Ulrik Gliese - Visual Arts - The Ouroboros symbol An explanation
Maryland, May 2004
Many of you have asked what Ouroboros means. Ouroboros is an old alchemical symbol originating back as far as the ancient Greek and Egyptian cultures. In most representations it is made up of a serpent or dragon biting its own tail symbolizing the repeating cycle of life.
Another important alchemical symbol originating from the same times as the Ouroboros is the Caduceus. It is represented by two serpents entwined around a staff symbolizing opposition and harmony.
The essence of those two symbols very well indicate the fundamental aspects of my work "Ouroboros." Therefore, by merging the Ouroboros with the Caduceus, I have made my own unique Ouroboros symbol to represent the work.
Ouroboros: a serpent biting its own tail symbolizes a closed cycle of development. At the same time this symbol enshrines ideas of motion, continuity, self-fertilization and, consequently, of the eternal homecoming. The image's circular shape gives rise to another explanation - the marriage of the chthonian world, represented by the serpent, and the celestial world, represented by the circle. Confirmation of this interpretation might be found in some examples in which the Ouroboros is part black and part white. It would thus bear the meaning of the marriage of opposing principles, Heaven and Earth, night and day, the Chinese yang , and yin, and of all the properties possessed by these opposing elements. Excerpt from the Penguin Dictionary of Symbols
Caduceus: a wand around which two serpents are threaded in opposite directions. It thus holds the balance between the two symbolic aspects of the creature, left and right, light and dark. Symbolically the serpent has a dual aspect, both beneficent and maleficent, presented in opposition and equilibrium in the Cadeceus. This balance and polarity are the especial attributes of the cosmic stream which is represented in more general terms in the double spiral. The legend of the Caduceus associates it with primordial chaos (two serpents fighting) and their eventual wreathing round the wand actualizes the equilibrium of opposing tendencies around the world axis. ... The Caduceus remains the symbol of human ambiguity and complexity and of the infinite potential of human development. Excerpts from the Penguin Dictionary of Symbols
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