What does an ouroboros symbolize?

The Ouroboros (pronounced or-oh-BOR-os) symbol depicts a snake eating its tail, usually forming a perfect circle.

This symbol first appeared in ancient Egypt around 5000 B.C. Many cultures have adopted this symbol and made it into its own including Greek culture where the word originated.

Although it is traditionally depicted as a snake eating its own tail, several variations of this symbol exist that depict the same position except with a dragon.

As fascinating as the symbol’s history is, I’d like to delve into what it represents today, from tattoos to spirituality to art.

ouroboros gold

Origin 

The earliest record of an ouroboros dates back to the 1300s and is found in King Tut’s tomb. Egyptologists concluded that the symbol signifies cyclical time. People often us it to symbolize rebirth, repetition, and regeneration.

The Egyptian symbol, sed-ma-ra, directly translates to “tail in mouth.”  The Greek word ouroboros, which means “tail devourer,” is the term that persists throughout many cultures.

Ouroboros symbol in King Tut’s tomb

Meanings of Ouroboros

Since it’s first depiction, the word “ouroboros” has evolved it’s meaning over time. Although it has the same concept as the original symbol, the interpretations have become more than just “tail in mouth.”

Ouroboros now has several meanings including:

  • mystery of cyclical time
  • repetitive cycles
  • renewal
  • repetition
  • regeneration
  • eternal cycle of time
  • eternity
  • endless return
  • boundless time
  • infinity

Ouroboros Tattoo Ideas

Spiritual Meaning of Ouroboros

The symbolism of ouroboros has earned it a place in spirituality. The ouroboros, like the yin and yang Chinese symbol, holds a significant place in spirituality.

Spiritually, this symbol represents all of the meanings listed above, but the symbolism extends a little further.

In a spiritual sense, the ouroboros denotes the coexistence of beginning and end, particularly with regard to life and death.

The symbol has become so well-known that it appears in both religion and mythology.

In India, the ouroboros symbol associates with kundalini, which translates literally as “coiled snake.”

Kundalini is divine energy that starts at the base of the spine and can be “awakened” during meditation.

Ouroboros has even made an appearance on a Tarot card, specifically the “World” card.

Because I’m not an expert in Tarot card reading, a quick Google search reveals that the “World” card is interpreted as a sense of wholeness or fulfillment, or perhaps the completion of a project.

Resources

https://escholarship.org/content/qt6c0153p7/qt6c0153p7.pdf