Ouroboros (or Uroboros)
Ancient Greek alchemical symbol of a serpent eating his tail.
The mystical work The Chrysopoeia of Kleopatra has a drawing of
the Serpent Ouroboros eating his tail, with the text ‘‘One is
All.’’ Another emblem illustrates the symbols of gold, silver,
and mercury enclosed in two concentric circles with the text
‘‘One is the serpent which has its poison according to two compositions’’
and ‘‘One is All and through it is All and by it is All
and if you have not All, All is Nothing.’’ The symbol of Ouroboros
has also been interpreted as the unity of sacrificer and
sacrificed, relating to the symbolism of the mystical life.
The symbol dates back to Mesolithic (Azilian) culture and
appeared in the symbolism of many races. The Gnostic text Pistis
Sophia, describes the disc of the sun as a great dragon with
his tail in his mouth. The fourth-century writer Horopollon
stated the Egyptians represented the universe as a serpent devouring
its own tail, a symbol of eternity and immortality, an
image also found on Gnostic gems.
In alchemy, the tail-eating dragon represented the guardian
of mystical treasure, symbolized by the sun. Alchemy was to
destroy or dissolve this guardian as a stage towards knowledge
of this treasure.
Possibly the familiar Chinese Yin-Yang symbol is related to
the tail-devouring serpent—here the masculine-feminine principles
throughout nature are held in balance.
Sources
Eddison, E. R. The Worm Ouroboros. New York E. P. Dutton,
1952.