ouroboric (ôr-ə-bôr’-ĭk)

An ouroboros is a snake that eats its own tail. (photo from shutterstock)

Recently I read an article in CSO Magazine about how Nestlé is finally converting its packaging to recycled plastics. By continuing the ouroboric cycle of “make, use, reuse, remake, recycle,” companies can minimize waste and emissions that are harmful to the environment. While these cycles can be positive, they can also have negative consequences. Society’s focus on social media can often be an ouroboric cycle that leads to hours of lost time.

Ouroboric is an adjective meaning “self consuming” (Wiktionary). The word ouroboric actually comes from the Greek phrase “drakon οὐροβόρος” (ouroboros). Drakon refers to a serpent-like dragon. The word ouroboros comes from the Greek root oura meaning tail and bora meaning food. Ouroboros literally means a snake that eats its own tail (for food or otherwise).

The word ouroboros has a long history in mythology. In Egypt, the ouroboros symbolized the beginning and end of time, and was associated with the god of the Sun (Ra). It most famously appears in Norse mythology as the legend of the Midgard Serpent, the son of Loki and the sworn enemy of Thor.

Jörmungandr (or the Midgard Serpent) is a giant snake that encircles Midgard/Earth and is so long that he ends up swallowing his own tail in an effort to cling to the world. Jörmungandr symbolizes never-ending suffering. Over time and across religions, the ouroboros has come to represent eternity, the end of the world, or the schism of birth and death.

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