The Three Cauldrons

"My true Cauldron of Vocation

It has been taken by the Gods from the mysteries of the elemental abyss

A fitting decision that ennobles one from oneís center

that pours forth a terrifying stream of speech from the mouth."

- the words of Amergin White Knee, Ollamh

(From a translation by Erynn Laurie of the "Cauldron of Poesy")

There is a fifteenth century poetic tract (found within an ancient Irish legal manuscript) that describes the body as containing Three Cauldrons rather than Nine Duíle. These Three Cauldrons are known as the Coire Goiriath (Cauldron of Warmth), the Coire Ernma (Cauldron of Vocation), and the Coire sois (Cauldron of Knowledge). The authorship of this metaphysical treatise is attributed to Amergin, the Milesian Ollamh and to Nede Mac Adne, Chief Ollamh for Conchobhar Mac Nessa. The relative positions of these cauldrons within each person was thought to determine the overall health of a person as well as the state of their mind and psyche.

Three translations of the text have been done (to my knowledge): one by Anne Power, another by Caitlin Matthews and a third by Erynn Laurie. I have studied materials from these translations and am offering a version of them and their meanings in my own words:

The Cauldron of Poesy

My own existence springs forth from the Cauldron of Poesy,

Which was created by the gods from the dúile;
Enlightened is each inspiration

That streams forth in my speech and from my center of being.

I am Amergin White Knee,

Ancient in years and gray of hair.

My inspirations are found within

The many forms of poetry

That are born within my Cauldron of Warming.

The Gods do not orient each personís Cauldrons equally

Or fill them with the same talents and abilities:

Some are formed upside down, some tilted or upright.

Some are empty, while others are half full,

Some are filled with knowledge like Eber and Donn,

Capable of creating chants of life and death,

Through a skillful combination of words

In the power of three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter,

And possessing the strength of three measures: double letters,

Long vowels and short vowels.

My Cauldron of Vocation is trained

Through a study of the arts of poetry

And sustains me through proper composition.

I sing also of the Cauldron of Knowledge

That allocates the gifts of wisdom

According to the laws of each art

And the work of each artist in general.

Question: Is the root of poetical art found in a personís body or within their soul?

Some say that it is found in the soul, since the body is brought to life by the soul. Others say that it is through the body that the skills of our ancestors are passed down to us, hence it is true to say that the source of poetical arts is within a personís body; though in every second person it is not to be found at all.

Question: What is the root of poetical art and all knowledge?

Not hard to say. Every person is born with three cauldrons existing within them: The Cauldron of Warming, the Cauldron of Vocation and the Cauldron of Knowledge.

All people are born with their Cauldron of Warming upright, which promotes growth in the body and the learning of childhood. Secondly, the Cauldron of Vocation is properly filled and oriented after each person has done the work of turning it from its original position on its side. Finally, the Cauldron of Knowledge is originally upside down in all people, and it distributes the first gifts and aptitudes of art.

In unenlightened people, the Cauldron of Vocation is completely upside down; while it is on its side in people who practice the arts of Poetry and Bardism; for the skilled it is completely upright as is the case with the Ollúnaidh and the Draoithe. The position of the Cauldron of Vocation determines a personís level of skill, and does not yield proficiency until it is turned by either an awareness of sorrow or the thrill of ecstasy.

Question: How many forms of sorrow will turn the Cauldron of Vocation?

Not hard to say. There are four forms of sorrow that occur within a person: longing, grief, jealousy, and a questing for the Gods; though the causes of each of these is sorrows is found in the world.

There are two forms of ecstasy that can turn the Cauldrons upright in a wise person: divine joy and human joy. Human joy has four forms: the union of marriage, the excellence of good health, the joy of graduation after long study in the poetical arts; joy in the experience of imbas granted by the nine hazels of wisdom of the Well of Segais, which flows in its excellence against mundane streams along the Boyne with the relentless determination like a wild boar in valor, or like a racehorse in the Sunís splendor, at the Solstice during the most perfect year of its endeavors.

When the Cauldron of Knowledge is turned by divine ecstasy, rather than by human joy alone, its special grace is a gift that transforms a person, who become both sacred and knowledgeable, so that their works include miracles, prophecies, judgements and precedents. It is these people who establish the wisdom that guides our knowledge and regulates the forms of our speech. Though this knowledge comes from within a person, its truth and its power is from the Gods and originates from outside of a person.

The Cauldron of Vocation

My Chants are from the Cauldron of Vocation
Graceful inspiration,
Ever-growing experience,
Streams of imbas from the milk of learning.
It is the wave of knowledge,
The gathering of the wise,
The truth of kingship,
The elevation of the unlearned,
The skillful use of Ogham,
Imbas Forosnai,
Blemishing satire,
Synchronization of tradition,
Vine of learning,
Garden of law,
Grammar of measured speech,
Rhythmic chanting,
Dissemination of wisdom,
Gifts of the nobility,
Elevation of the ordinary,
Honoring of names,
Poetry of praise,
By application of the laws,
Evaluating of the many,
Acknowledgement of the highest ranks,
Bright words for the wise,
With streams of wisdom,
Which is excellently brewed,
From the roots of the tree of knowledge,
And bestows its gifts following effort,
And the persistence of effort,
Which the ecstasy of poetry creates,
And the joys of life orient,
And the great sorrows of life turn.
It is an eternity of creation and mastery,
The shield of the wise.
My chants are of the Cauldron of Vocation.


Question: What is this Vocation?

Not hard to say; a skillful turning or a wise contemplation or a pilgrimage of great discipline, i.e., these efforts grant one wisdom and nobility and honor after the work of vocation properly orients the Cauldron of Vocation.

The Cauldron of Vocation
Fills and is filled,
Grants gifts and is enriched,
Nourishes and is enlivened,
Sings praises and is praised,
Chants invocations and is enchanted,
Creates harmonies and is harmoniously created,
Defends and is strongly defended,
Orients and is aligned,
Upholds and is upheld.

Good is the wellspring of measured speech.
Good is the home of the well of speech.
Good is the joining of their powers:
Strength is made durable.

It endures longer than any fortress.
It is better than any tradition.
It is our guide to wisdom,
As we free ourselves from ignorance.