Symbolism of the Egg

I. “Set the egg before you, the God in his beginning.

And behold it.

And incubate it with the magical warmth of your gaze.”

II. “And I am the egg that surrounds and nurtures the seed of the God in me.”

Carl Jung, “The Red Book”

The Cosmic Egg from “The Red Book”

In the Ancient Greek Orphic tradition, Protogonos (First-born, Primeval), also known as Phanes (Manifestor) or Eros, is the first god hatched from the Cosmic Egg, which had a serpent wrapped around it. That primordial egg was believed to have come from Chronos (Time) and Ananke (Necessity) or Nyx (Night). Like the sun, he was imagined to drive a chariot and be the source of light, but unlike the sun he was considered invisible, perhaps like the yolk inside an egg. In an Orphic hymn “To Protogonos,” he is called “ineffable, hidden and brilliant”, “forever in whirring motion.” In this tradition heaven and earth were believed to have been made of the two halves of the eggshell.

Similarly, as Cirlot notes in his Dictionary of Symbols, in Hinduism Brahma hatched from an egg; also in Chinese belief the first humans sprung from an egg dropped by Tien to float upon the waters. The Egyptians were fascinated by the idea of “a secret animals growth [coming] about inside the closed shell” (Cirlot). Therefore they equalled the egg with the hidden, occult phenomena. Earle de Motte summarizes the role of the egg in Hermopolitan cosmogenesis in this way in his Egyptian Religion and Mysteries:

“… life in potentiality was the Cosmic Egg, laid on the primeval mound (the Island) by the ‘Great Cackler’ (Ibis, as Thoth). Ra … is said to have emerged from this Egg and created all life.”

By Tomasz Alen Kopera, via

The great symbolist Rene Guenon also wrote on the World Egg that it contains in seed all that the Cosmos will contain in its fully manifested state, all that is essential to create life. Ancient rituals of initiation placed the would-initiates in caves so that they can incubate and wait for a vision, which would bring them rebirth in the upper world “in the same way as the chick crawls out of the egg.” (quoted after The Book of Symbols by ARAS).

Hieronymus Bosch, “The Garden of Earthly Delights”, central panel – detail

Guenon adds that the World Egg is the navel of the world, occupying its very centre and radiating life outwards, like the Greek omphalos. In Mysterium Coniunctionis, Jung quotes from the alchemical treatise Turba Philosophorum: “The sun-point is the germ of the egg, which is in the yolk, and that germ is set in motion by the hen’s warmth.” “The Book of Symbols” summarizes the egg meaning in this way:

“The egg is the mysterious ‘center’ around which unconscious energies move in spiral-like evolution, gradually bringing the vital substance to light.”

Or, as it was put in theosophy, “within the egg, the universe is breathed out and breathed in.”

By Andrew Gonzalez, via


Juan Eduardo Cirlot, Dictionary of Symbols

Rene Guenon, Fundamental Symbols: The Universal Language of Sacred Science

C.G. Jung, The Red Book

The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images, by Archive of Research in Archetypal Symbolism (ARAS)

The Orphic Hymns, translation, introduction and notes by Apostolos N. Athanassakis and Benjamin M. Wolkow

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20 Responses to Symbolism of the Egg

  1. A wonderful meditation on egg symbolism.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. LOvely, thanks. It made me think of an old poem of mine …

    I trace its curve,
    can’t quite close my fingers
    round the eclipse.
    Cool in my palm,
    I turn it a little, and feel
    its centre shift.

    My nail snags a ripple
    on the calcareous shell,
    I tap the apex, as
    one sends a signal
    to another realm.

    Placed on the flat
    it rolls a wobbly loop
    and comes to rest
    on its shadow.

    Its brown shine
    reveals a hairline crack
    to the past and future
    hidden in its fold.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. litebeing says:

    I wonder if there is any mysticism associated with the perpetual question of what comes first, the chicken or the egg?. I gather that according to your research, the egg is indeed the starting point of creation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dewin Nefol says:

    Namaste Monika, how are you? 🙂

    Another especially poignant and profound posting drawn from your aerated mind. Thank you for sharing these immense ideas.

    ‘The great symbolist Rene Guenon also wrote on the World Egg that it contains in seed all that the Cosmos will contain in its fully manifested state, all that is essential to create life.’ – the mindful reach and magnitude of this one sentence is phenomenal…such is the transcendent power of symbols

    To borrow from Ka’s comment the word ‘meditation’ – I will indeed ponder this insightfully astute post most carefully…it is too large a meal to digest with one bite 😉

    The choice of artwork and the artwork itself is absolutely superb. Again thank you.

    Brightest blessings for a great week.

    Namaste Monika 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Dewin, for giving me wings with your words. It was my intention to be succinct because the egg is seemingly simple, yet it houses the whole universe. I wanted to include another famous painting by Dali (Geopoliticus Child…) but finally didn’t.
      Have a great week yourself

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dewin Nefol says:

        Namaste Monika 🙂

        If I have done so, then you are most welcome. I find much to intrigue and inspire me in your blog-posts – the common denominator being the shared enjoyment of symbols – and I always conclude my visit feeling lifted by the weight of new ideas, better understanding, and deeper insight. This post is no exception to that rule – there are small seeds of thought planted here sufficient to allow the transcendent nature of symbols to become the driving factor…I am still digesting the egg. It fascinates me in much the same way as the chrysalis fascinates me: the phenomenal mystery is never-ending – primordial soup, liquid life in a shell.

        I think it was a good decision to omit the Dali painting. It’s relevance is tangible but the work is quite specific in it’s interpretation – foregrounding reality more so than mysticism and spirituality. Whilst I very much enjoy Dali’s work, I find this particular painting quite sombre and literal rather than mystical.

        Thank you again for posting and responding with a kind reply. I’ll leave you to enjoy flight and an expansive horizon.

        Namaste 🙂


        Liked by 1 person

  5. A deeply profound marriage of words and images. Egg-quisite!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. inaloveworld says:

    Wow! Amazing images added to such a great post! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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  10. Lunesoleil says:

    Très belles photos , merci

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Women’s Wisdom: Hildegard of Bingen | symbolreader

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