When the ancients looked up into the heavens and saw the Constellation of Cancer, they saw a ‘Crab’.They didn’t see a group of stars that looked like a crab, to them it WAS a crab, but not just any crab, it was the Crab that Hera, long suffering wife of the philandering Zeus had placed in the heavens.
While Hercules, one of Zeus’ many illegitimate children and therefore at the wrong end of Hera’s jealousy, was off performing his 12 Tasks, Hera sent the faithful Crab off to try and stop him. The Crab caught up with Hercules in the Marsh of Lerna, where he was battling the 9 headed Hydra. The Crab bit at Hercules' ankle and was promptly crushed by Hercules. Hera memorialised her faithful servant by placing him high in the heavens. Ever since Cancereans have been known for their faithfulness and loyalty.
There is one aspect to the Constellation of Cancer that is often overlooked, but goes a long way to explain where Cancereans get many of there otherwise unexplainable characteristics. Among the group of stars that make up the Constellation of Cancer are a small group called ‘the Asses’, which appear on the back of the Crab. In mythology they are said to have been placed there by Dionysos (a God who went insane, the same God who discovered wine - maybe there's a link?). Dionysos placed these stars there in recognition for their help in a tricky spot, when he was trying to get across a large swamp. Dionysos had already gone insane by that stage and was attempting to reach the Oracle of Zeus to be cured. When he couldn’t get across the swamp he came upon two Asses, captured them and rode them across.
To cut a long story short, he was cured and repaid the Asses by placing them in the Heavens, putting them above the Crab. Dionysos was also an illegitimate child of Hera’s husband Zeus and she had tried to kill Dionysos before he was even born, so by putting the Asses above the Crab, Dionysos displayed a stroke of one upmanship or tit for tat. Cancereans have always been known as the Sign that can survive and prevail in spite of the odds and it is only in recent times that calling someone a bit of an ass hasn't been a compliment. In the ancient world they were a symbol of wisdom, endurance, tenacity and stubbornness, which are all Cancerean traits.
The Crab gives Cancereans many of their traits, for the crab is an animal that lives both in the water (emotions) and on the land (the real world). The crab hides itself behind its shell, something Cancereans do very well, especially if they feel threatened. When faced by danger a crab won't fight unless it has too, preferring to climb into its shell rather than force or face a confrontation. If the crab is ever in a position that he is forced to fight, especially if his offspring are in danger, then you had better what out because he is ferocious. The crab also has a secret weapon, for he’ll extend his sharp pincers and attack, but even if a pincer or even a leg is bitten off, he simply grows another one. Both Cancereans and the crab are resilient and both are born survivors, whose first line of defence is to hide, but if confronted they not only fight back, but live to tell the tale.
The crab is hesitant, side stepping rather than travelling in a direct line, something the Sun itself is when moving through the Constellation of Cancer. The Sun is seen to hesitate and even slow down at the summer/winter solstice, as it moves into Cancer. Cancereans have long been known as very intuitive, able to sense things. Crabs can do the same, finding food using chemical stimuli and ‘smell detectors’. Crabs rely on this sense organ to find food, mate and avoid prey, which is a very Cancerean way of operating.
Another trait that both Cancereans and the crab share is that when the crab has outgrown his shell, he needs to shed it in order for the new shell to grow. When a crab sheds his old shell a new, bigger and better, but in the short term softer shell is exposed. While in this state the crab is vulnerable, so he buries himself in the sand, hiding away until the new shell has hardened and he's once again safe and protected.
Cancereans are known to ‘reinvent’ themselves, but when they do they have an urge to hibernate, to hide away or retreat to their cave or shell. As Cancereans evolve they have periods and cycles where they need to seclude themselves away while their new shell hardens. They emerge back into the world, stronger and more determined than ever, with a new sense of confidence.
There is no need for me to tell you where to find the Moon in the sky. Since the dawn of time the Moon has enchanted mankind. In prehistoric times, before we learnt to tame the land and farm, when we were still hunter gatherers, the world was a different place. This was a time of ‘matriarchal’ rulership and it was women that were the wise ones and the Moon and the 'feminine' were worshiped. It was an intuitive, ritualistic and pagan time, when we didn't know how to explain things, so a rich tapestry of mysticism existed. With the advent of civilisation, society became more ‘patriarchal’. This new age of male domination was more Sun based. Hence, the Moon has always been an ancient and primordial symbol and always associated with the feminine aspect. Moon worship stems from a time long before history books were written and even before oral history, for it goes back to the very dawn of time. Cancer is a Sign that is often interested in history and the past and also in the dark or the undiscovered. It is said that Cancereans love a good mystery and that they make good detectives. In ancient times men hunted and brought the food back to the women, who fed their families and food, nurturing and nourishment are all Cancereans themes. You’ll find Cancereans working in restaurants or will have a well provisioned house, for a ‘Crab’ without a full fridge or pantry is an unhappy creature.
The Moon is the second brightest object in the sky behind the Sun and the brightest in the night sky, with an orbit of 29.5 days. Each lunar cycle begins when the Moon aligns with the Sun to form a New Moon and two weeks later reaches the halfway mark, with the Sun in opposition creating a Full Moon. After that the Moon begins to wane, until the cycle repeats again with the next New Moon beginning a new lunar cycle. This is a cycle that is so strong that it influences the tides, the weather and even the female menstrual cycle is often aligned with it. Cancer is a Sign that loves rituals and routines, which gives them comfort, but also means that there can be insecurity or even anxiety if their routine gets thrown out and their moods often go in cycles, similar to a lunar cycle.
If the Moon’s gravitational effect is strong enough to not only create the tides, but influence the earth’s orbit as well, you can only imagine what impact it has on us. With our bodies made up 75 per cent water, a Cancerean is more prone to mood swings and depths of emotions, not only brought on by lunar transits, but from their ability to pick up on what's going on around them.The Moon evoked songs, inspires lovers and poets – all things emotional and sentimental.
There are many gods who are said to rule the Moon, among them Dianna the Hunter, but it is in Artimis, or in her more ancient form of Hecate, that we meet the Moon Goddess of ancient times.Hecate was the legitimate child of Hera and Zeus. When she was young Hecate stole a pot of her mother's rouge and to avoid punishment she fled to the house of a woman who had just given birth. In ancient times it was believed that anyone who came in contact with a woman in childbirth was rendered impure. So in order to wash off this stain, Hecate was taken down into the underworld to be cleansed. But Hecate was a Moon Maiden and they don’t like being told what to do, so instead of being purified she chose to stay down there as one of the rulers of the underworld. In fact, she became known as the ‘Invincible Queen’ presiding over cleansings and as the Goddess of Enchantment.
As the Goddess of Enchantment Hecate was said to accompany Cerberus, the three headed dog that guarded the Underworld, to torment men through their dreams. She was said to haunt tombs and the scenes of crimes, which is another reason why Cancereans make good detectives or like a good thriller. If anyone can get to the bottom of something, a Cancerean can. Hecate was very much ‘daddy’s little girl’. Zeus denied his daughter nothing, including the power to grant or withhold from mortals any desired gift. Thus, Hecate is one of the most ancient and archaic figures that preside over magic, death, children, the underworld and fate.
Since ancient times Cancer has been associated with motherhood and childbirth. In ancient times it was said that if a woman in labour called out for Artemis’ help, she would be spared the pain of childbirth. Artemis’ mother is said to have borne her ‘without pain’ and at her birth the ‘Fates’ proclaimed her the patroness of childbirth.
The Sign of Cancer holds two distinctions, that of being the first Water Sign and the first Sign of the Summer Season, remembering that whether you were born in the southern or northern hemisphere, I'm talking about the season in play when Western Astrology's origins got their roots, which was in the Northern Hemisphere. Even a southern hemisphere Cancerean is still a Summer Sign. Cancer begins on the summer solstice, the longest day of the northern hemisphere year. At this point the Sun is at its hottest, and is directly overhead. The land itself is thirsty for moisture. The most precious commodity and more precious than gold when the Sun moves into Cancer – is Water.
As the fruit and crops ripen and the streams, ponds and rivers dry, all thoughts are turned to getting as much of this life giving elixir to the food producing plants and livestock as possible. It was a time when the soil needs water and families worked together to bucket water from wells and other water sources. The heat of the day was exhausting and languid, shade was sought and long summer nights enjoyed.
Being the first month in a new season Cancer is a Cardinal Sign, that of initiation. It’s not a fixed Sign, so it doesn’t have to ‘do the work’. This is the initiation stage in a new season. The crops are still growing; it’s a time of waiting and a time of expectancy.
In Cancer we find all the characteristics of the Crab. Never one to confront a situation, Cancer energy is content to side step or hide behind its defences. But don’t be fooled, there’s no coward there, just one extremely tough cookie and definitely not one to trifle with. Life might succeed in tearing the odd limb off but you won’t defeat the Crab in the long run, he’ll simply grow a new one.
The Constellation of Cancer is a dimly lit one, in fact one of the dimmest, displaying only a few stars. It is indeed the Sign of the underworld. The Ancients called it ‘the Dark Sign’, often being described as black without eyes. Cancereans love a good mystery and are drawn to the unknown or the unexplained, or to what can’t be seen but only sensed and they have learnt to trust their instincts. Yet many of the Cancerean traits can’t be ascribed to the Crab, but they can to the Ass. Those of wilfulness, tenacity and the desire for life to be exciting. It is said that during the battle between the Olympians and the Titans (from which Zeus emerged as the new King of the Gods) that the Satyrs rode into battle on the backs of Asses. Their braying made such a commotion that the giant Titans fled. Asses were given an honourable status in the Olympian world after that.
As a Cardinal Sign it’s a Sign of initiation, willing to take risks and get the ball rolling. The longest day of the year is a time when there is maximum light – optimism is one of the Cancerean traits. In fact, it is a Sign of great contrasts, for it gets its moods from the cycles of the Moon, from its mythology and dark placement in the heavens and its link to the underworld. The Moon’s domain is that of the Night.
Cancer has always been the Sign most linked to motherhood and from its season it gets the promise of future potential yet to be born, but gestating, just as the crops in the ground are at that time of year. It is a Sign of great expectancy in every sense of the word. Of the Three water Signs, it’s in Cancer that water is most revered. In fellow Water Sign Pisces the water swamps and waterlogs the ground and in fellow Water Sign Scorpio the earth is slowing down, moving into the sleep of the long dark winter months ahead. It’s in Cancer that water is most revered and most precious. The Moon has often been the focus on rituals and traditions, all very important to Cancereans.