Egyptian Symbols: Ouroboros

The Ouroborus is an ancient Egyptian symbol that has been assimilated into several cultures and beliefs. It is a serpent, more often a dragon, biting its own tale basing on the phenomenon that occurs in the wild. It represents the ideas of perpetuity, cycles, and rebirth. The name dates as far back as 1600 BC and literally means, “devouring its own tail” or “all is one”. The original ouroborus was made by the alchemist, Cleopatra (not the same as the pharaoh), found in her book known as Chrysopoeia meaning gold making.

In the Book of the Dead, the serpent is related to Atum who rose from the chaotic waters of Nun in the form of a serpent. The snake is believed to renew itself every morning thus the biting of its tail.

The black lower part symbolized the destructive force of nature, Night, Earth, or yin whereas the white upper half represents the generative and creative force, Day, Heaven, or yang.

It is symbolic of the cyclic nature of the universe where creation begins after destruction and life springs from death. In a way, the serpent eating its own tail is symbolic of renewal. As an alchemical glyph, it represented purification.

The tale and legend of the ouroborus is connected to other tales of other cosmogonies including in the Norse myth, where it is called Jörmungandr, and in Hindu, where the dragon circles the tortoise supporting the four elephants carrying the world.

Today, it is mostly associated with Gnosticism and Hermeticism.

Here is the Ouroboros: