Read any book, Website or Blog on the topic of Traditional Witchcraft and inevitably the subject of tools and paraphernalia appears somewhere eventually. Whilst it’s true that our tools are few in number and seldom glamorous or sparkly they do stay with us for the long haul and sometimes we are even lucky enough to hand down such things to generations to follow. Indeed we are not meant to form any real attachment to these objects, recognising them strictly as ‘things’ or implements which are there merely to assist us both practically and symbolically (tools in the truest sense of the word). In truth however there are certain tools which we come to treasure and value either because they were gifted to us by mentors, cost a lot of our hard-earned cash, were uniquely made and / or simply are not that easy to just go out and replace. In addition over years of continual use tools gain a certain something ‘other’ and I don’t mind admitting I have a couple of ritual items which I have grown rather fond of. So whilst on the one hand we appreciate that these objects are exactly that…just objects, I think on the other hand most Witches would agree that tools need to be properly cared for so that they may serve us all the better long-term. Strangely however few books actually seem to help us in this endeavor; many authors seldom make it past description, construction and consecration, often skipping right over long-term maintenance and care.
It just so happens that I plan to make some salves and such like this coming weekend. When making any magical salve, tea, herbal powder or incense etc. I always use my small ¼ size cauldron. However when I looked at the old girl (and she has been in my company for a good 10 years now) I saw she was not looking her best, pretty grotty, a little battle wary and a tad rusty round the edges. Time for a face lift…Here’s what I did (hopefully this might be of some use).
My little ¼ size cast iron Cauldron is by far the most neglected of all my tools. She gets wet, dirty, burnt, carried and thrown around from home to car to woods and back. Since I first bought her around 10 years ago I’ve never done much in the way of care and restoration until now. These instructions will be OK for any cast iron piece you have bought which is old and in need of some TLC. Brand new cast iron doesn’t need this treatment, only seasoning.
I first placed the cauldron, lid too, in a plastic water tight bag and sprayed all over, inside and out with proprietary oven cleaner as per instructions on the container (I prefer the kind that foams). I tied the bag and left it to work over night. (I checked on it after a few hours however and needed to reapply a little of the oven cleaner in places).
The next day the foam had all subsided and there was a nice pool of brown horrid liquid in the bottom of the bag with a really intense smell of iron. I washed and scrubbed the cauldron and lid in hot soapy water (wearing rubber gloves) with some wire wool and I was amazed how much grime and rust came off…she was already looking 100 times better!
The cauldron was then submerged in a weak vinegar solution to remove the tougher rust (about 1 parts white vinegar to 8 parts water) for about 30 minutes (of course you could use something like Four Thieves Vinegar at this stage). Once the 30 or so minutes had passed I rinsed the cauldron off, again scrubbing with a little wire wool to get the last of any rust build up. I could now start to see the original cast iron; meanwhile I preheated the oven to its hottest setting in preparation for seasoning. Seasoning is the process whereby oil is baked into the cast iron which gives it its distinctive black finish and helps protect the cast iron long-term. If the cauldron is regularly heated this will deepen over time also. It’s a good idea to do this after any serious refurb and certainly on brand new cast iron ware. The cauldron is placed in a hot oven for about an hour then brought out to cool slightly and rubbed with oil…I used Olive oil but any vegetable or nut based oil is OK. I rubbed it in well, using plenty of oil and then placed the cauldron back in the hot oven for about 30 minutes then removed. Once cool excess oil was rubbed into the iron as it forms on the surface then the cauldron as replaced in the oven, the heat turned off and left to cool. Again the excess oil was rubbed in and seasoning is then complete and the Cauldron is ready to use again.
I very much doubt this will be repeated again for another 10 years, but regular washing, drying and oiling will keep the cast iron in such tip top condition it shouldn’t have to be done very often. Cast Iron is very prone to rust so it’s important never to submerge in water for long, and if it does get wet, dry it and oil it again as soon as possible.
Of course you can get fire-proof cast iron paint that will make the cauldron look very fine indeed, I don’t however know how safe this is for cooking and personally I like tools to look ‘used’.