Posted in Philosophy


The Ouroboros is a symbol that depicts a serpent or a dragon biting its own tail, forming a ring. It is the symbol of cyclicality – something that is in a constant cycle of rebirth through the three steps of creation, maintenance and destruction.

The concept of a serpent devouring itself likely stems from the ancient belief that a snake shedding its skin is the act of leaving an old, inferior body to be reborn into a better, new body. The ancient Greeks explained that the Ouroboros connects its beginning (mouth) and end (tail) to form a metaphor for the link between life and death. By forming a circle, the Ouroboros has no beginning and no end; it is an infinite, linear path that cycles endlessly. Because of this, the Ouroboros is also the symbol of infinity, immortality and the cycle of time. An alternate ancient explanation for the Ouroboros is that because it eats itself, it will ultimately end up as nothing.

The Ouroboros was an important symbol in medieval alchemy. Alchemists used the symbol “O” to represent the Ouroboros. To the alchemists, the Ouroboros was an entity that did not place importance in the two natural processes of creation and destruction, but the often-neglected third force – maintenance. This neutral process is the connection between the start and end of anything. Alchemists knew that in any chemical reaction, the process is just as important as the starting ingredients and the final product. The Ouroboros also represented “everything” and “perfection” to alchemists as it connected its own beginning and end. Because of this, the Ouroboros came to represent the Philosopher’s stone.

Perhaps the most relevant application of the Ouroboros to us is the concept of rebirth and cycling. Nothing in nature is permanent. Matter changes states, chemicals react and species evolve. We too are never permanent. There is always room for change – to destroy what you do not like about yourself, create something better and then maintain that state until the next cycle comes. As much as it is important to know to love who you are, it is vital that you continuously recycle, refine and develop yourself to become the person that you are truly happy to call “me”.

Posted in History & Literature


It is common to see creatures in mythology that are a combination of different animals. The unicorn, griffin, chimera, basilisk, hippocampus… The list goes on and on. But perhaps the more interesting combinations are those between humans and animals. Centaurs are a cross between man and horse, harpies are a cross between woman and bird while mermaids and mermen are half-human, half-fish. Although these examples are all from ancient mythologies, there are more recent examples such as the merlion.

The merlion – top-half lion, bottom-half fish – is the national symbol of Singapore. This symbol was designed by Alec Fraser-Brunner in 1964 to promote the name of Singapore. Since then, the merlion has been used frequently in Singaporean art such as in statues and souvenirs. Although the concept of merlions have been found in certain ancient Indian and Hellenistic cultures (not to mention the “sea lion” which is an actual animal), it is almost synonymous with Singapore in modern times.

How did this bizarre combination of a lion and fish come to be? The union of the lion and fish is a symbol for Singapore’s history. Singapore originates from a small fishing village called Temasek – which means sea town in Javanese. This is symbolised by the fish tail, which forms the “root” of the icon. The lion symbolises modern Singapore, which gains its name from Singapura, which means lion city. Furthermore, Singapore is an island nation – a combination of land and water. The core culture of Singapore is descended from Asia via the land mass of South-East Asia, while its affluence and modernisation came from the sea via trade routes. Singapore is one of the most famous and important trade ports in modern history as it controls the passage from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. This allowed the country to thrive economically from the flourishing trade, being dubbed one of the Four Asian Tigers (along with South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan – all four countries achieved exceptionally high growth rates from the 1960s to the 1990s).


Posted in History & Literature

Rod Of Asclepius

There are many symbols that represent the field of medicine such as a red cross or a stethoscope. However, one of the most famous symbols representing medicine and healthcare is the rod of Asclepius. This symbol is used in the logos of numerous medical associations and army medical corps. Those who do know of the rod may describe it as a staff with two wings and two snakes intertwining on it, but this is a common misconception. That symbol is called the caduceus and is actually the symbol of Hermes – the Greek god of messengers, merchants, markets, the high roads, gamblers and thieves. The misconception is very common and many medical associations use the caduceus as their symbol instead of the correct Rod of Asclepius.

The Caduceus


The actual rod of Asclepius is much simpler looking, as it is simply a stick with one serpent intertwining it. The reason that it is associated with medicine and healthcare is that it was wielded by the Greek god Asclepius – the god of medicine and healing. Asclepius was the son of Apollo and had a particular interest in the human body and the healing of ailments. The ancient Greeks often referred to Asclepius in the field of medicine. In fact, the famous Hippocratic Oath originally began with the line “I swear by Apollo the Physician and by Asclepius and by Hygieia and Panacea and by all the gods…” (Apollo was the god of many things and medicine was one of his minor domains).

The rod of Asclepius


So why does the rod of Asclepius have a serpent wrapped around it? In Greek mythology, it is said that Asclepius commanded many non-venomous snakes which he used in healing rituals. The snakes would crawl around the temple, living freely among the physicians and patients. A certain species of snake called the Aesculapian snake is considered to be the model for this story. The reason why the Greeks chose the snake as the animal of healing may be because snakes shed their skin periodically – symbolising rebirth and fertility. 

Another possible root of the symbol may be the traditional treatment for a certain parasitic infection. The Guinea worm (Dracunculus medinensis) is a parasite that lives under the skin, digging itself out through a painful blister when mature. As the blisters burn, the patient immerses the area in cold water to soothe it. The worm detects the change in temperature and releases its larva, completing its life cycle. The traditional treatment was to slowly pull the worm out of the skin, entwine it around a stick and leave it for a period of hours to weeks until it would be completely removed. The Greeks may have taken this image (of the worm wrapped around a stick) and applied it to the rod of Asclepius.

Posted in History & Literature


The Taegeukgi is the official flag of the Republic of Korea. It was chosen as the official flag of Joseon by Emperor Gojong in 1883 and has been used as the flag for South Korea since 1948. The Taegeukgi is an extremely symbolic flag that expresses the values and ideals of the Korean people while also containing the sorrow caused by the great tragedies in modern Korean history: the 36 years of Japanese colonisation and the Korean War. Even before Korea was founded, the flag was used in protest of the Japanese Empire and for the independence of Korea (especially in the famous March 1st movement). Much like Hangul (the Korean alphabet), the Taegeukgi, designed by Park Young-hyo and commissioned by Gojong, is a very scientific and mathematical flag. Let us analyse each part of the Taegeukgi.

The Taegeukgi is composed of a red and blue taegeuk symbol (“yin(eum)-yang symbol” is technically a misnomer) on a white background, surrounded by four black trigrams (4괘, sa-gwe). The white background symbolises brilliance and purity and the Korean people’s traditional love for peace. The taegeuk symbol symbolises the harmony of eum (blue) and yang (red), an imagery of the interaction between the two extremes and the natural rule of continuous generation and progress seen in the universe.

The trigrams in each of the four corners is called geun gon ri gam (건곤리감, 乾坤離坎) in order and each trigram symbolises a certain characteristic of everything in the universe.

Geun (three lines) symbolises the sky, spring, metal (geum, 금, 金) and humanity (yin, 인, 仁). Gon (six lines) symbolises the earth, summer, earth (toh, 토, 土) and righteousness (eui, 의, 義). Ri (four lines) symbolises the sun, autumn, fire (hwa, 화, 火) and courtesy (ye, 예, 禮). Gam (five lines) symbolises the moon, winter, water (su, 수, 水) and intelligence (ji, 지, 智). The taegeuk lies in the centre of the four extremes in each each corner to establish an infinite harmony and balance.

As you can see, the taegeuk is far more scientific and deeply philosophical than simpler flags such as those symbolising the Sun God (Japan), the number of states (USA) or a composite of three different flags (UK). It is the ultimate flag that prides the Korean people’s wisdom and advanced culture.

Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Open Hand

90% of human communication is non-verbal. This shows how facial expressions and body language have a powerful effect on our subconscious. Even the position of the hand can send a clear signal.

An open hand suggests peace, love and openness. Because of this, if the other person has his or her palm showing, you will feel more comfortable talking with them and view them in a more positive light. Jesus is often pictured in a pose with his arms stretched and palms showing, sending the message: “I would like to embrace you”. The same signal is used to initiate a hug.

On the other hand, a closed hand sends a cold message of strictness and professionalism. Therefore, people who are debating or negotiating often have their hands flat on a table or their lap to symbolise their resolution and defiance.

From this analysis, we can tell that an open hand is a good way to gain the affection of another person. Furthermore, this body language can manipulate the other person’s subconscious.

From my experiments, I found that when given the choice between a closed fist facing up and another fist facing down, the subject would choose the fist with the palms facing up about 90% of the time. Although it is a crude test, it definitely beat the 50:50 statistics that is expected.
This experiment was probably affected by other factors. Especially because people will usually choose the unusual choice due to curiosity (as when told to pick a hand, the person will usually have both fists facing down) and due to the psychology of “the unusual fist will probably contain something more interesting”. Also, most people who chose the downward-facing fist later said that they “deliberately chose the other fist because they felt they were supposed to choose the upwards-facing fist”. Thus, they too were first attracted to the unusual fist.

This test must be done suddenly to bypass the logical conscious mind and have an effect on the subconscious mind. If you take too long to explain the test, the results become skewed. 
Bypassing the conscious mind to suggest an acceptable choice to the subconscious mind – this test shows the basic principles of hypnosis.

Posted in Psychology & Medicine


The history of tattoos is as long as the history of civilisation itself. From the priests of ancient Egypt to the modern Maori’s moko, people have always inscribed something on their skin. Even in modern society, tattoos are quite popular (especially among the youth and gangs).

There are many types of tattoos, but all carry the same message: “I own my body and can do what I want to it”. Reason being, people believe that the only thing they truly have full control over and exert total freedom on is their own body. This results in teenagers and young adults to get tattoos as a sign of rebellion, which sometimes stays even in adulthood.

However, there are other reasons for having a tattoo. For example, one can have something precious to them, something they never want to forget, or some ultimate life goal or purpose etched into their skin to remind themselves every day of it.
Also, in a religious sense, it could be done as a way to announce that “my body belongs to my god”. This seems like an archaic ideology, but many people still carry tattoos with such a meaning.
Furthermore, some tattoos mean that “I belong to this group”, which is analogous to branding a cow. For instance, many indigenous tribes in South America and the Pacific Islands give a child who has passed initiation a tattoo to prove that he/she is an adult.

Lastly, tattoos can be simply aesthetic, but they often carry the previously mentioned “ownership of the body” meaning also (a common example is the “tramp stamp”).