Snakes represent in many myths, religions and stories, death, rebirth and transformation, due to the casting of its skin. It is continually renewed, shifting a layer of its physical self in order to adapt.
The Ouroboros, the snake or dragon eating its own tail, is one of the oldest ancient symbols. It represents many things, all of which are based in the idea of the cyclical and eternal return. Something re-creating itself over and over again.
In Egypt it represents the world’s periodic renewal and the cyclical nature of the year, along with other myths involving Ra and Osiris.
For ancient antiquity and Greece it is the representation of the perfection of the cosmos and it’s eternal return. All the individual parts of the whole that participate in the creation of existence.
In Gnosticism it represents eternity and the soul of the world. The same as in alchemy, it symbolises too the duality of reality. The Western symbol for the Eastern Yin-Yang. The polarity that keeps chaos balanced.
In Indian thought it has been linked to the Kundalini, the primal energy manifesting from the bottom of our spines up to our crown.
It is birth, death and rebirth. The Whole. The All is One. The Eternal. The Cyclical nature of existence. The beginning, middle and end.
There are so many interpretations, so many stories yet to be told, from many different traditions. This tells us we are all connected at least in one point; in the search for meaning.
The unknown has always been a source of inspiration. Knowledge is the ultimate step towards Wisdom.
For me, it is one of my favourite symbols along with the spiral. I have always felt an intrinsic connection to the ephemeral nature of reality, but also, to the sense that everything repeats itself in different layers.
The lessons we need to learn are always playing themselves like a dramatisation of our lives ready to be observed and understood from different angles and levels.
We always come back to the centre even after playing a while in the limits and seeing the abyss from within. The road home is the road to oneself. The external experiences can only be understood from one’s own perspective. No matter what we do, we will always come back to ourselves. We are the beginning and the end. The snake eating its own tail.
Art: Ouroboros from the Codex Parisinus Graecus 2327, copied by Theodoros Pelecanos in 1478, from an alchemical tract attributed to Synesius. Now in the Bibliothèque National de France.
As a curiosity, this image appears in the movie based on Umberto Eco’s book ‘The Name of the Rose’ that is set in 1327. So it might be an anachronism, as the copy that we have is the one mentioned above from 1478, or it might indicate the existence of an older copy somewhere. 😍