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Cancer: Nurturing the Path Towards Soul


The right beginning, the right kind of nurturing is crucial for anyone with strong Cancer signatures in their birth map (Sun, Ascendant, Moon, a strongly filled 4th house, or a stellium of planets in Cancer).  If there are gaps, missed steps, or abuse in the nascent stages of development, Cancer must then spend an enormous amount of time and energy—sometimes a lifetime—finding a way to restore what was missing or abused and gain wholeness.

The establishment of trust is the first important necessity in a Soul’s development.  By Soul, I mean the spiritual part of a human life where deeply felt emotions need to be strongly rooted and in balance.  Without trust there can be no solid foundation from which to build a soulful life where caring for others creates the great chain of love that links generation to generation.


The sign of the Crab, Cancer, commences with the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere around June 21st and lasts until July 22nd.  This is the first water sign and therefore cardinal in nature, meaning that Cancer must initiate some movement into the realm of the emotional life.  As the 4th sign in the zodiacal wheel it falls at the nadir point of the great circle of life symbolizing the need to establish a secure and stable foundation out of which to build strength of ego and creativity of expression in the next sign, Leo.  It is ruled by the Moon whose cyclical nature expresses itself through the ebbs and flows of a Cancerian’s life.

Like the Moon, the Crab, as symbol of Cancer, can move forward or backward and often appears indecisive in whether to retract within or explore without. This crab symbol was known and used by the ancient Sumerians as early as 2000 B.C., by the Babylonians, in India, and later by the Greeks.  The Egyptians used the Scarab as their symbol for this sign and the Greeks also used the Tortoise, but all of these creatures share in common hard shells and very soft interiors.  They crawl into their shells when frightened, and move in a slow but constant pace.  How like a Cancer who is deeply sensitive and vulnerable, and seeks protection from the threats of external environments by withdrawing or defending itself with strong ties with others who also act as barriers to the outside world.

cancer glyph


This image is evocative of the claws of the crab.  There is tenacity to Cancer in its pursuit of goals.  Once achieved this tenacity continues by hanging on and holding together what is possessed.  The glyph is also like two spirals moving in opposite directions symbolic of the ascending and descending course of the Sun, or the two and fro movement of the crab from land to water, and back again, which could be likened to a movement from the external world of conscious life to the internal world of the subconscious, back and forth.


There are only about 23 visible stars in the constellation of Cancer, one of which is Sirius.  The Romans coined the phrase ‘dog days’ when noticing that the hot, stifling heat and seeming social malaise occurring every year between July 3rd and August 11th coincided with the rise over the eastern horizon before noon every day of this star now known as the Dog Star.

The other notable star system in Cancer is the Beehive Cluster, or Praesape, now known as M44 which Galileo mentioned in his Sidereus Nuncius and made note of the individual stars within it.



At the Tropic of Cancer (the northern limit of the tropics) at 23 degrees N. latitude the Sun is directly overhead at noon on June 21st, marking the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.  This phenomenon is visible through Mexico, the Sahara, northern India, and parts of southern China.

This marks the longest day of the year and the peak of the solar force.  From now on the Sun will begin to turn back beginning its journey into the night force realm, or the collective realm.  Cancer, therefore, is a highly subjective sign where the awareness of self and its needs are primary, as is the hypersensitive needs of the ego.  Cancer is intensely absorbed in its own inner world seeking pleasure and fulfillment of its deeply sensual desires.  Shakespeare depicted this well in his Midsummer’s Nights Dream.


All three containers of the body are used to provide some type of nourishment, while two are intended to biologically equip the female to harbor a safe haven for the growing fetus, and then provide nourishing milk for the growing infant, as well as warmth and comfort.

The stomach, that most inner cavity so important to the digestive system, is where food taken in is churned and processed in preparation for its later extraction of nutrients used by the body.  This same process is seen in the dream-life and through memories and reminiscences whereby the life experiences are made accessible to the psyche as nutrients for the Soul.

Disorders often occur in any of these areas ruled by Cancer.  In this modern era where breast feeding has been discouraged by the influence of agribusiness and the manufacturing of baby formulas, as well as the modern woman’s disconnection with her more maternal biological functions, colicky babies, allergies, and weakened immune response systems arise in those infants deprived of mother’s milk, not to mention the necessary emotional bonding that breast-feeding supplies and the most essential feeling of trust enhanced by the infant’s experience of suckling and looking into the mother’s eyes while nursing.  Breast feeding supplies the right transition from the womb to the outer world through a continued ‘softness’ and bonded connection with the mother.

Eating disorders are also associated with Cancer and the stomach.  In the Cancerian myth of Demeter and Persephone food was definitely an issue.  Persephone ate nothing after being abducted into the underworld but a few Pomegranate seeds prior to her emergence, while her mother in grief at the loss of her beloved daughter, took no food but barley water, and even abandoned her role of fecundity where earthly crops were concerned until her daughter was returned.

When there is a natal dysfunction with the Moon, Pluto, Demeter (the asteroid), or any other planets found in the sign of Cancer, the native may suffer from such issues as stomach problems or eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, or obesity.  These are complex issues involving emotional components as well as physiological imbalances.

Moon Graphic, by B.A.Vierling


It was during the Hellenistic Era following the death of Alexander the Great that the Greeks began to associate the sign of Cancer with both the Moon and the Crab.  But to them, the Moon was about business, trade, and the rising and falling of the tides which made their maritime merchant travel possible.  The Moon today, and Cancer are both connected very much with business involving the public, so that any business providing basic needs can be associated with Cancer such as real estate, all food-related industries including supermarkets and restaurants, the industries providing needs for children.  The insurance industry is also a Cancerian industry in that it provides protection from potential loss in various forms such as life insurance, home owners insurance, and accident insurance.

Because the Moon can only reflect the light of the Sun, she symbolizes a certain dependence on what has power.  Yet she is also a satellite of the Earth and does have an amazing power over all the waters and fluids of this earthly plane causing the rise and fall of oceanic tides as well as impacting the fluids of our very bodies.  Before electricity women collectively bled together during either Full or New moon.  The subconscious forces ruled by the ebb and flow of the Moon are clearly visible in the rise of more incidents of emergencies in hospitals, crises in the public sphere like accidents and crimes, and the general heightening of emotions at the Full Moon time of the month.


Cancer people are emotionally attuned to every nuance and, like the Moon, may reflect what is being projected toward them.  this mirror-like quality means that they need to choose their associates and environment wisely for they are like psychic sponges absorbing what is swirling all around them.  Is it no wonder that they must withdraw frequently just to maintain their own equilibrium?  Having their own nest, their own safe haven is the best way to keep themselves protected.  The young and growing child, and especially the teenager, need their own room if at all possible.  The adult Cancer needs to find their ‘true home’, their sanctuary of privacy far from the maddening crowds whether it be in the country, or up in a high-rise.

Because of the ability to empathize and ‘mirror’ many Cancer types make exceptionally good therapists provided they also have some element of the air signs to lend a note of objectivity to their work.  They also make excellent caregivers who attend to the needs of the sick, the young, and the elderly, or who work with animals and plants in the same nurturing capacity.  Sometimes this caregiver quality can extend to objects, things, and the mechanical world.  Taking care of equipment, machinery, and anything that needs constant attention and coddling can be a Cancer’s devotion.

Cancers need emotional security maybe more so than material security.  That’s why early family bonding with someone is so important.  If it isn’t mother, it can be father, grandma or grandpa, or even an older sibling who takes on the major role of watching over little Cancer so they feel emotionally safe and secure.  Once learned through actual experience, this trait carries over into adulthood where they, in turn, help to supply and maintain emotional security for others.  A true Solar Cancer can, as an adult, provide leadership abilities with nurturing qualities and become an excellent role model for others.  Teachers, youth leaders and coaches, motivational group leaders are just some examples of this role for Cancers.

The sensitive mind is often seen in the many writers born under this sign.  The thought patterns of Cancer are often filled with reflection and reverie like the Full Moon reflecting upon a lake.  They have incredible retentive memories and love to often reminisce.  Proust wrote The Remembrance of Things Past later in life, after meandering about and wasting his time out in the world.  To write, he turned inward and reflected on the aspects of himself that were child-like and still in need of returning to source.

Hemingway, another Cancer, wrote in a highly subjective way where his own story was told again and again through the various characters and stories that reflected his own feelings about life.  Saint-Exupery took this sensitivity to new heights through his protagonist in The Little Prince.  Here the child, who was also Saint-Exupery, wandered from planet to planet, always in great solitude, looking for, for what?  The nameless home of Soul perhaps.  As he so aptly put, “All adults were originally children (although few of them remember it).”

The heart of Cancer is romantic, and like the heart of a child, seeks total devotion. Cancer’s seek loyalty and fidelity usually, and if wounded they find it extremely difficult to heal.  I think of the film The Days of Wine and Roses as a poignant and sad tale of romantic love eroded by addiction to alcohol.  Every sign is vulnerable to some type of addiction, but Cancers, with their penchant for immersion, must guard against drowning their grief or sorrow in the bottle.  They need good food, warm baths, spas, and moonlight by the ocean…things like that.  If shared with a beloved, all the better!

Cancers are cautious yet enterprising.  Apply this to almost any area of their life and you’ll see how they manage to appear to be moving so much more slowly than their fiery counter-arts, yet often win the race in the end because they persist, and never seem to give up.  Remember who won the race between the hare and the tortoise?  It’s this tenacity of approach which keeps them moving along and eventually achieving their heart’s desire.

They are so closely attuned to the subconscious that, like a bubbling spring, their capacity for creativity never needs to run dry.  Abounding in the images which well up from their inner source, they work well with the intuitive and psychic realms, and are the primo imaginative wanderers of the zodiac.  This may make them appear unstable, but it is because they are cardinal in nature and their watery feelings and images seem to flow from stone to stone, like a brook meandering along, that they are always somehow in movement.  Feelings, if expressed, change quickly into yet new feelings.  A healthy Cancer type can put you back in touch with your own ground spring and help you to connect with your deepest feelings about yourself, your relationships, and your life.  Soul sensitive is a quality that Cancer possesses, and this is a blessing for the rest of us if we open ourselves to their tender care.

This sign is so fundamental to being human and continuing life on this planet that I will need to devote an entire second article to further exploring the theme of mother and child, Cancer men, myths, the shadow, and some famous personalities who are Cancers, as well as the United States of America, a Cancer country.  So watch for Part II soon.

July 15, 2009  12 Comments
Categories: Astrology | Tags: ,


1 dar { 07.16.09 at 5:58 pm }

SplendidStuff- manyThanks!

2 p3rs3phone's demeter { 07.16.09 at 8:25 pm }


3 Vonnie Gtoss { 08.02.09 at 10:58 pm }

As a seven planets in Cancer type person I found your reading/interpretation of my sign pretty intuitive and accurate. Thank You.

4 Cher { 10.13.09 at 11:22 am }

Once again, I am grateful for your extraordinarily good description of the cancer universe.

5 Ann { 11.28.09 at 8:34 am }

hello- nice article. im a crab by the way. ur insights are true. thanks for sharings- ann

6 Kori { 02.07.10 at 2:23 pm }


Most of the discribes me as a crab thank you.

7 Sarah Weatherbee { 10.27.11 at 8:36 pm }

ooooo I love the Moon image! May I use that on my website? Very interesting

8 Genevieve { 10.28.11 at 10:12 am }

Sarah—You are welcome to use the image, but please give Benjamin Vierling credit as the artist. Thank you.

9 Vijay { 01.30.12 at 10:56 pm }

I have sun and mars in cap as well as venus and mercury in sagittarius all in my 4th house which is in sagittarius. Would this give me a strong cancer influence since the stellium is in the 4th house?

10 Genevieve { 02.03.12 at 12:49 pm }

Dear Vijay, The houses show WHERE the energies are best used and emphasized; so, yes, there is certainly a Cancer theme in your life where your Capricorn drive and energy, as well as your Sagittarian enjoyment and interests can find a fertile ground for unfoldment. Your roots, your home, your sense of place, your personal life all should matter and what a rich place for you to actualize all of your energies. The fourth house is also ‘the end of life’ so your golden years should be busy and blessed!

11 mujtaba soomro { 11.17.15 at 6:29 am }

cancerian 28/6/1979 (premature) born 12:45 pm

12 Genevieve Vierling { 11.17.15 at 12:34 pm }

Where was the birth place Mujtaba? I’ll take a quick look. 🙂

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