Cancer – The Crab – June 21 to July 22

“Cancer – sign of water and the Moon –
is strong and caring
and fiercely protective of all she loves.
The matriarch of the zodiac,
she’s a guardian and the keeper of all treasures past.
She’s wise, intuitive and sensitive to those around,
she’s original and imaginative
and values her sanctuary to help her ground.”
– by Silvestra Silvermoon

Goddess Symbolism

Since classical times the crab, a sea creature, has been associated with both water and the Moon. Both Hellenic Hera and Her Roman counterpart Juno are linked to the crab as well as the Moon. By then both Hellenic Hera and Juno were seen merely as Goddesses of Marriage, which most likely is where the sign of Cancer got the “wet-weekend” traits from that many mainstream astrology text attribute to it. (Please check out my post entitled “Hera – The Great Mother Goddess of the Minoans and Mycenaean Greeks” to find out more about the original pre-hellenic Hera. And read below to find out what Cancer is really like!)

What few people are aware of is that the original sign of Cancer wasn’t a crab at all, but rather a turtle (including terrapins and tortoises)! In ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of modern western astrology, the turtle was closely linked to water, the Moon, Mother Earth, time, immortality and fertility.

These attributes can be traced back all the way to Paleolithic times when turtles alongside fish, frogs, toads, hedgehogs and bucrania symbolised regeneration and renewal and were inherently linked to the Goddess.

In many mythologies turtles are a symbol of creation, wisdom, longevity and protection.

During pre-dynastic times turtles were also held sacred in Egypt, especially in the southern region of Naqada where many other prehistorical Goddess artifacts have been discovered. Turtle bones, pottery and imagery have been abundantly found. Still showing their paleolithic roots turtle amulets were associated with healing, renewal and regeneration.

As Egypt entered the dynastic era and became increasingly patriarchal, the turtle became a symbol of the underworld – which originally was seen as the Womb of the Goddess, a place of renewal and rebirth, but eventually became a terrifying place full of monsters and dangerous animals.

The turtle was also associated with the Goddess in Greece. Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and Fertility, who was born from the Sea and used to be known as the Mother Goddess Astarte in Phonoecia is often depicted with one foot on a turtle. Like Astarte, Aphrodite is also a Moon Goddess.

The other animal that Cancer was once represented by is the scarab or dung beetle.

In ancient Egypt the scarab dung beetle was sacred and symbolised resurrection and transformation. It was seen as a creature of immortality and was closely linked to Egyptian burial rites. This is due to the reproductive cycle resembling a process of rebirth.

The dung beetle spends a lot of time rolling balls of dung for food and laying eggs into. While the female digs an underground tunnel, the male rolls dung balls ready for the eggs. The female then lays one egg in each and leaves them underground for the babies to hatch and mature. Sustained by the dung they undergo all the stages from egg to adult insect while still underground and eventually after about 28 days emerge as fully grown scarab dung beetles.

It’s not surprising then that the ancient Egyptians believed that the dung beetle was a “creature of immortality” that went underground for one Moon cycle only to be reborn again thereafter. During those early days the Scarab was still a lunar animal and associated with the Goddess.

Again, as Egypt became more patriarchal and solar-based the scarab dung beetle became associated with the Sun, specifically the god Khepri who was said to push the Sun across the sky just like the Scarab beetle pushes the ball of dung. At some point, apparently, the Egyptians went as far as believing that the dung beetle was a purely male species who place their semen inside the dung to create the next generation!! However, whenever we come across a god that is linked to creation, transformation and / or rebirth and regeneration, we’re dealing with an ancient Goddess symbol that has quite literally been stolen from Her to be attributed to a male upstart.

Going back to the crab itself, although most likely not the original animal associated with the sign of Cancer, there are a couple of Goddess connections with it.

The first relates to the crab as a sea-spider. Many people have commented on the general shape of the crab, which definitely resembles that of a spider. And the spider, another “creature of immortality”, is most certainly linked to the Goddess. Like snakes so do spiders shed their entire skin, making it seem like they are continually reborn. Spiders are also often associated with wisdom and the creation of the universe as in the Hopi Goddess Spider Grandmother.

The other Goddess animal that the sign of Cancer is connected with is the bee. Amidst the constellation of the Crab there is a cluster consisting of about 400 stars. This group of stars that is embraced by the Crab is called the Beehive.

Bees are the ultimate representatives of a true matriarchy. The Queen Bee is their Mother Goddess who gives birth to all bees, both workers and drones. All worker bees, who are the producers of honey, the caretakers of the eggs, are females. The male drones have no task beyond the fertilisation of the Queen’s eggs.

Bees are inherently linked to the Goddess, especially Hera, the pre-Hellenic Mother Goddess of the Moon. Honey is often described as the ambrosia of the Goddess and symbolises richness and abundance.

Cancer’s Characteristics and Traits

Cancer is a very special sign, as it is ruled by the Moon Herself (although most of the planets represent what once were purely lunar attributes. See “The Planets” for more details). Cancerians are traditionally linked primarily to those aspects of the Goddess that are associated with the full moon, i.e. Her mothering aspect. While this is mostly true – although they also exibit the independent nature of the Maiden and the wise intuitive nature of the Crone – Cancer’s “mothering” does not refer to the watered down patriarchal interpretation of motherhood, but rather that within a matrifocal society:

Cancerians are caring and loving yet independent and strong-minded. They are gentle and sensitive yet fiercely protective over who and what they consider to be their own.

To my mind the best example of a typical Cancerian woman is actually a lioness. Both mother and huntress, she is an independent strong female who is soft and gentle with her cubs. Lionesses are exceedingly affectionate and loving mothers, who will protect their babies with incredible ferocity if threatened.

Cancerians are pretty much the same way, both with their human babies as well as any other creation of theirs. And there will be many of those! Cancerians are creative and original with minds of their own. They make great artists, actresses and designers. They have a superb brain for business and due to their natural ability to take the initiate are often successful entrepreneurs.

Cancerians are naturally wise women, who are in touch with their deepest intuitions and feelings and can easily empathise with those around. With their fantastic memories they often are the keepers of humanity’s past.

Although very people-oriented, Cancerians need to have a place they can call their own, a sanctuary of sorts, where they can focus inwards and recharge their batteries.

In summary Cancer women (and men) are:

– personal
– bonded strongly to family and friends
– warm-hearted
– devoted
– protective of who and what they love

– strong
– fierce at times

– emotional
– with deep feelings
– idealistic
– with a great sense of humour

– sensitive to others
– empathetic
– intuitive

– creative
– original
– unique
– initiatory
– driven
– adaptable
– dextrous
– crafty, as in “good at crafts”
– musical

– maternal
– nurturing
– caring
– responsible
– tenacious
– with great organisational skills
– self-determined

– cautious
– slow and deliberate
– with retentive memories
– drawn to the past
– sentimental
– collectors

– private
– in need of sanctuary, usu. the home, to relax and unwind

– drawn to water and especially the sea

Cancer is a cardinal Water sign that is ruled by Hera, the pre-hellenic Mother Goddess.

Due to its close connection to the Moon the sign is associated with white, silvery and pearly colours.

Within the body Cancer is linked to the breasts and the digestive system, esp. the stomach and the gall bladder.

Cancer qualities are most prominent when the Sun, the Moon or the Ascendant (Rising Sign) are in the sign of the Crab.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Briana Dupree
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 19:14:34

    I just want to say thank you. After year of reading the same old “1900’s housewife” description of female Cancerians, I find this one to be a beautiful retelling of how we’re really like. Being 19 years old, I always felt angry when reading those stereotyped articles about women Cancers, and I felt like giving up on astrology despite it being a childhood interest of mine.
    Again, thank you so much. This may be the only description of my zodiac sign I’ll take to heart.

    Cancer Sun
    Taurus Moon

    Reply

    • Silvestra
      Sep 27, 2012 @ 20:08:07

      Hi Briana, I’m so very happy to hear you say that! Cancer is a very special sign with so many wonderful attributes. Don’t listen to those boring captain bringdown standard descriptions!

      Reply

  2. Logan Schmeler
    Oct 09, 2016 @ 18:46:03

    I’m pretty sure you can’t just disregard its masculine aspects because it’s patriarchal , because it is infact both , cancer has both interpretations within it , a crab, a scarab and a turtle are all hard shelled beings , infact its placement would actually imply perfection wich does not relate to the feminine or masculine, since unlike many of the other beings in astrology it alternates between , scarabs for the sun , cancer for the earth and the turtle or tortoise for its carrying of both on its back and so beyond both the earth and sky. It’s hard shell makes it hard to break , meaning you cannot break either interpretation since both are meant to stand together not apart.

    Reply

  3. Faithybae
    Apr 09, 2017 @ 23:51:21

    As a cancer mother. I completely identify with the characteristics of a lioness. TRY ME. And I will show you who I am. Great summary. Pretty accurate.

    Reply

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