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What do you call a snake eating its own tail?

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Quick Answer

A snake eating its own tail is called an ouroboros. The ouroboros is an ancient symbol of eternity and the cycle of life and death.

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Full Answer

The earliest known depiction of the ouroboros was found in King Tutankhamen's tomb, where two of these snakes representing the beginning and end of time are used in the Enigmatic Book of the Netherworld. Plato used it later to describe the first being, a self-devouring beast. The ouroboros is represented in other cultures, from the Norse world-encircling serpent Jormungand to the Kundalini "sleeping serpent" unleashed in yoga. The ouroboros has also been adopted as a symbol by numerous mystical groups, from alchemists and Gnostics to the Victorian-age Theosophical Society.

Real snakes sometimes do try to devour their own tails. This is generally due to stress, disorientation and hunger. Because snakes are designed to swallow and not to release, this is often fatal.

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