In mythology, the snake has many meanings that vary according to its species, its form, its danger.
In particular, the Ouroboros which is a very significant sign in ancient mythologies. 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 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 close. 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, the king Ouroboros creates the universe. Indeed, his open mouth shows that he creates himself and himself, 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 snake in 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 in fact eat itself whole and disappear completely, thus taking away everything that has existed. These snakes are therefore symbolic of the first unitary principle which is the Divine, the Great Source of all that exists.
2. Ouroboros symbolizes the cycle of evolution and the cycle of life
As the Ouroboros is a snake that bites its own tail, it forms a kind 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 can 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. We can also say that the Ouroboros means immortality because there is an endless cycle of rebirth.
3. Ouroboros : symbol of fertility, balance and sexuality
The snake bites its 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 the complementary opposites, namely the harmony and balance of the universe, like 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 in itself two truly opposite but complementary meanings like Yin and Yang. It is both the beginning and the end of all that exists. It also symbolizes evolution and involution. It also combines the purely opposite 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 that bite their tails, it is therefore significant of the active and the passive. It symbolizes the active because it is the one who eats so 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, centralizing and intelligent, planning, stabilizing and ordering energy, but also an energy of unconscious, chaotic, contradictory and blind meaning. This double energy symbolizes the Taoist Yin and Yang. Yin is dark, passive, feminine and disorderly while Yang is bright, active, masculine and orderly.
5. Ouroboros symbol of life and death, self-fertilization and continuity
The Ouroboros is representative of life energy, both a force of chaos and a disordered force because this reptile feeds on itself.
“It creates life from death”, meaning that 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 internal struggles, it comes out the winner.
Therefore, from a purely positive point of view, Ouroboros are symbolic of life and self-fertilization. Indeed, self-fertilization 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 that they sow also nourishes life.
We can also say that it represents both creation and destruction because with its open mouth it generates matter that 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 shape 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 this has no end because it forms a cycle that involves both 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 particular as it tries to make believe 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 symbolizes 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 makes it possible to find the original purity, the form of primordial authenticity, but rather conscious, because alchemical transmutation consists of dissolving in order to find the original purity of 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 snake, such as healing, wisdom and many others, can be associated with the Ouroboros because it is a snake.