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Ouroboros, ancient symbol

Ouroboros, monotype print, 30″ x 22″

In my Mazatlan studio, the Ouroboros rears her head and almost bites her tail.

The Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting the snake or serpent eating its own tail. There are many interpretations but in general it signifies Eternity or the never ending cycle – something constantly re-creating itself. Carl Jung named it the archetype of the human psyche. It is considered a symbol for introspection.  In Alchemy, it is infinity or wholeness.


The Ouroboros has appeared in many cultures with the earliest siting in Egypt dating back to 1600BC. The Phonecians used it – then the Greeks who named the symbol, Ouroboros, which means devouring its tail. In Aztec mythology, Queztacoatl, was similarly depicted. More on the Ouroboros:  http://www.tokenrock.com/explain-ouroboros-70.html


The Ouroboros is closely connected to the circle and the spiral, two universal symbols that also point to wholeness and regeneration. These two symbols have been mainstays in my work over the years – but I had never used the Ouroboros until recently.



What changed? After taking my group down to Oaxaca for the Oaxaca Art Vacation in July, I stayed for another week to soak in the city and the culture. I saw several works of art utilizing the Ouroboros symbol. I bought a watercolor by Hector Hernandez – a very simple cobalt blue rendition painted over some sheet music. I had recently done a series using sheet music as chine colle in my monoprints – so that caught my attention. I had admired this artist’s work over the years.



On a tour of printmaking workshops in Oaxaca, the Ouroboros pops up again in this gorgeous large-scale woodcut entwined with figures.

As an artist, I draw my inspiration from ancient art to contemporary works. Whose to say what and where will get the juices flowing….We all have our on voice, our own style and way of working with the imagery at hand.