The Phronesis Logo – the Ouroboros
The logo of Phronesis was designed by artist and designer Raymond O’Brien and is based on the ancient symbol of the ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail; the Greek word ouroboros means ‘self-devourer’. What is the meaning of this striking image and why did we adopt it?
The ouroboros is an ancient symbol that appears across a number of cultures and takes a number of different forms; sometimes it is a dragon consuming its own tail, sometimes two dragons or snakes consuming the tail of each other. The earliest known appearance of the ouroboros is in Egypt and dates from around 1600 B.C. but appears in many other cultures and contexts. It shows up in ancient Indian symbology as the serpent goddess Nahusha who creates the world, the image of the snake entwined around the cosmic egg, and also in Norse myth as Jormun-gandr, a great serpent that can encircle the whole world and grasp his own tail in his mouth.
The serpent or dragon is often depicted guarding something of great value, treasure of some kind. The symbol itself depicts motion, continuity, repetition, and self-fertilisation. This all points to the cyclical nature of the world and cosmos, hinting at rebirth, the circle of repetition, or rebirth and renewal. For the ancient Gnostics it symbolised the infinite but because the serpent creeps across the earth, it is also a reminder of the material plane. The circle itself is a symbol of completion, perfection and the eternal. In the alchemical tradition it represents purity and wholeness as well as the infinite.
Interestingly, if the ouroboros is modelled in 3d and then set in motion consuming itself, it produces a the geometric figure of the Klein Bottle. This becomes particularly evident in the “figure 8” immersion of the Klein Bottle.
We at Phronesis chose the ouroboros symbol because it seemed to best represent our core ethos – individual and group renewal (the coiling in on itself) and completion through the cultivation of wisdom (the great treasure).