Ouroborus Picture

The Ouroboros (Greek: “tail-eater,” alternatively spelled ourobouros, oureboros or uroboros) is a serpent forming a circle, eating its own tail. The origin of the symbol is unclear. Some trace it to Neolithic cultures, and the seventh century writer Horopollon stated that the Egyptians used the ouroboros to illustrate their concept of the universe--eternity and immortality (Shepard 1232). The Egyptian goddess Isis held a sun disk mounting an ouroboros, which was called Abraxas. Isis mythology became embedded in the beliefs of the Gnostics, an offshoot of early Christianity that adopted Abraxas as the name of its high aeon (Guiley 2). The Gnostic text Pistis Sophia states that the sun disk was imagined as a great dragon with its tail in its mouth, an image also featured on Gnostic gems (Walker 268-9). The ouroboros was the “universal serpent that passes through all things… [an] unchanging law” (Cirlot 235). Sects called the Naassenes or Hophites saw the serpent as the Soul of the World, encircling all of creation (Hutin 44).

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