is an ancient symbol
depicting a snake
swallowing its tail
and forming a circle
. It is associated with alchemy
, and Hermeticism
. It represents the cyclical nature of things, eternal return, and other things perceived as cycles that begin anew as soon as they end. In some representations the serpent
is shown as half light and half dark, echoing the dichotomy of other similar symbols such as the Yin Yang
The Ouroboros can be traced back to the Greek philosophers who used it as a symbol of their understanding of the nature of time as cyclic. It could very well be used to symbolize the closed-system model of the universe of some physicists today.
Christians early adopted the Ouroboros as a symbol of the limited confines of this world (that there is an "outside" being implied by the demarcation of an inside), and the self-consuming transitory nature of a mere this-worldly existence (following in the footsteps of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes).
In Norse mythology, the serpent Jormungand grew so large that it could encircle the world and grasp its tail in its teeth.
The organic chemist August Kekulé claimed that a ring in the shape of Ouroboros inspired him in his discovery of the structure of benzene.
The uroboros symbolises the circular nature of the alchemical opus which unites the opposites, the conscious and unconscious mind and the coincidence of the uniting of the opposites.
The symbol of the Uroborous the serpent or snake which circularly eats its own tail, devouring, slaying, begetting and self- fertilising itself occurs frequently in alchemical literature was defined by the Swiss psychologist C.G.Jung as the basic mandala of alchemy whose antiquity can be traced back to Egyptian mythology.
As a symbol of the life-cycle , the serpent or snake was adopted by Christianity for as C.G.Jung recognised -
- 'Christianity borrowed a great deal from Egyptian religion so it is not unsurprising that the allegory of the snake found its way into the world of Christian ideas'. . (C.W. Vol. 14 para.483)
It was the Serpent who during man’s mythic early history played a major role in the Garden of Eden and even Christ instructed his disciples,
- Be ye as wise as serpents. Matthew 10:16
Jung defined the Uroboros’ relationship to alchemy thus-
- 'The alchemists, who in their own way knew more about the nature of the individuation process than we moderns do, expressed this paradox through the symbol of the uroboros, the snake that eats its own tail’. In the age-old image of the uroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process, for it was clear to the more astute alchemists that the prima materia of the art was man himself. The uroboros 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 uroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilises himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolises 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'.
(from C.W. Vol. 14 para.513)
The Uroboros, the symbol of the eternal unity of all things, the cycle of birth and death from which the alchemist sought release and liberation from, was a symbol which the alchemist/physician Sir Thomas Browne was familiar with. In his A letter to a friend, a medical treatise full of case-histories and witty speculations upon the human condition, he wrote of it-
- that the first day should make the last, that the Tail of the Snake should return into its Mouth precisely at that time , and they should wind up upon the day of their Nativity, is indeed a remarkable Coincidence,
It is also alluded to at the conclusion of Browne's The Garden of Cyrus
(1658) as a symbol of the Circular nature and Unity of the two Discourses.
- All things began in order so shall they end, so shall they begin again according to the Ordainer of Order and the mystical mathematicks of the City of Heaven.
Oroborus is also a small window manager, which is about 50kb small on a typical x86 machine. But the project also provides some small tools, which can even be handy when you use some other windowmanager.
Oroborus was written by Ken Lynch, and is currently developed by Stefan Pfetzing, aka dreamind.
Oroborus is released under GPL.
There are some additional tools for Oroborus: