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Ouroboros – The Tail Devourer

td3Symbols have a wealth of meaning hidden inside them that draws inspiration from mythologies and historical accounts and are a fundamental part of our customs and traditions. Though a long time has elapsed, these symbols are still flamboyant in our minds and we get them as tattoos. One mystical and captivating ancient symbol is the Ouroboros.


The word Ouroboros (Oroborus or Uroboros) is derived from the Greek words “ουρά” (tail)  and “βορά” (eating)which could be roughly translated as “he who eats his tail”, refers to the ancient mystical and Alchemical symbol of a snake or in some cases, a dragon biting its own tail. Although it was the Greeks who coined the name that we use today, the Ouroboros has been used by many cultures throughout the ancient and modern world as an archetypal symbol. From the Aztecs of Central America to the alchemists of Europe and from the ancient Egyptians to the Gnostics of the Middle East, the self-eating snake or dragon seems to have slithered around the world. Hence it seems that nowadays this ancient symbol has caught on a commercial appeal as a tattoo design and is worn both by woman and man.


td2Due to it’s rich history the Ouroboros has several meanings interwoven into it. In being it a circle it siginifies unity and it shows that infinity has no beginning, nor end, and the image of the dragon or snake biting its own tail shows that the beginning and end of infinity are at the same place. It is also seen as enveloping itself, where the past (the tail) appears to disappear from view but still existing into another reality. It can also be perceived as the cyclic Nature of the Universe: creation out of destruction, Life out of Death where the Ouroboros eats its own tail to sustain its life, in an eternal cycle of renewal. Moreover In mythology, the Oroboros is a symbol representing the Milky Way galaxy and it is possible that the Ouroboros may also symbolize a solar eclipse in some belief structures. It is also found in Gnosticism and alchemy representing cyclical natural life and the harmony of opposites such as; the conscious and unconscious mind and the Yin Yang. The Ouroboros appears in many other cultures and settings as well. For instance, the Aztec serpent God Queztacoatl was depicted similarly, and Chinese alchemical dragons have both similar shapes and meaning. Even in Hindu, you have the dragon circling the tortoise that supports the four elephants that carry the world.


Tattoo versions of the Ouroboros are as diverged as the symbols history. Normally, they are portrayed in their traditional form, in black and white with the serpent devouring its tail but at times colors and other religious or spiritual symbols are also added. The design can go on any body part in various manners however people typically choose to have their tattoos on their arm, back, neck, wrist or palm. Moreover the Ouroboros tattoos have the added advantage of being used as arm or leg bands by making the eternal circle in three dimensions rather than a two dimensional one.td1


Furthermore, the Ouroboros tattoo is worn by men and women alike as both the sexes find it alluring since it can be given a masculine and tribal touch that is fitting as a tattoo piece for the men or a simple colored ethnic snake mostly preferred by women. Nevertheless, you can wear from a simple garden snake to the great-feathered Aztec serpent God Queztacoatl. The choice merely resides in your hands.



About Alex Micallef

I am the girl next door who is a huge anime and K-drama addict and a deep admirer of different cultures especially oriental ones. I 'm also hard headed and a bit of a day dreamer at times but always willing to give a helping hand when one is in need :)

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