The Ouroboros, the snake which eats its tail, is one the most ancient of mystical symbols. There is evidence of its existence for 1600 years before the time of Christ – especially in Egyptian culture. The name “Ouroboros” comes from the Greek and means “tail eater.” Since we don’t live in these early cultures, the meaning of this snake symbol today remains obscure to all but those who study the esoterical symbols.
What is the meaning of this curious sign? Like many of the circular symbols, it represents wholeness, completeness, the cycle of life, death and renewal, and infinity. We would like to offer this particular interpretation of the Ouroboros for your consideration.
Interpretation of the Ouroboros
In ancient mythology, there are any number of interpretations for the meaning of serpents. The snake shedding its skins represents new beginnings and placing the past behind you. It also symbolizes the energetic human forces known as kundalini. Yogis describe Kundalini as a coiled snake that resides in each of us at the bottom of the spine. When this energy becomes activated, the kundalini energies rise in an upward motion through the spine activating each of the seven major chakras – energy centers.
Notice that the head of the serpent bites its tail. This represents the union of the energetic forces from the red root Muladhara chakra to the Violet crown Sahasrara chakra. Simply stated, the Divine is composed of all energies, from the very dense to the most refined. The Divine represents all powers in harmonic balance.
The Ouroboros Represents Harmony of Energies
Often in mystical work, there is a tendency to rebuke the value of lower energies. Some spiritual leaders encourage their followers to have little or nothing to do with the energies of our passions and sexuality. Instead, they encourage their followers to focus on the chakras of the heart and above. This may work for some, but for most, life is not that simple. Sublimating our energetic forces comes with a big price tag for most people.
People who sublimate their sexual energies and passions will find they emerge in other ways. Witness that most all religious sects have their fair share of stories involving sexual indiscretions as well as the misdirection of passions such as money. The energetic forces of nature are here for a reason, and they deserve our highest respect.
Reminders from the Ouroboros
The Ouroboros Cycle
As the Ouroboros reminds us, life follows a natural cycle of birth, death, and renewal. When we face the hard times, we often want to quit or give up. Instead, we must remember that “This too shall pass.” Bad times do not last forever. The same could be said about good times. When life goes as we believe it should, many of us forget that it too does not last forever. Youth and beauty fade. Good jobs come to an end. Friendships don’t always last. We need to live mindfully in the good times and savor the moments as they happen. The saying, “All good things must come to an end,” is true. Finally, whether things be good or ill, we should look forward to the process of renewal. Sometimes, new normals are force themselves upon us. For instance, we may discover we are diabetic or lose the sight in one of our eyes. Renewal reminds us that things may not be what they once were, but there is always a possibility of making things better.
Life as a Game
Understanding the cycles of life helps us better understand how to “play the game of life.” The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited as saying, “The only thing that is constant is change!” That statement could just as well be the motto for the philosophy of the Ouroboros. Many people let life come to them as it will and make adjustments the best way they can as it does. Sometimes this is the only course available to us. And, in many situations, a wait and see approach is a worthy strategy. But forewarned is forearmed! When we accept that change is coming, we manage life better. Learning to view our lives through the wisdom of the Ouroboros helps us do this.
We have the capability of birthing new ideas using the power of our spiritual imagination and creativity. We can learn new things, study new truths, and pursue new skills. A spiritual person is an exploring person. Our seeking of new possibilities makes it possible to for us to desire change instead of being fearful of it. When we are excited about some new thing, our fear quickly evaporates.
The Ouroboros reminds us that nothing is permanent. It is possible to train ourselves to anticipate those aspects of our lives that have probabilities of ending soon. We can contingency plan for these kinds of endings. Instead of being surprised when you are fired or suddenly let go, anticipate that this is a possibility and work on creating exciting ideas your might pursue should this happen.
We may also create cycles of renewal without waiting for nature to do it for us. We can build in periods of respite and refreshment throughout our day. So many people do so little to care for the hunger of their body, mind, and souls. Each of these vital aspects of our being deserves focus and attention. We don’t have to do over-the-top kind of things. It can be as simple as taking the time each day to look to view the clouds, flowers, and trees of nature. We can eat more mindfully, or learn something new. We can play our favorite music in the background as we work.
The Ouroborous Contemplation
- Set aside about thirty minutes of time when you will not be disturbed for contemplation. Gather something to write with and paper.
- Knowing that the Ouroboros represents the cycle of birth, death, and renewal, take a sheet of paper and make three columns on it. Column one represents “Birth,” two represents “Death,” and column three represents “Renewal.” You may download our specially created worksheet at the end of this contemplation or create a page of your own.
- Contemplate those times in your life when the Ouroborous sequence took place in your life. Perhaps you accepted a job that worked well for a period of time before it ended. Or, maybe you married your best friend only to see the relationship end in divorce years later.
- On your sheet of paper, do your best to record at least five instances this cycle visited your life. Following your heartbreak, what renewal, if any, took place?
- Now, think about your present circumstances. How many events can you place in the birth column? How many life events do you foresee ending? Are any of these endings imminent?
- How might your understanding of Ouroboros create a feeling of peace in your heart and help you prepare for what is ahead?
- Might you be thinking of potential renewals that you could put into place once the anticipated endings occur?
- List five things you learned from doing this contemplation.
- In your meditation time, visit with your angels, spirits, and guides about things you learned through this contemplative exercise.
The Ouroboros graphic was used by permission from creative commons.