Intellect (buddhi), the nature of which is choice or decision. c. The mental-substance (citta), upon which is imprinted memory. d. I-ness or notion-of-individual-existence (aham/ka/ra).

10 There are five senses of perception and five forces of action corresponding to the five elements (ether, air, fire, water, adn earth), which are but the spheres of action of the senses.

The senses of perception have as their organs "ear, skin, eye, tongue, and the fifth, the nostril." while the corresponding forces of action have as organs "voice, hands, feet, genitals, and anus."

11 For the average human being, "the fruit of good action is pure and of sattva, that of rajas is pain, that of tamas is ignorance." (Bhagavadga/ta/ 14.16 [36])"

The qualities of the Three Cauldrons can also be used in a similar fashion to derive a set of nine elements. Iíd suggest using the following ideas as a guideline for establishing your own connection to the Three Cauldrons and the Nine Dúile. The effects of these correspondences of the self to the Cosmos, can be enhanced through chanting and by the use of their related god names during both ritual and meditation: