Serpents have fascinated us for millenia, and have helped us to connect with worlds beyond imagination, and even to imagine the world before Creation itself. Long before Christ was born, humans recognized the power of serpents and honored them as wisdomkeepers—teachers of visionary awareness, oracles of transformation, guardians of abundance & fertility, and masters of the cycles of nature that surround and enfold us.
The serpent’s shedding of its skin teaches us the power of life, death, and rebirth, and the ancients believed that serpents were immortal, capable of infinitely rebirthing themselves in new forms by shedding their old ways. It is perhaps for this reason that the Serpent was chosen to represent infinite power of Nature itself.
The Ouroboros, the serpent who swallows its tail, is one of the oldest symbols of the cycles of nature known to human history. This Serpent has spoken to us of wholeness and the infinite cycle of nature’s endless creation since ancient Egypt—more than 15,000 years ago!
The first known appearance of the ouroboros motif dates from the 14th century BC is depicted on the second gilded shrine of Tutankhamun in the Enigmatic Book of the Netherworld.
The cryptographic nature of Egyptian spellwork such as that depicting the first Ouroboros have led to many meanings for this sacred serpent symbol. It was adopted by Greek magicians and entered the alchemical work of European Gnostic and Hermetic teachings, becoming a symbol for introspection and the eternal cycles of life recreating itself and the infinite unity of all things.
But the Ouroboros transcends European history. This powerful symbol has arisen simultaneously between cultures around the world with similar meanings, and with no known history of contact. A common belief among indigenous people of the tropical lowlands of South America that waters at the edge of the world-disc are encircled by a snake, often an anaconda, biting its own tail. In Nordic cultures, Jörmungandr the World Serpent encircles the world, and when it releases its tail apocalypse will follow.
It is said of the Ouroboros in the early alchemical writings (400 BCE) that it represents “the all is One.” In this sense, all other meanings of the Ouroboros are contained—the balance of masculine and feminine energy, the liberation of unity, and the boundary between the world as we know it and what lies beyond. The Infinite Serpent, guardian of the cosmic order of all things, continues to inspire us and connect us to the wisdom of the Serpents, and to remind us of the sacred cycle of creation, destruction, and rebirth.