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C. G. Jung's Gnostic Ring

 

From the late-1920s until the end of his life, C. G. Jung wore on his left hand a ring with an ancient Alexandrian gem stone engraved with a coiled serpent. This was commonly referred to as Jung's "Gnostic ring." The date when Jung acquired the stone and had it mounted into a ring is not documented. Most photos taken after 1930 show the ring on Jung's hand. Two rare photographs of the ring, front and back, appear below.

Jung's Ring

Jung described the ring in C. G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters (ed. Wm. McGuire & R.F.C. Hull, Princeton University Press, 1977), pg. 468. When asked about the ring, Jung responded:

"It is Egyptian. Here the serpent is carved, which symbolizes Christ. Above it, the face of a woman; below the number 8, which is the symbol of the Infinite, of the Labyrinth, and the Road to the Unconscious. I have changed one or two things on the ring so that the symbol will be Christian. All these symbols are absolutely alive within me, and each one of them creates a reaction within my soul."

The gem in the ring is certainly authentic and probably dates to the first or second century; the image on the front of the ring is the Agathodaemon associated with Alexandria, and it is likely this gem stone was from Alexandria. Similar images of the Agathodaemon in this same form are found on Roman imperial coins minted in Alexandria during the first and second centuries (see below).

On the reverse of the gem stone (the stone is mounted to show this image on the interior side of the ring), an animal figure is carved. Sometime after 1940, the ring was chipped (this chip does not appear in a wax impression made of the ring in 1940, thus I assume the chip occured after 1940). One will note the chip at the top front of the ring in the above picture. The ring was more extensively chipped on the reverse, probably at the same time. The large chip on the interior makes exact identification of the animal form impossible. It may be an Egyptian lion.

 

Jung's Ring - Back Side

 

Below is a picture of the ring on Jung's hand. This is a photograph from the mid-1950s; on close inspection one will note the chip on the ring (I love this weird picture of Jung laughing with a cigar in his mouth):

 

Ring on Jung's Hand - 1950s

 

Below are examples of the Alexandrian Agathodaemon as it appears on Roman coinage minted in Alexandria from between about 60 and 160 CE. (Note that the mint strikes a mirror image of the seal, thus the mint impression is reversed from the engraving on the ring.) On the Alexandrian Roman coinage, the serpent Agathodaemon often is crowned with the Roman imperial crown. On Jung's ring, the serpent is crowned with 12 rays.

 

Coin with Agathodaemon

 

Coin with Agathodaemon

 

In the quote above, Jung stated that "I have changed one or two things on the ring so that the symbol will be Christian." So what did he change? It may be that he added the 12 rays above the head of the Agathodaemon.

– Lance S. Owens


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