Symbolic representation of coming full circle (cycle)
The Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. The name originates from within Greek language; (oura) meaning "tail" and (boros) meaning "eating", thus "he who eats the tail".
The Ouroboros represents the perpetual cyclic renewal of life and infinity, the concept of eternity and the eternal return, and represents the cycle of life, death and rebirth, leading to immortality, as in the Phoenix.
The current mathematical symbol for infinity - may be derived from a variant on the classic Ouroboros with the snake looped once before eating its own tail, and such depictions of the double loop as a snake eating its own tail are common today in fantasy art and fantasy literature, though other conjectures also exist.
It can also represent the idea of primordial unity related to something existing in or persisting before any beginning with such force or qualities it cannot be extinguished. The ouroboros has been important in religious and mythological symbolism, but has also been frequently used in alchemical illustrations, where it symbolizes the circular nature of the alchemist's opus. It is also often associated with Gnosticism and Hermeticism.
Societies from throughout history have shaped the Ouroboros to fit their own beliefs and purposes. The image has been seen in ancient Egypt, Japan, India, utilized in Greek alchemic texts, European woodcuts, Native American Indian tribes, and by the Aztecs. It has, at times, been directly associated to such varying symbols as the Roman god Janus, the Chinese Ying Yang, and the Biblical serpent in the Garden of Eden.
The Ouroboros is believed to have been inspired by the Milky Way.
Ancient texts refer to a serpent of light residing in the heavens
which, according to Ancient Alien Theory, was a spaceship or stargate.
Flower of Life
12 Around 1 - Alchemy Wheel
The Ouroboros and the Tree of Life
Origins of the Ouroboros
Papyrus of Dama Heroub Egypt, 21st Dynasty
In the Book of the Dead, which was still current in the Graeco-Roman period, the self-begetting sun god Atum is said to have ascended from chaos-waters with the appearance of a snake, the animal renewing itself every morning, and the deceased wishes to turn into the shape of the snake Sato ("son of the earth"), the embodiment of Atum.
The famous Ouroboros drawing from the early alchemical text The Chrysopoeia of Cleopatra dating to 2nd century Alexandria encloses the words hen to pan, "one is the all". Its black and white halves represent the Gnostic duality of existence. As such, the Ouroboros could be interpreted as the Western equivalent of the Taoist Yin-Yang symbol. The Chrysopoeia Ouroboros of Cleopatra is one of the oldest images of the Ouroboros to be linked with the legendary opus of the Alchemists, the Philosopher's Stone.
Of design he was created thus, his own waste providing his own food, and all that he did or suffered taking place in and by himself. For the Creator conceived that a being which was self-sufficient would be far more excellent than one which lacked anything; and, as he had no need to take anything or defend himself against any one, the Creator did not think it necessary to bestow upon him hands: nor had he any need of feet, nor of the whole apparatus of walking; but the movement suited to his spherical form was assigned to him, being of all the seven that which is most appropriate to mind and intelligence; and he was made to move in the same manner and on the same spot, within his own limits revolving in a circle.
All the other six motions were taken away from him, and he was made not to partake of their deviations. And as this circular movement required no feet, the universe was created without legs and without feet. In Gnosticism, this serpent symbolized eternity and the soul of the world.
In Mithran mystery cults the figure of Mithra being reborn (one of the things he is famous for) is sometimes seen wrapped with an ouroboros, indicating his eternal and cyclic nature, and even references which do not mention the ouroboros refer to this circular shape as symbolizing the immortality of the soul or the cyclic nature of Karma, suggesting that the circle retains its meaning even when the details of the image are obscured.
The Double Triangle of Solomon
The Kirtimukha myth of Hindu tradition has been compared by some authors to Ouroboros.
Ouroboros... the dragon circling the tortoise which supports the four elephants that carry the world.
Chinese Ouroboros from Chou dynasty, 1200 BC.
Correspondingly, the Chinese believed Light and Darkness, as the ideal opposites, when united, yielded creative energy. The two opposites were further conceived as matter and energy which became dual-natured but as one. The two opposites were yin-yang and their unity was called Chhi. Yin-Yang was treated separately in Chinese cosmology which consisted of five cosmic elements.
Since Chinese alchemy did reach Alexandria probably the symbol Yin-Yang, as dual-natured, responsible for creation, was transformed into a symbol called Ouroboros. It is a snake and as such as symbol of soul. Its head and anterior portion is red, being the color of blood as soul; its tail and posterior half is dark, representing body.
Ouroboros here is depicted white and black, as soul and body, the two as "one which is all." It is cosmic soul, the source of all creation. Ouroboros is normally depicted with its anterior half as black but it should be the reverse as shown here. With the name Chemeia taken to Kim-Iya, the last word would take Ouroboros to Yin-Yang.
Pre 1400 Japan
It could very well be used to symbolize the closed-system model of the universe of some physicists even today.'
Earthly Ouroboros from Alciato's Emblems
Oceanic Ouroboros from Alciato's Emblems
The ouroboros is displayed on numerous Masonic seals,
frontispieces and other imagery, especially during the 17th century.
The Ouroboros is featured in the seal of the Theosophical Society
along with other traditional symbols.
A commonly used early symbol - an ace of cups circled by an ouroboros - frequently appears among Albigensian watermarks. It is conceivable that this is the source of some of the urban legends associating this symbol with secret societies, because the Albigenses were closely associated with the humanist movement and the inquisition it sparked.
The word Ouroboros is really a term that describes a similar symbol which has been cross-pollinated from many different cultures. Its symbolic connotation from this owes to the returning cyclical nature of the seasons; the oscillations of the night sky; self-fecundation; disintegration and re-integration; truth and cognition complete; the Androgyny; the primeval waters; the potential before the spark of creation; the undifferentiated; the Totality; primordial unity; self-sufficiency, and the idea of the beginning and the end as being a continuous unending principle.
Ouroboros represents the conflict of life as well in that life comes out of life and death. 'My end is my beginning.' In a sense life feeds off itself, thus there are good and bad connotations which can be drawn. It is a single image with the entire actions of a life cycle - it begets, weds, impregnates, and slays itself, but in a cyclical sense, rather than linear.
Thus, it fashions our lives to a totality more towards what it may really be - a series of movements which repeat. "As Above, So Below" - we are born from nature, and we mirror it, because it is what man wholly is a part of. It is this symbolic rendition of the eternal principles that are presented in the Emerald Tablets of Thoth.
Connection between Man and God
- The alchemists, who in their own way knew more about the nature of the individuation process than we moderns do, expressed this paradox through the symbol of the ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail. In the age-old image of the ouroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process, for it was clear to the more astute alchemists that the prima materia of the art was man himself.The ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite, i.e. of the shadow. This 'feed-back' process is at the same time a symbol of immortality, since it is said of the ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolizes the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites, and he therefore constitutes the secret of the prima materia which [...] unquestionably stems from man's unconscious'. (Collected Works, Vol. 14 para.513)
The 19th century German chemist named Kekule dreamed of a snake with its tail in its mouth one day after dosing off. He had been researching the molecular structure of benzene, and was at a stop point in his work until after waking up he interpreted the dream to mean that the structure was a closed carbon ring. This was the breakthrough he needed.
Organic chemist August Kekule claimed that a ring in the shape of Ouroboros that he saw in a dream inspired him in his discovery of the structure of the benzene ring.
Today the Ouroboros is often found as a tattoo.
The X-Files' Dana Scully chose the Ouroboros to be tattooed on her back because she felt it represented the progression of her life. It seems that the Ouroboros is a powerful archetypal symbol, a part of our Spiritus Mundi, the collective unconscious which thrives within each soul.
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