Known as the oldest allegorical symbol in alchemy in ancient Egypt, the ouroboros represented the concept of eternity and endless return. Like the sun, the ouroboros underwent a journey of its own. From Egypt, it found its way to the Greek alchemists of Hellenistic Alexandria.
The symbol first appeared in the tomb of Tutankhamun as part of the book of the netherworld in the 14 century BC. In the book of dead lay images of a serpent related to the creator god Atum who rose from the waters of creation. The snake is believed to renew itself every morning. The ouroboros symbol is depicted holding its tails in its mouths, one encircling the head and upper chest while the other surrounding the feet of a large figure, which may represent the unified Ra-Osiris. the double loop of the snake eating its tail depiction became common in fantasy art & literature.
The ouroboros has several meanings as the lower part of the symbol showcases the destructive force of nature, night, earth & even Yin while the upper half represents the generation and creative force, day, heaven & yang. The ouroboros symbol was featured a lot in the field of Alchemy like cleopatra the Alchemist who was the first to feature the symbol for the first time in the 10th century which became linked to alchemist’s opus the philosopher’s stone.
The symbol was very popular during the Roman times as it appeared on magical talismans & emblems. The ouroboros acts as the mathematical equivalent for infinity and a representation of the idea of primordial unity related to something existing or preexisting before any beginning by any sort of force. The symbol is featured in religion & mythology and can be associated with Gnosticism and hermeticism.