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Tag: metaphor

The self-cannibalisation of ideas and experience

An etching of a wyvern (a dragon-like creature) eating its own tail, by 
Lucas Jennis  (1590–1630)

When something dies and is reborn, the usual symbol for this in Western literature is the phoenix. As a result, everything from football teams to companies are named after this mythical bird rising from the flames.

My favourite example of death and rebirth, though, is the Ouroboros:

The ouroboros… is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. Originating in ancient Egyptian iconography, the ouroboros entered western tradition via Greek magical tradition and was adopted as a symbol in Gnosticism and Hermeticism and most notably in alchemy…. The ouroboros is often interpreted as a symbol for eternal cyclic renewal or a cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The skin-sloughing process of snakes symbolizes the transmigration of souls, the snake biting its own tail is a fertility symbol.

Wikipedia

What I like about using the ouroboros as a metaphor is that it explicitly recognises individual or organisational self-cannibalisation as a positive thing. Just as the snake needs to shed its skin to remain agile, so we need to renew ourselves, often through ‘digesting’ our ideas and experience and then taking them in new directions.


This post is Day 68 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com

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