From WICKED: The Grimmerie, a Behind-the-Scenes look at the Hit Broadway Musical.
When I first saw this symbol I immediately recognized the snake from an X-Files episode. In the 13th episode of the fourth season ("Never Again") Scully has an ouroboros tattooed on her back to symbolize a new beginning in her life. I didn't particularly like this episode -- it was one of those all-about-Scully episodes, aka no Mulder -- but I welcome any reference to one of my favorite television series! And it sparked curiosity for me and led to some interesting investigation!
In Egypt, the first known appearance of the ouroboros motif is in the Enigmatic Book of the Netherworld, an ancient Egyptian funerary text in KV62, the tomb of Tutankhamun, in the 14th century BC. The text concerns the actions of the godRa and his union with Osiris in the underworld.
Gnostic gem from Roman-era Egypt (1st century AD), with an ouroboros surrounding a scarab and voces magicae, characters representing magic words.
In alchemy, the Ouroboros is a sigil -- a symbol used in magic. The term has usually referred to a type of pictorial signature of a demon or other entity; in modern usage, especially in the context of chaos magic, it refers to a symbolic representation of the magician's desired outcome.
Early alchemical ouroboros illustration. From the work of Cleopatra the Alchemist (Greco-Roman Egypt).
Within Kundalini Yoga, ouroboros symbolism has been used to describe Kundalini energy. According to the second century Yoga Kundalini Upanishad, "The divine power, Kundalini, shines like the stem of a young lotus; like a snake, coiled round upon herself she holds her tail in her mouth and lies resting half asleep as the base of the body" (1.82). Another interpretation is that Kundalini equates to the entwined serpents of the caduceus of the Greek god Hermes, the entwined serpents representing divine balance in the west or, esoterically, human DNA.
In 2009, I got my first tattoo -- two tiny stars and a shooting star on my left, top shoulder. Since then, I haven't felt the desire to put more ink on my body. But this year the desire hit me hard -- three tattoos in 10 months. The second of the three tattoos is this botanical illustration on my forearm and it has transformed me. It makes me feel like myself. Last year I went through a final transformation following about 7 years of weight loss and I really lost sight of my true self. I stumbled upon this illustration via Etsy -- it was on a phone case -- I researched the artist and I fell in love with the image. I had a temporary tattoo made by a seller on Etsy and it sealed the deal for me, it looked perfect. My sweet boyfriend was superbly supportive and was ultimately the one who convinced me to get the tattoo. I got a lot of grief from my friends and family about the placement and the colors -- "You're never going to get a good job with that!" and "The color on that tattoo is going to blend together and look like a big mash of colors when you get older." It has always been hard for me to do something that I know is not going to make people who are important to me happy. But I am so grateful that my boyfriend encouraged me and helped me take "the plunge". And it ultimately has helped me think more for myself, make my own decisions about my life, and be more independent.
After getting the tattoo I felt instantly 100% like the me I was lacking after all of my physical changes. It shows my artistic, nature-loving, and creative personality. And I realized that eventually my eyesight is going to fail, my hair will turn grey and fall out, my skin will wrinkle and sag, my ability to function without assistance is going to decrease. So, do I blind myself now in acceptance of the fate of my eyes? Do I shave my head and buy a wig? Do I stay indoors the rest of my life, out of the sun, away from the elements, frantically lotioning my skin to keep it soft and supple? Do I stop living? It seems pretty silly to not do something just because eventually it won't be as perfect as it once was. Nothing lasts forever and it brings me so much joy right now.
Redoute, Pierre-Joseph, Rix, Martyn, & Stearn, William T. Redoute's Fairest Flowers. Prentice Hall Trade, 1987. Tattoo Artist: Amanda Cancilla, Artistic Skin. Noblesville, IN.