Sunday, August 17, 2008


Delving through dusty old tomes in search of ancient expressions of enchantment, we noticed that one word in particular seems the very essence: Coldpot! With the purity of a singing bowl, this mystic word resonates alchemy and conjures images of a witch’s cauldron. Recalling the “cold pot” of metallurgy, this odd compound word fuses a rounded form (“pot”) with a degree of intensity (“cold”), suggesting alchemical coagulation.[1] The more we studied this unusual word coldpot, the more magic we discovered within it. Indeed, coldpot is brimming with expectations, unlikelihoods, fulfillments of high commands, and even a dollop of danger.

Like black holes bending the very fabric of space, cold pots are famous for disrupting the flow of time. Lest you forget, “Nothing makes time pass more slowly than waiting for a cold pot to boil.”[2] The quaint folk wisdom that a watched pot won’t boil actually speaks to the “observer effect” in physics, in which the act of witnessing changes the beheld phenomenon. It’s as if the cold pot is saying, “Don’t look at me—I’m merely the vehicle for the change you desire. Focus on what’s important, and take all the time you need.”

A cold pot calls for a spark, as the Sufi mystics have said. For “fire is put under the cold pot, not the pot which is boiling over.”[3] Ignition and expectation—both are at the heart of the magic word coldpot. Within the word itself is contained the possibility of highly-unlikely events coming to pass. Statistically speaking, “a cold pot of water could spontaneously come to a boil; it is simply not very likely. But unlikely events are quasi-certain to happen if we wait long enough.”[4] The sparkling occurrence of highly-unlikely events is the very heart of magic.

[1] For example, “a cold pot full of something congealed” is described in The Heirs by G. Y. Dryansky (1978)
[2] This old saying is recalled by Leon Uris in A God in Ruins (2000)
[3] Jalal al-Din Rumi, Tales from the Masnavi (1961)
[4] Herman Daly and Joshua Farley, Ecological Economics (2003)

For a full discussion of coldpot, see our Pentacle Magazine feature.

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