The symbol of the Ouroboros can be found in near all cultures across history, and originated as far back as, 1600 BC in Egypt. This ancient symbol is commonly depicted as a snake or dragon swallowing its tail. It has many meanings among it’s various histories with Greek Magic Traditions, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Chinese Alchemy. Yet, on a core level the Ouroboros often used as a symbol of death and rebirth, representing the cyclical nature of life.
Although, personally I am more so influenced by the terrifyingly intelligent, Carl Jung’s perspective of the Ouroboros. If you’ve never been exposed to the work of Carl Jung I highly recommend investing the time to do so, especially if you are interested in Analytical Psychology. Jung’s expansive knowledge of the compiled history of the Ouroboros allowed him to come to the conclusion, “The Ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite, i.e. of the shadow. This ‘feed-back’ process is at the same time a symbol of immortality, since it is said of the Ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolizes the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites, and he therefore constitutes the secret of the prima materia which […] unquestionably stems from man’s unconscious.” (Collected Works, Vol. 14 para.513).
The concept of the “shadow self” is a psyche concept I have become aware of and actively trying to incorporate into my own life for the past few years. The shadow self is an immense topic and is a whole other topic for a whole other article. On a surface level the shadow is what I consider the most underdeveloped part of humanity, and increasingly so as humanity tries to repress our darker instincts our of fear of them. Although, I don’t condone going around being an evil prick, as succumbing to the dark side is conducive to nothing but inviting more suffering than necessary into one’s life. The shadow is a crucial aspect of self-discovery, and personally growth. To develop the shadow in short, is to learn in depth and maturely cultivate the part of you capable of harming yourself and others. A common example of the shadow would be getting into a heated argument, and instead of sticking to your point, going for the person’s mental jugular in an almost unconscious attempt to hurt or maim their ego. Often, when it is the shadow self speaking, one will actually be perplexed by whatever came over them to say something so malicious in the first place. These behaviors underline the separation of man between the conscious and unconscious or, along some trains of thought, man and beast.
Anyways, now that the boring stuff is out of the way. You might be saying, “yeah, yeah, but a TATTOO?”. My answer : I. wanted. it. I like tattoos and always have, and in my life the shadow has certainly been a significant driving force behind a lot of the pain and suffering I’ve inflicted upon myself and others alike. This tattoo is a symbol of not rejecting my past, but fully embracing what is set in the stones of time and using it to enhance my perspective in a unique way that most people sadly neglect. A symbol to faciliate the eventual reunion between the man who loses himself to the devil, and the man who never stops pursuing freedom.
I am no where near that perfect reunion, as to say I’ve escaped or fully come to terms with all my demons would be a preposterous lie. Although, I also think it’s intellectually lazy to assume the position you’re at, at any time is the pinnacle. Yet, it is one of the few things in my life I have continually found value in believing, and even if my views were to change in the future I want to get it immortalized and condensed in the form of a tattoo just in case I get Alzheimer in the future and forget, ya know? Well I guess in that case I’d forget what the symbol means to me too…shit.