It’s a symbol that you’ve seen, but you might not know the name for it. Ouroboros tattoos depict a simple circle, made of a snake which is devouring its own tail.
In today’s article, we’re going to discuss Ouroboros tattoos, their history, meanings, and designs, so that you can learn more about this classic symbol and what it really means.
Let’s discuss the Ouroboros and the rich vein of symbolism that comes with this amazing skin art option!
What is the History of Ouroboros Tattoos?
The Ouroboros has it’s roots in both ancient Egyptian and Greek cultures. Depicting a snake that is eating its own tail, the simplicity of the design carries a profound message, which was powerful enough that alchemists, Hermetics, and Gnostics decided to keep it and make it their own.
Eternally growing while destroying itself at the same time, it’s easy to see the appeal. The name Ouroboros is actually Greek, but it’s interesting to know that it wasn’t assigned to this symbol until somewhere around the 1940s and the translation of the Greek is ‘tail-devourer’.
This is actually quite close to what the ancient Egyptians called it. Their name was ‘sed-em-ra’, which simply translates into ‘tail in mouth’. It’s simple, profound, and powerful, and definitely ‘catchy’, in that this is a symbol that is pretty much known the world over.
It enjoys the rare trait of being a symbol that everyone can understand, even without knowing the history and simply seeing it for the first time. As such, it was only a matter of time before the mighty Ouroboros would make its way into the skin art world. It’s a truly ancient design that still appeals in the modern day.
What Do Ouroboros Tattoos Symbolize?
Ouroboros tattoos symbolize the constant act of creation and destruction. As the snake eats itself, it continues to grow, and so the tasks of growing and eating continue on and on, until the end of time. This means that the Ouroboros is also a symbol of immortality.
Ouroboros also represents the eternal cycles of destruction and rebirth. This is one of the most inherently human traits that there is. After all, you are not the person that you were 10 years ago, 5 years ago, or even last week – each day, you reinvent yourself, and this hungry snake sums it up completely.
It’s also interesting to note that this symbol has been viewed as both masculine and femine. Some say that the serpent itself is phallic, while the mouth is representative of the yonic energies associated with the womb. It is also a symbol that appears in many cultures.
Jormungandr, the ‘world serpent’ of Norse myth, was said to be a giant snake that was so big that he encircled the world, and in India Vedic rituals were said to be encompassed in the concept of a snake eating its own tail. It’s a rich history and an excellent skin art option for those who love it’s powerful message.
What Do Ouroboros Tattoos Mean?
When you see Ouroboros tattoos, it can mean a number of things, depending on what is near it or if it is depicted by itself. In general, it can represent that the tattoos owner understands that one is constantly destroying their old self and creating a new persona, each and every second of the day.
It can also represent a belief in eternity, as the snake is constantly shedding it’s skin as it devours, so that it continues to exist and becomes new again, even though it retains a basic ‘blueprint’ of it’s essence as defined by it’s shape.
Ouroboros tattoos can also mean that one is interested in occult philosophies, such as Hermeticism, Gnosticism, or it could even express an interest in alchemy. Beyond broadcasting philosophical bents, these tattoos are sometimes chosen by history buffs, who love tales of ancient Egypt and Greece.
Finally, some simply like the simplicity and the aesthetics behind this profound tattoo option. The snake eating its own tail certainly sums-up how many of us feel about life in a way that is impossible to misinterpret. The final meaning, of course, will be up to you, but it’s hard to go wrong with this ancient, enduring symbol.
Characteristics and Styles of Ouroboros Tattoos
When it comes to depicting your own Ouroboros, the sky is the limit. You can colorize the snake itself or go with black and white and just about any style will so. A graceful Japanese-style Ouroboros would give the tattoo a grace and severity, or you could go with New School and have some colorful, ‘cartoony’ fun with it.
Others might choose to adopt a geometrical style, breaking down the classic image and making it crystalline and carefully measured – it’s really all up to you, but you’ve definitely got a lot of options at your disposal.
Give it a bit of thought. This is a symbol that is thought to be around 7000 years old, so making something fresh of it allows you to adopt the symbolism, yet personalize it in a new and unique way that no one has ever seen before!
Where Do Ouroboros Tattoos Usually Go?
Ouroboros tattoos are quite commonly placed on the outer arm, the shoulder, or the ankle, but they are sometimes depicted on their own or as part of a larger piece on someone’s back. Still others might choose the hip, especially if it relates to their personal philosophy, so that only a select few will know it’s there.
Work first on your design and then check with your tattoo artist. Go through their portfolio and ask them what might be a good placement. Tattoo artists know the human body, and often they can recommend a place that will fit your curves and contours perfectly.
It’s well-worth the extra time that it takes because your tattoo will be absolutely perfect and custom-fitted for you!
Final words on Ouroboros tattoos
In this article we’ve explored the symbolism, meanings, and designs of the ancient Ouroboros. It’s deeply profound, yet simple, and has the rare quality of being a symbol that you can instantly understand the first time that you see it.
If you like ancient symbols, philosophies, history, or simply appreciate the cleverness behind the design, then an Ouroboros tattoos might be exactly what you’ve been looking for!