The Ouroboros ~ A Personal Symbology
p. 4 of 4
A Literate Lemur Endeavour
Though I have been familiar with this archetypal image for a long time, I only learned its name very recently, in C'est Magnifique, a tiny shop on MacDougal Street in New York's Greenwich Village. The shop was overseen by a burly silversmith named Al and his cat Fazool, who kept an eye on things from her perch on the counter. On one wall hung photos of Al with some of his famous customers, including Johnny Depp, Jim Jarmusch and Iggy Pop; on another wall hung photos of Al's favorite strippers.

In one of the display cases I spotted a silver ring with a familiar shape, and asked Al if I could see it. "That one - the airabarus?" he asked in an old-school Outer Boroughs accent. I wasn't sure what he was talking about, so I just pointed and said, "Um, the one with the snake." And that was the one I ended up purchasing. Only later did I think to look up the word he had uttered so off-handedly, as someone might say "sandwich" or "cigarette." After accounting for Al's accent and trying several phonetic spellings in a noted search engine, I finally came up with the right one: "ouroboros," a Greek word meaning, sensibly enough, "devouring the tail."

If not for Al's laconic intercession, I might never have gotten around to finding out what the strange symbol was called. Now that I have, the intriguing arc begun by Kekule's serpent years ago has reached a satisfying closure - a closure at once enabled and embodied by the silver ouroboros on the desk in front of me.

Adam Sass
                                                                     January 2003


1. Roberts, Royston M.
Serendipity, Accidental Discoveries in Science. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY, 1989, pp. 75-81.

2. - Kekule's Dream web site.

Abacus - Ouroboros web site.

4. Aynesworth, Chris. "The World Tree"  web site (currently offline).

5. Cohen, Leonard. "
Last Year's Man," Stranger Music, Inc. (BMI), 1975.

Spira Solaris and the Universal Ouroboros web site.

7. Sass, Adam.
The Hive. Gateway Hard Drive (64 MB). Berkeley, CA, 2001.