Gundestrup Cauldron

Panel from the Gundestrup cauldron. 100-200 B.C.E. National Museum of Denmark. Copenhagen.

In Celtic mythology, the cauldron is a symbol of abundance and prosperity. Sacred to the goddess Cerridwen, it is also a symbol of the womb and the feminine principle. According to mythic tradition, cauldrons have magical properties which facilitate their use for divination and enchantment.

Found in a peat bog in Himmerland, Denmark in 1891, the Gundestrup cauldron is the largest known example of European Iron Age silver work.

Though decidedly Eastern European in workmanship, the vessel depicts Celtic deities and rituals. One such ritual involves the immersing of dead warriors in a cauldron. The Druids believed that these warriors would return to life, though unable to speak and without a soul. After their resurrection, they could return to battle and fight to the death again. One of the interior panels on the Gundestrup cauldron depicts this immersing ritual.

The central bearded character in the panel above is Dagda, the god of abundance. Dagda, which means All Father, possesses three magic objects. The living harp with which he controls the seasons and the weather. The cauldron of endless abundance. A two-headed club which can both create and destroy. His mate is the fearsome triple goddess of war, the Morrigan.