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Want to learn more about how to do astrology? You've come to the right place!

CANCER

Ashley Thiessen

SEASON

JUNE/JULY - Beginning with the Solstice, the longest day of the year, summer officially starts with the Sun crossing into the Sign of Cancer. So begins a time of enormous abundance. The sun shines bright and hot, clearing out the clouds and drying out the wet spring soil. Forests open their leaves, dappling the summer flowers under them in shaded sunlight. The grass grows tall and thick. Rivers and streams swell to their full height now that the mountain passes have been relieved of their melted snow. Wild animals feast on all the land had to offer. Livestock are taken through the valleys and weaned onto grass; cattle then breed again so their next calves can be born in the spring. The heat, the food, and the community together allow people to relax. The world is our mother, taking care of us as though we are children again!

In ancient agricultural societies, the work done at this time of year centered around the growing and harvesting of summer crops. Typically, the whole village hayed together. More hay meant more feed and bedding come winter, so it was an important commodity for everyone, especially those with livestock. Although grain stores were at their lowest for the entire year, many summer fruits and vegetables could be harvested or foraged from the wild. Too, as calves and (goat) kids were weaned, farmers could milk their mother animals, making butter and cheese to feed their families. Other farm work at this time was weeding, harvesting flax and hemp for cloth and rope, and collecting wild foods and dry firewood.

Pagan Europeans celebrated Litha, also called Midsummer, with feasts to celebrate abundance. Nightly bonfires were lit to symbolize the power of light over darkness, as well as to protect from witches, dragons, and evil spirits, whose power was strong at this time. Many Germanic cultures associated this time of year with the sun and with hay, and even the West Frisian Calendar called this “Hay Month”. 

SYMBOL

Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all saw this constellation as something different, be it as a beehive, a turtle, a tortoise, a scarab, a crab, a crayfish, or a lobster. “Cancer” is the Latin word for “crab”, and is what the symbol for this Sign eventually stayed as. Greek mythology states that Hera sent the crab Karkinos to distract Heracles during his battle with the Hydra. Heracles crushed the crab underfoot after it pinched his feet. Endeared by the crab’s efforts, Hera placed the crab into a constellation in the sky. (However, it is worth noting that some scholars believe this part of the myth was added later so that the Twelve Labours of Heracles could correspond more closely to the twelve Signs of the zodiac.)

Examining the many animals associated with this sign, and what they have in common, is key to understanding the symbol itself. As a beehive you have an element of communal work, sort of like the community coming together to make hay. The scarab is associated with solar deities like Ra that roll the sun across the sky just as scarabs roll dung across the ground. This time of year also fell during the greatest flooding of the Nile, exposing animals like turtles, crabs, and crayfish. All of these animals are small, hard-shelled creatures with soft, vulnerable insides. In some way they all represent the powerful sun, flooding rivers, and communal work of summer. Turtles and crabs both have associations with water, which traditionally meant secrets and the hidden depths of the emotional, spiritual realm. They also carry their houses around with them, giving them their associations with home and family. Crabs in particular have been linked to the moon and to changing tides, as they are exposed on the shoreline once the water disappears. All of which together are symbolic of the emotional, yet guarded, nature of the Cancer personality. 

The CANCER Signs + Symbol (icon designed by Freepik!)

The CANCER Signs + Symbol (icon designed by Freepik!)

The glyph used for Cancer is of two alternate lines ending in circles on opposing ends. It represents the crab’s claws encircling one another, and it may also be reminiscent of tumbling tides. In medieval medical astrology Cancer also represents the breasts or chest of a person, so the glyph is also of that area of the body.

PERSONALITY

Cancer is a mixture of the Cardinal Quality and the Water Element. This mixing creates a deeply feminine, emotional leader, most often associated with the Mother archetype. Male and female Cancers are very different because of the different gender roles society gives them. It is okay for women to be sensitive, maternal, emotional, and swooned by babies and cute animals. But men are told to be tough, strong, unemotional, practical, aggressive, and confident in themselves. Heterosexual men who are placed in the naturally feminine Sign of Cancer find it difficult to express their personalities authentically, especially in the company of other straight men. As a result, female Cancers (who naturally fill the role of homemaker and child-bearer) and homosexual men (who can escape gender roles, to some degree) are much more comfortable in their own skin than their straight male counterparts, who try to cover up their sensitivity by becoming more guarded, more distant, and more of a "man".

Still, even the manliest of Cancer men, when alone with a trusted female friend or loved one, will open up their shell and spill their deepest secrets. It's a human need, to let down one's walls and expose one's vulnerabilities, and one that needs to be indulged in frequently for optimal emotional health. Cancer is a highly emotional Sign, who need to feel and express themselves fully in all their changing moods. They are sensitive to the undercurrents of emotions they pick up on from other people, becoming deeply affected by someone else's pain, sadness, enthusiasm, anger, excitement, and anxiety in turn. This sensitivity is why so many Cancers are introverts, spending long periods of time locked away in their bedrooms, away from the world and the humanity they hate. But it is also why they are so good at taking care of people in the particular way they need to be taken care of - Cancers just "know" things about people, and often react to this knowledge without even realizing it.

But Cancers live in two worlds. The emotional, intuitive, psychic realm, a source of rich imagination and great feeling, symbolized by water. And the material world of home, money, possessions, and physical security, as symbolized by the land. The Cancer crab walks between both. Somewhere in the middle, where the tide meets the shore and emotion meets object, we find nostalgia, sentimental attachment, and our ties to the past. And in this meeting place the Cancer gains a sense of stability, security, and steadiness in the ever-changing tides of their emotions by building up walls of material security to protect themselves.

Personally, Cancer is my favourite Sign. I've never laughed harder than when I am around a Cancer. Their humour is legendary! So many famous comedians either have their Sun or Moon in Cancer: Larry David, Lewis Black, Greg Giraldo, Jim Gaffigan, Robin Williams, Dave Chappelle, Melissa McCarthy, Aziz Ansari, Kevin Hart, Gabriel Iglesias. This Sign in particular does emotionally volatile comedy about what frustrates and angers them about people and society. They observe everything going on around them, and are often hiding more knowledge than they let on. Like Taurus, Cancers come out of their shell around the people they love and become entertainment powerhouses. But also like Taurus, Cancer is much shyer, and much more reserved, off stage than people would usually guess. 

Look at a Cancer as they sit alone, away from the party, deep in thought, and see that their resting face is now solemn, if a little sad. Is that the same person who was making funny voices just a minute ago? Is that the same person who was blowing bubbles into their baby's belly, or scrubbing their dog's ears, or lovingly kissing the back of their spouse's hand? Yep. Cancer moodiness is one of their defining features. One minute they are happy, and the next they are bitching and complaining about everything under the sun. Then they get sad, and then their sadness makes them angry, and then they calm down, and then are cheering up again. And so it goes, in cycle with the moon and with the people they are surrounded by, their whole life long, no matter how hard they try to hide it.

CHILD

While a baby is in the womb, they and their mother's body are seamlessly connected - physically, emotionally, psychically, and spiritually. Once the child is born they leave their mother's body and form a separate, physical identity of their own. But Cancer children, like their Pisces counterparts, remain very much connected to their mothers. Cancer children are often born to women who have difficulties in their relationship with the father, often becoming single-mothers or mothers who spend a large amount of time raising their children by themselves. As a result, the mother and child have an unusually equal relationship, wherein the mother relies as much on their child for emotional security, nurturing, and caregiving, as the child does on them. 

The Cancer child's relationship with their mother sets up the rest of their personality. Their mom is usually a loving, nurturing, sweetly soft person, one who is utterly domestic and a good provider for their family. She is known for her homemade family recipes and her lovely home, and is seen by the outside world as a wonderful wife and mother. But take a look underneath, and you see how artfully she dominates the rest of her home. She is overprotective, coddling, subtle, and manipulative in getting her children to stay with her. And looking at this particular side of the relationship, you can see how Cancers develop a fearful, fretful, overly-cautious insecurity when venturing out into the world on their own. They usually stay at home well into adulthood, perhaps for much longer than they should. And when they do leave home it is usually to the shelter of a marriage (or equally serious relationship) to start a family of their own. They seldom leave home before then, unless forced to by something outside of their control. Mother and the family home become their protective shell - one that they are very attached to though this mixing of love, loyalty, and fear.

Mother can keep child tucked under her wing for a while, pampered with treats and affection, threatened by an impending emotional meltdown. But eventually the Cancer child will have outgrown the family home. And, rather like a hermit crab, will have to seek the shelter of a bigger, more personal life. Usually coinciding with young adulthood, when they need to earn their own income and do things for themselves, the transition towards separate independence is difficult for both mother and child. Cancer needs to separate themselves from their family in order to form a separate identity and become more of an individual. The mother, who herself relied on her child to take care of her, is forced to stand on her own. Both of them are leaving the shelter of one another. But it needn't be forever.

Cancer will find the perfect person, and most likely have many children of their own. But they will still visit their family and help them out any way they can. They are forever connected to their home and family life growing up, particularly their parents and their childhood years. Those early years until independence are so important to the Cancer person that everything else in their personality stems from that, regardless of what happens as an adult. It doesn't matter if they are 22 or 72. I think I've heard Cancers say "When I was a kid..." more than anything else. 
 

RELATIONSHIPS

Cancers may be deeply private introverts in the eyes of the outside world, but don't let their shyness fool you. As much as they lock themselves away in their homes and refuse to socialize openly with new people, Cancers don't actually like being alone. They crave the company of loved ones and get desperately lonely when isolated for long periods of time. Outside of school and work, they spend a lot of time with their family and close childhood friends. And while the rest is spent in solitude, in their bedrooms, their office, on the internet, or with their nose in a book, they enjoy having the warmth of people around them, each doing their own thing but in the company of one another.

When it comes to romantic and sexual relationships, Cancers seldom make the first move. They don't aggressively go after the person they have a crush on (usually an older mate with a wealthy family and a promising career). They sit back and patiently wait to be pursued, subtly sending out hints and signals that could just as easily be confused for friendly conversation. Their fear of rejection (which itself is a fear of vulnerability) keeps them from being upfront and honest about their feelings. Instead, they pursue every relationship cautiously. In the back of their mind every relationship is potentially serious, long-term, monogamous, and committed, with the possibility of buying a house, raising children, and growing old together. Sure, there are Cancers who claim that they don't want any of those things - but it's because they haven't found the right partner to do it with, or because they don't have the money, not because they don't want to settle down someday.

It isn't particularly difficult for a Cancer to find somebody to love, especially when they are looking for a forever kind of relationship. They are perfect marriage material for the person who wants to be babied and pampered, who need comfort and security from the one they love. Cancers are soothing, protective, nurturing, soft and sweet, and yet equally seductive and yielding in bed. They are utterly domestic, serving their family and friends with hot meals, a clean home, comfortable couches, a show on TV, and a separate fridge for beer, wine, and spirits. They love to spoil their mate with dates to new restaurants, practical gifts, and sentimental photographs of the two of you together. Should you find yourself with a Cancer lover or friend, you should count yourself lucky, for there is no other Sign as loyal, as kind-hearted, as giving, or as nourishing for your soul, as a Cancer is.

Finding somebody to love isn't their problem. What is difficult for a Cancer is letting go of someone who doesn't return their feelings, or who isn't good for them after all. I call it the "Cancer Cling". It's when they try to own and possess the person they are in love with, sort of like how their mother clung to them. Cancers are tenacious, and believe that through willpower and generosity they can patiently wait for someone to love them. But sometimes it just doesn't happen - either their ex has moved on, or their crush doesn't want to settle down, or their spouse's heart just isn't in it anymore. It is at this time that Cancer needs to just shrug, let it go, and move on with their life. But usually they can't. Cancers live in the past, where their roots are, more often than they do in the present. And a particularly bad break up, disappointment, or divorce can leave them feeling guilty, lonely, angry, and depressed. 

That initial heartbreak is devastating, and only strengthens the walls they put up between themselves and other people. At first it was only a fear of rejection. Now it is a fear of humiliation, betrayal, and abandonment - all different forms of the same fear of vulnerability. From then on they walk even more cautiously, withholding their love until they can be sure a person can be trusted. They will eventually learn to love again, to come out of their shell and expose themselves in all their complex emotions, because they need to be able to find comfort and security in another person. But it won't be easy for either one of them. A Cancer in love will give all of themselves to you and then suddenly retreat back into isolated silence for seemingly no reason. It is a normal part of being with them. Just be kind and understanding, capable of being trusted, and tolerant of their mood swings, and they will come back around. 

CAREER

Cancer treats their workplace like a home, and everyone they work with like family. And as a Cardinal Sign, they can't help but act like mom or dad around the house, even if they aren't the one in charge. In a good way, they are great negotiators, able to keep the peace and help everyone get what they want. They are supportive, generous with their time, and kind, not taking advantage of the person who is struggling, always ready to help somebody who is swamped, stressed, or overwhelmed with work. But in a negative way, they can be just as nagging, controlling, micromanaging, manipulative, and spiteful as your mother on a bad day. Take the good with the bad, don't touch their stuff, and don't let them overrun projects. The benefits of having a Cancer around far outweigh the costs!

What Cancer need from their career is money. That's what a job is for, after all - to feed their family, pay their bills, put their kids through school, and keep them out of the poor house (and off their mother's couch). Their career is there to give them a sense of financial security. Sure, they also need stability, support, comfort, and probably some sort of status. But money is the prime motivator to get them out of bed in the morning, so it better be worth it.

Cancer coworkers and employees need to feel comfortable in their workplace, and so like to recreate some elements of home in their personal space. If they have a desk or an office it will be decorated with photos of family, sentimental trinkets, even a blanket or two. They also like to have personal relationships with their coworkers, treating them more like family friends than business associates. As long as things remain stable in their work environment, they are happy as a clam. But should things get chaotic, Cancer will start to get moody. They stubbornly refuse to conform and insist that the way they've always done things are better. They'll complain to their boss about everything they don't like. A Cancer can act in an emergency, sure. But serious shake-ups to their job can send them into a stress-induced melt-down. It is better to give them a steady, if boring, job that they can rely on, rather than a risky one that is different everyday. They do better work that way.

Cancer bosses are very much the same, in that they don't like sudden changes and they don't take risks with their business. That would be like giving up control - something that they never do. They prefer to build up a company slowly over time, guaranteeing long-term success and good relationships with people they can trust. Working for them, you can relax in the knowledge that you have job security, a solid routine every day, and a steady paycheck every other week. But don't relax too much, or you will be unprepared for one of your boss' sudden mood swings. Don't take it personally. it is common for a Cancer to get frustrated and grumpy on the job. Just brush it off and wait for them to come back around. It will happen eventually.

Cancer workers do really well in careers related to home and food. That could be real estate, construction, renovations, or the selling of home furnishings, or it could be working in a restaurant, grocery store, bakery, or coffee shop. They are naturally able to relate to clients on that level of comfort and style, and are amazing cooks themselves, so it seems like a natural fit. I've read books that say that Cancers are excellent in customer service, and it's not that I disagree, but Cancers hate dealing with people all day, so I wouldn't put the focus of their career solely on that. If they can get into a well-paying job using their skills of relating to people in a home and family type of way, there isn't much else they could ask for. Aside from an early retirement, of course!

QUOTES

PERSONAL STORIES

Most of my friends have either their Sun or Moon in Cancer. It's been that way for as long as I can remember. Maybe it's because I'm a Taurus, or because I have my Moon in the 1st House, or because I'm missing Cancer from my chart entirely (aside from a Cancer South Node, if you use Nodes). But they just get me. They want to eat, drink, and lounge on the couch watching TV shows as much as I do. They spend as much of their free time on the internet as I do. They love animals and babies as much as I do. They are just as moody and introspective as I am. But perhaps most importantly, they are loyal, supportive, comforting, and kind-hearted caregivers who love and protect their friends, mothering me as much as I do them.

I've also dated two Cancers. The first was a high-school fling that lasted a few months, and it honestly wasn't the greatest. He was a punk-ish teenage boy raised by a single mom, whom he had a sort of love/hate relationship with. He hid in his small, messy room and behind a computer screen, where he spent most of his time. Our hang-outs consisted of making-out and watching movies, and that was pretty much it. I liked him a lot, but he was very guarded, so we never got as close as we could have. He opened up to me when we would chat online, but became withdrawn and detached immediately after. It was like that the entire time I knew him - sideways crab-like conversations of getting closer and then pulling away. Eventually, for good.

The second, my current boyfriend, has his Sun and Mercury in Cancer, in the 4th House. I talked about him in my previous Gemini article too. His father is away for weeks at a time because of his job, so he was raised primarily by his mother and his grandparents. He is also the eldest boy, and so grew up to fill the role of "man of the house" while his father was away. He talks a lot about his childhood of family camping trips and binging on video games with his friends. Like a lot of Cancers, he is quiet, guarded, and detached when he is around people he doesn't know. But when he's with me, he's funny, cuddly, affectionate, loving, and protective - a side of his that never gets shown to the outside world. A lot of women will say that about the men they're with. "He seems like he's all tough and mean, but on the inside he's a real softy!" But if you're with a Cancer man, it's absolutely true. They are all hard shell on the outside and all cute and squishy when they are with the ones they love.

THE cancer TRANSFORMATION

It is funny how Cancer, a Sign of motherhood, transforms and becomes Leo, another child Sign, as they mature. But sometimes maturity isn't about growing older - it is about finding the self-love and enthusiasm you lost when you made it your duty to take care of everyone else. As Cancer matures they learn how to better communicate their needs and assert themselves, demanding that their own wants and needs be put first. All those blocked emotions, the moodiness, and the under-handed manipulation are let go in favor of full and honest self-expression, the roar of the lion. There are some things that stay the same, namely insecurity, self-pity, and jealousy. But instead of retreating, Leo covers it all up with extraverted, charming bravado and bravery. New changes aren't scary, they are exciting! Water turns to Fire, and Cardinal to Fixed, and Cancer finally gives way to Leo, and is reborn as a kid again.