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Store Your Brains in a Tea Kettle

Or how to replenish your mana.

If you have brains to store, I suggest you use a tea kettle. But if all you have is a brass pot, that’s a fine option too.

Look, you might be thinking that brain storage is a macabre topic to discuss, and you’d be correct. But while a brain in brass pot might be a macabre thought for some, others simply see it as a pool of mana. In Polynesian (Pacific Islander) cultures, the word “mana” goes back thousands of years and is synonymous with power and prestige.

A Brief Historical and Cultural Survey of Mana

Mana is also thought to have a magical property as well. In animistic religions, mana is the power wielded by a shaman to cast their spells. In Hawaiian and Tahitian cultures, for example, mana is a spiritual energy and healing power. The Hawaiian island of Molokaʻi was thought to contain more mana than neighboring islands, so wars were actually fought over it.


In New Zealand Mäori culture, might makes right, so the proof that a tribe is filled with mana if they have demonstrated authority over a rival tribe, like their brazen conquest of the Moriori people of the Chatham Islands. Some anthropologists suggest that some cannibalism is in response to the thinking that to eat a fallen foes’ brains is to honor them by absorbing the spiritual mana. Evidently, cultures throughout history have blended violence, power, and spiritual authority in various ways.

For us nerds, mana is a blue pool of power that we need to carefully manage to insure we can get off that sweet fireball with our half-elf mage. But when you know the origin of the word, it’s understandable why video games so thoroughly co-opted the concept of mana.

St. John Don Bosco’s Reliquary

What does this have to do with a tea kettle? Well, brains in a tea kettle is like mana from heaven for would be thieves. When religious pilgrims lined up at the altar at the basilica of Castelnuovo, near Turin, Italy, they had assembled to pray before the relic of St. John Don Bosco, a revered saint.

Saint Don Bosco.

Born in Italy in 1815, Don Bosco devoted his life to helping underprivileged children. In 1859, he founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales, better known as the Salesians or Salesians of Don Bosco. The mission of the Salesians was to help poor and homeless children during the Industrial Revolution.

The religious order grew to become the second-largest order in the Catholic Church. According to Salesian Missions, the order is regarded as the single largest provider of vocational and technical training in the world, operating more than 3,200 schools and technical training centers, more than 70 colleges, more than 90 clinics and a hospital, and more than 330 orphanages and shelters.

Don Bosco died in 1888 and was canonized in 1934 by Pope Pius XI. He is one of the most venerated saints, and each year, more than 600,000 pilgrims visit the basilica to pray at an altar containing pieces of St. John Don Bosco’s brain held in a glass jar, stored in an ornate golden reliquary.

But the pilgrims discovered a shocking truth that morning during their prayer service: Someone had stolen the preserved brain bits of Saint Don Bosco!

Small enough for a copper pot.

When I first caught the news of the theft, I immediately assumed that the thief was part of a secret Satanic cabal that was plotting to consume the brains of saints in order to receive their mana in hopes of leveling up for future world domination.

No such luck. It turns out the thief was a hapless ne’er-do-well who simply wanted to make a buck. He left fingerprints everywhere, so police tracked him to his home where they found the relic hidden in a copper pot in his cupboards. He didn’t care about brains stored inside, he thought the relic was made out of solid gold, so he thought he could pawn it off.

Why am I sharing this? I don’t know actually. Maybe I thought you’d find it interesting to learn a little bit about the origins of the word mana, being that it is so pervasive in nerd culture. And if you are a tabletop RPG player, there are adventure and NPC ideas dripping from this real life tale.

But I mainly just wanted to give you a heads up that storing your brains in a tea kettle is putting a target on them for dirty would-be thieves.

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