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Ouroboros also know as Uroboros is a figure depicting a snake
devouring its own tail
found in Gnosticism and alchemy
representing cyclical natural life and the fusion of opposites. It also
symbolizes the transcendence of duality. Term sometimes is written
Ouroboros is a symbol that shows an animal (usually a snake or a dragon) that swallow his own tail, making with his body a circular shape. The word, ouroboro, comes from the Greek ουροβóρος (also known as uroboro) and it symbolizes the eternal cycle of things, also the eternal effort to stop life problems and the eternal struggle. Since the cycle begins again effort is useless.
It also refers to the cyclical
nature of things and the idea of a constant and eternal return.
Both interpretations, refer to the ideology that existence is like a cycle whose continuity consists in a constant rebirth. So there is not really dying.This is why there is the connection with the cyclical nature of time, where the present is devoured by the future, creating an infinite chain of moments that die and are born again at each moment.
In some religions the ouroboro is used as a representation of the renaissance of things that never die, only change eternally.
Its origin goes back to Ancient Egypt
and Ancient Greece. Originally its first use was in the emblematic serpent
that was found in the
hieroglyphs that was in the sarcophagus chamber of the pyramid of Unis.
It is also used in the Nordic
part of the concept of the story of the serpent
The essence of ouroboro is also seen in the Greek mythology. It is about the representation of the natural forces, such as the sun, the moon, the waves of the see, among others, and is related to the solar myth of Sisyphus (Character doomed to the underworld) and Helium. In which Sisyphus was forced to push a stone up a steep slope, but before it reached the top of the hill, the stone rolled down again, and Sisyphus had to start again and again from the beginning every day for all the eternity.
Besides its origins and the
uses there are others meanings that different
cultures, religions, and persons has given to this symbol
· Alchemy: In the practice of alchemy, this symbol expresses the unity of all things, both material and spiritual, saying that these never disappear but change form in an eternal cycle of destruction and new creation, just as it represents the infinitude. The oldest text where it appears is in an alchemical treatise of the second century, written by Cleopatra the Alchemist. This writing shows the Greek inscription εν το παν, hen to pan, "everything is one", and appears half white, half black, this in addition to the fact that in some representations the animal is shown with a clear half and a dark one, have make that the researchers have conclude that this symbol in the alchemy teaches that inside everything the good there is something bad and inside the bad there is something good. In addition to this in alchemy, the uroboros symbolizes the work of the alchemist that unites the opposites: both the conscious and the unconscious. Finally, it is also a symbol that represent purification, the eternal cycles of life and death.
· Gnosticism: In Gnosticism, it symbolizes how the soul live all the eternity in the world. In a very known Gnostic text its describes the ouroboros as a part of a dragon that surrounds the world.
· India: In the old world of the India it has been used in the religion. According to a reference, the power (in this culture) it is represented with a serpent, wrapped around itself, while devour his own tail and rests in his body.
· Jungian psychology: One of the most known jungian psychologist compared ouroboros to an archetype. Another jungian psychologist wrote that is an example of the live of the mankind.
· August Kekulé: He described the day when he makes one of his more important chemistry works, he says that he was working with his textbook. But due he couldn´t advance he went to sleep. In a dream he saw how the atoms changed before his eyes in the form of a serpent, in a circular shape. Which arouse him and encourage him to work the rest of the night in his hypothesis.
· Classical Antiquity: In a story of Plato, there is a character that describes the perfection of the all universe, thing that can be compared to ouroboros. He describes the perfection of the created world and beings participating in creation by embodying some aspect of the Good, each contributing to the perfection of the universe and its unity.
Drury, Nevil. The Watkins Dictionary of Magic. London. Watkins Publishing. 2005. p. 222