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16. April 2019

Creating a one of a kind Ouroboros ring

A serpent bites its own tail – this ancient symbol of eternity, or rather how time begins, ends and begins anew is a much-loved illustration throughout religions, art and literature. It illustrates the cycle of life and death, the turn of the seasons, wholeness, the union of opposites and infinity at large. Recently, a customer wanted me to create ring, using this very symbol and it was such a treat to comply!

We meet the tail-biting snake for the first time in ancient Egypt – famously in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Here they depict the deity Mehen, which protects the sun god Ra on his nightly journey through the underworld. Generally, the snake it represents the formless disorder which surrounds the orderly world and is involved in that world's periodic renewal.

By Djehouty - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The tail-biting snake pops up throughout the world and ages: In ancient Greece it gets its name, which means “tail-devouring snake”. Here in the Scandinavia we know about this large snake too – the Midgaard worm, which encompasses the whole world (and which the thunder god Thor famously attempts to wrestle).

Picture by Uwezi

Curiously, many tribes of South America too believed, that the world (disc) is surrounded by the gigantic snake Queztacoatl biting its own tail. And in the Hindu belief, a dragon circles the tortoise which supports the four elephants that carry the world. (If you are a reader of fantasy literature, you might recognize this description as the Discworld of Terry Pratchett – though without the snake).

Later, the alchemists use the Ouroboros as a symbol of mercury, which is “a substance which permeates all matter”, while the semi-religious conviction of the Gnostics too used the symbol extensively with the same meaning of eternity and the cycle of life and death, because a snake symbolizes resurrection, since it appears to be continually reborn as it sheds its skin.

Carl Jung, being a famous Swizz psychologist describes the symbol in this way: “The Ouroboros 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 Ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolizes the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites”.

Sometimes, the serpent is not only shaping a circle, but a figure 8 and therefore, the symbol of infinity – a horizontal figure 8 – is by many seen as a simpler, modern adaptation of the Ouroboros


Serpent, worm, dragon, snake – which one is it?

Actually, all of the above are interchangeable when it comes to the Ouroboros. As long as it is reptilian, all is well. Most Ouroboros’es don’t feature legs or wings though you see some exceptions:


Ouroboros in great stories

Such a powerful symbol has to pop up especially in fantasy fiction and surly it does! Apart from the aforementioned Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, here are a few more examples - and the whole reason why this commission of an Ouroboros ring was placed.

In the Neverending Story by Michael Ende, the symbol Auryn consists of two snakes (one white and one black) which bite each others tail. The two snakes symbolize the dual nature of the two worlds, one Phantasia and the other Reality. Also, AURYN stands for the twin nature of the two snakes, and their mutual creation and destruction. If one of the two worlds become too powerful, it will destroy the other, as it happens to Phantasia, which is devoured by nothingness because no humans believe in it anymore. In the story, the amulet holds magical powers – go read it if you are curious.

However, it was another story which led my customer to commission her Ouroboros ring: The series “Wheel of Time” by Robert Jordan, where the mystical order of the Aes Sedai provides a double-twining snake rings to the Tower’s trainees once they reach the rank of Accepted. This 14 books series is being made into a TV series (good news for all of us who are looking with dread at the upcoming last season of the Game of Thrones). Want to know more about this world? Here is a description:

My customer who had recently had two children with her husband, wanted an eternity ring to symbolize their now inseverable union. She designed her personal Aes Sedai ring, also known as "The great serpent ring" to twine sinuously and looking into the world with blue, glittering diamond eyes, one for each daughter.

After quite a few drawings she decided on one particular way in which the snake was to move and I dug out my wax carving tools. Working with such a 3-dimensional shape is almost impossible directly in gold and hence I set out on cutting, filing and scraping a lump of wax into the exact shape of her ring.

This process takes a long time – especially because it was important to me to get the shape just right! Not only the way the body was to meander around the finger, but also the somewhat trianglular shape op it (when ding a cross-section) - because a snake isn't just cylindrical and the line which the spine describes therefore adds to the caught movement of the animal.

However, once we were both satisfied, it was sent off to the caster, which turned wax into gold.

Now another set of hours were used on perfecting the shape further, setting the diamond eyes and providing a contemporary structured surface (in stead of the scales which many might expect). The finished ring was downright stunning!

See more pictures of the finished snake ring here

Would you like a piece of jewellery custom made for you and YOUR dreams? Don't hesitate to contact me at design@castens.com or order a design meeting here:


Order design meeting

Tags: snake ring, OOAK, lost wax


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