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Drawing by Theodoros Pelecanos, in alchemical tract titled Synosius. (1478) (Ouroboros serpent in old Greek alchemical manuscript)

The Ouroboros (Alternately: Oroborus, Uroboros, Uroborus) is an ancient symbol depicting a snake or dragon swallowing its tail, constantly creating itself and forming a circle. It is associated with alchemy, Gnosticism, and Hermeticism. It represents the cyclical nature of things, eternal return, and other things perceived as cycles that begin anew as soon as they end. In some representations the serpent is shown as half light and half dark, echoing symbols such as the Yin Yang, which illustrates the dual nature of all things, but more importantly, that these opposites are not in conflict. The ouroboros is an example of tail recursion and self-reference, though not in a programming context.

In alchemy, the ouroboros symbolises the circular nature of the alchemist's opus which unites the opposites: the conscious and unconscious mind. It is believed to have been inspired by the Milky Way, as some ancient texts refer to a serpent of light residing in the heavens. (more...)