Some time ago, I got my first tattoo: a yin-yang made of smiley faces, a design I was taken with because of the symbolism of the yin-yang (light and dark intertwined and dependent upon each other) and the incorporation of the smiley face, which I interpreted as meaning that light or dark, good or bad, there’s some good in every situation.
For some time now, I’ve been pondering what to get as a second tattoo. I didn’t want to get something merely because it “looked cool” or struck my fancy for a passing moment. Rather, I wanted to get something to both complement and balance the tattoo I already had. As the smiley yin-yang is a roughly 3 inch diameter circle on my right upper arm/shoulder, I knew I something similar on my left upper arm, but I wanted to find something that matched thematically, as well as visually.
Nothing struck my fancy for quite a few years, but off and on for the past year or so, I’ve been thinking more and more seriously about one particular design that first caught my eye when I was around eleven or so.
At that time, movies often came to Anchorage months after they had wide release in the lower 48. I’d seen trailers on television for a new fantasy movie that looked incredibly cool: The Neverending Story. However, the movie just didn’t ever seem to come out, and I eventually went out and picked up the book by Michael Ende.
I completely and entirely fell in love with the book (and later was somewhat disappointed by the movie when it eventually hit Anchorage — it’s enjoyable and a lot of fun on its own, but it only covers the first half of the book, ignores roughly half of that, and scrambles what little is left), but the cover of that edition of the book featured stills from the movie, and had Atreyu’s amulet, the Auryn, featured prominently on the front cover.
The Auryn in the film was actually a stylized version of an Ouroboros: while the traditional Ouroboros is a single snake consuming its own tail, the Auryn was designed as two intertwined snakes, one light and one dark, each consuming the other’s tail.
The symbol has stuck with me ever since then, and more and more often as of late, it’s been popping into my head as what I’d like to get to complement the tattoo I already have. I spent a little time this morning trying to find good images and information on the symbol — something of a difficult task, unfortunately, as there are quite a few possible spellings of Ouroboros — but have found a bit of each. I’m not sure if I’ve found an image that’s clean enough for me to give to a tattoo artist yet, but I did confirm some of what I’d already believed of the symbolism of the Ouroboros:
The ouroboros has several meanings interwoven into it. Foremost is the symbolism of the serpent biting, devouring, eating its own tail. This symbolises the cyclic Nature of the Universe: creation out of destruction, Life out of Death. The ouroboros eats its own tail to sustain its life, in an eternal cycle of renewal. In the above drawing, from a book by an early Alchemist, Cleopatra, the black half symbolises the Night, Earth, and the destructive force of nature, yin. The light half represents Day, Heaven, the generative, creative force, yang.
So it looks to me like we’ve got a winner. Now, the search is on for a good, clean image that will work well as a black-and-white tattoo. Once that’s done, it’ll be time to get inked again!
“Behind the Wheel” by Kirk from the album Trancemode Express 1.01: A Tribute to Depeche Mode (1996, 7:30).