Ouroboros

The ouroboros: a depiction of infinite cycle and seasonal continuance. It is often portrayed as a serpent/dragon eating its own tail, but as a motif of nature, its meaning actually expands into various differing contexts.

For one, the ouroboros is a cosmological perspective. Unlike the common worldview of time beginning (or being created) at some point, the ouroboros displays just the opposite, time (and nature in general) having neither beginning nor end. Furthermore, the early concept of "God" was understood as part of nature itself, and thus the concept also manifests in this manner, as The Egyptian Book of the Dead describes Ra (the sun) as being "self-begotten" (ch. XV). This is also the case with Jesus who begets himself in the Bible (John 1:14; 14:7-9). These are classic examples of the ouroboros in ancient literature. It actually springs up repeatedly in different forms: Jesus taking his own life, and raising himself from the dead (John 2:19-21; 10:17-18); King Saul falling upon his own sword (1 Samuel 31:4-5); Melchizedek the priest "having neither beginning of days nor end of life" (Hebrews 7:1-3). In fact, Wisdom itself is described as being birthed in Proverbs 8:24, and since God/Christ was understood as Wisdom (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:24), this is yet another instance of a self-birth taking place. Wisdom, brought forth? By what wisdom? Such is the mystery of nature⁠—and so it is displayed. 

There is also an alchemical correlation, the ouroboros understood as "the change and return of the year" (Atalanta Fugiens) being consistent with the "lion devouring the sun" imagery seen in alchemy⁠—the lion (vitriol) purifying the sun (matter), resulting in gold, of course paralleling the solar eclipse (see Ecliptic Lore). Thus, you have the "change of the times upon ecliptic purification" notion coinciding with the renewal of circularity (ouroboros). A good example of this is the astral story of The Book of Job, where the darkness comes suddenly upon his life, and yet at its departure, the resumption springs forth (Job 42:12-17) as Job enters into a brighter eon⁠—quite the transmutation process. 

Finally, the concept of self-cannibalism shows up repeatedly in ancient mythology, and this is yet another form of the ouroboros. Such a thing is found in Book 8 of Ovid's Metamorphoses, as Erysichthon "gnawed his own flesh, and he tore his limbs and fed his body all he took from it." In other words, like something out of Antropophagus (1980)! 

Additionally, the Tanakh describes the Hebrews eating their own children (e.g. Leviticus 26:29; 2 Kings 6:28-29; Jeremiah 19:9; Ezekiel 5:10; Lamentations 4:10), which of course is an esoteric description of them eating themselves, as Deuteronomy 28:53 states: "You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters" (cf. Genesis 15:4). Even the symbolic eating of Jesus' body (Matthew 26:26) describes self-cannibalism, as the congregation eating his flesh is described as "the body of Christ" itself (1 Corinthians 12:27; 11:24-26). Thus, Christ eating himself.

Robert Anthony


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