Meaning Of the Ouroboros
The different explanations and history of the Ouroboros
In norse mythology, the snake has many meanings which vary according to its species, its form, its danger.
In particular, the Ouroboros is a very significant sign in ancient mythology and ancient cultures. It is a very particular motif, whether it is an object or a drawing, which is represented by a dragon or a snake that bites its tail in its mouth and by this particular shape, it has many meanings. The interest of this article is to know these meanings of the Ouroboros.
All the meanings of the Ouroboros are different but their ideas are all quite similar. Indeed, it represents very deep ideas: the origin of the world, the hidden sides of cycles, chaos, order, life and death.
1. Ouroboros in the beginning of the world and its creation
In this sense, he is considered a deity, King Ouroboros creates the universe. Indeed, his open mouth shows that he creates himself and himself alone, and in the same context, he unfolds everything that must exist, this is a divine work. He is therefore the beginning of everything because his body comes out of his own being.
The serpent taking a circular form is the representation of the cosmos being unfolded or the cosmic egg containing all that exists in all cosmic environments.
In another sense, that of involution, the Ouroboros, by biting its own tail, can indeed eat itself whole and disappear completely, taking with it all that has existed. These serpents are therefore symbolic of the first unitary principle that is the Divine, the Great Source of all that exists.
2. Ouroboros symbolises the cycle of evolution and the cycle of life
As the Ouroboros is a serpent eating its own tail, it thus forms a sort of closed circle that represents cycles of evolution where the arrival point of a cycle is a new starting point of a new cycle.
Indeed, it embodies the universe in its cyclical nature as it preserves its life by biting its own tail in a cycle of regeneration.
The snake seems to be reborn each time it sheds its old skin to gain a new one, and this may also justify that the snake embodies the idea of rebirth.
This particularity of the snake added to the particular shape of the Ouroboros leads us to believe that the latter is a symbol of the cycle of rebirth and at the same time a symbolism of the cycle of life. It can also be said that the Ouroboros signifies immortality because there is a never-ending cycle of rebirth.
3. Ouroboros: symbol of fertility, balance and sexuality
The snake bites its own tail, so it also represents fertility. Its tail is a phallic symbol (male sex), while its mouth represents a uterine symbol (female sex). Thus, it also represents complementary opposites, namely the harmony and balance of the universe, such as the yin-yang.
4. Ouroboros symbol of unity and duality
The true meaning of the Ouroboros lies in the sense that it is both unitary and dual. Indeed, it reconciles within itself two truly opposite but complementary meanings, such as Yin and Yang. It is both the beginning and the end of all that exists. It also symbolises evolution and involution.
It also combines the purely opposing ideas of life and death, creation and destruction. The Ouroboros alone represents the limit and the unlimited.
As it is a representation of snakes or dragons biting their tails, it is therefore significant of the active and the passive. It symbolises the active because it is the one who eats, therefore it is active and in activity, however by being also the one who is eaten, it is therefore passive and the one who suffers.
The Ouroboros can also represent a double energy: a conscious, centralising and intelligent, planning, stabilising and ordering energy, but also an energy of unconscious, chaotic, contradictory and blind meaning. This dual energy symbolises the Taoist Yin and Yang symbol. Yin is dark, passive, feminine and disordered, while Yang is bright, active, masculine and ordered.
5. Ouroboros symbol of life and death, self-fertilisation and continuity
The Ouroboros is representative of the vital energy, both a force of chaos and a disordered force because this reptile feeds on itself.
"It creates life from death", that is to say, by eating its own tail, it injures itself and this can lead to its death, but in the same context, it survives by eating its own tail. Indeed, life seems to feed on death by taking advantage of its own weaknesses, and this is what is translated as natural selection. In other words, everything that is unsuitable is eliminated by nature and from its infighting it emerges the winner.
Therefore, from a purely positive point of view, Ouroboros are symbolic of life and self-fertilisation. Indeed, self-fertilisation refers to the assurance of the continuity of the species, so the life of the species is assured. But, another negative point of view shows that these reptiles destroy and kill, but this symbolic part still shows a positive side because this death they sow also nourishes life.
It can also be said that it represents both creation and destruction because with its open mouth it generates matter which it dissolves with its own venom. This also carries its meaning associated with life and death.
6. The Infinite Ouroboros
The Ouroboros can also be represented by two snakes biting each other's tails forming the infinite sign. The meaning of this other form gives an idea of its infinity as shown by what its appearance represents.
Indeed, infinity is a number that cannot be quantified because it does not represent an exact number, but its meaning is to show that it is a very large number that cannot be calculated with the naked hand.
The Ouroboros forming this shape is therefore like a horizontal 8. It feeds each other and there is no end to it because it forms a eternal cycle that involves the two snakes and by this fact, one feeds the other and vice versa.
In this case, the Ouroboros in the form of an infinite sign is not as peculiar as it tries to make out, but it represents all the symbolisms of the simple Ouroboros in the form of a circle.
7. Ouroboros in spiritual alchemy
In alchemy, it represents a symbol of great importance, it is indeed the "One-the-All". It symbolises all the ideas already discussed in the previous paragraphs.
But it can also represent the alchemical cycle because its venom, which is like an acid, can dissolve thick metals. This allows us to find the original purity, the primordial but rather conscious form of authenticity because alchemical transmutation consists of dissolving to find the original purity of the materials.
8. Ouroboros and Freemasonry
Freemasons use the Ouroboros symbol in conjunction with a particular motto "Ordo ab Chaos" which means "Order or Chaos".
The Ouroboros is a symbolism of cycle, life and death, duality and unity, transcendence and immanence. It is representative of many ideas but what is important to remember is that the Ouroboros generally represents two opposing ideas similar to Yin-Yang.
But it is also important to mention that all the meanings of the serpent, such as healing, wisdom and many others, can be associated with the Ouroboros because it is a serpent.