The Ouroboros (Greek ?????????, from ????????? ???? “tail-devouring snake”, also spelled Uroboros in English pronounced /??r?b?r?s/ or /?j??ro??b?r?s/), is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon swallowing its own tail and forming a circle.
The Ouroboros often represents self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things perceived as cycles that begin anew as soon as they end (See Phoenix (mythology)). It can also represent the idea of primordial unity related to something existing in or persisting from the beginning with such force or qualities it cannot be extinguished. The ouroboros has been important in religious and mythological symbolism, but has also been frequently used in alchemical illustrations, where it symbolizes the circular nature of the alchemist’s opus. It is also often associated with Gnosticism, and Hermeticism.
Carl Jung interpreted the Ouroboros as having an archetypical significance to the human psyche. The Jungian psychologist Erich Neumann writes of it as a representation of the pre-ego “dawn state”, depicting the undifferentiated infancy experience of both mankind and the individual child.
Hat tip to JOpinionated’s recap of last week’s episode of Lost:
I also believe it is significant that Ms. Hawking was wearing an Ouroboros pin during her encounter with Desmond. I first became aware of this symbol when Scully got a tattoo of one on The X-Files (nerd alert). There are many interpretations of what it represents, but most versions of this symbol feature a snake swallowing its tail, illustrating return (to the island?) and the cyclical nature of life. However, Hawking’s serpent is not doing so. The open nature of her Ouroboros may indicate her ability to travel back and forth in time without getting stuck.
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