Cancer is a sign that is on one hand quite simple, and on the other hand, extremely complex. Except perhaps for Libra, Cancer is the most underestimated sign of the zodiac. The Archetype for Cancer is the Mother, and many of her attributes reflect those of a nurturer or a caregiver.
A strange thing has happened in the Modern West in modern times. Women have gained more freedom and power in society, while at the same time, femininity and traditional female roles have lost a great deal of status and respect. This change has impacted our view of Cancer natives, whether male or female, and in popular astrology, they are often portrayed as weak, clingy, and over-emotional. These depictions forget, however, that there is no creature that is stronger or fiercer than a mother protecting her young.
Cancer by Season
Most Western Astrologers what is known as the Tropical Zodiac. This zodiac is not tied to the actual constellations, but to the four cardinal points of the year, the two Solstices and the two Equinoxes, and 0° Aries starts at the Spring Equinox. This is in contrast to Indian Astrology, which pins the beginning of the zodiac to the start of the actual constellation Aries. This is known as the Sidereal Zodiac. Both zodiacs divide the sky into twelve signs of equal size from their starting point.
In the Tropical Zodiac, Cancer is the sign at the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (and the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere). As Western Astrology was developed in the Middle East and Europe, the signs reflect the corresponding seasons in the Northern Hemisphere.
If you were born between June 21 and July 22, your Sun is in Cancer, unless you were born at the very beginning or very end this time period. If that is the case, you may want to have your chart cast because the beginning and ending dates of each sign vary slightly from year to year.
Because Cancer begins at the Solstice, it is the Cardinal Sign of Summer. In climates with four distinct seasons, this marks the change from planting seeds to watering and weeding. It can be easy to forget the complexity of life. For some to live, others must die. This duality is a part of the complexity of Cancer. She must eat and provide food for her young, which involves taking the life of a plant or another animal. She must also protect her young from those that would harm them.
In the same way, much of gardening involves making the decision about what plants to water and what plants to pull up. A weed is simply a plant that is growing where it is not wanted and thus, is taking away from the plants that you are trying to nurture. Sometimes, it may seem that Cancer is indecisive, but that is only because she faces so many harsh choices in her role as a nurturer.
The main religious and folk holidays that are celebrated during the sign of Cancer are, of course, the major Solstice festivals. In many European countries, this is Midsummer. In Filianism, this is the festival of Rosa Mundi. On a metaphysical level, the Summer Solstice represents the Southern Gate. Nativity, which is celebrated during the sign of Cancer’s opposite, Capricorn, represents the Northern Gate when Heaven comes down to Earth. At the Southern Gate, Earth reaches up to Heaven.
One of the traditions surrounding Rosa Mundi is a ritual weeding of our souls. We think of a part of us that we would like to heal or transform, and we write it down and throw the paper in the celebratory fire.
Cancer by Element
Cancer is a Water Sign. Water is malleable and is able to change its form. This is its strength. One of the verses in the sutra, The Heart of Water from The Gospel of Our Mother God, teaches, “There is no thing strong but shall meet a stronger, but where is the hand that shall break water?” As a Cardinal Sign, Cancer is the most dynamic and active of the Water Signs. She is the flowing water that all life needs to survive and flourish.
Cancer’s Dignities and Debilities
The planetary principles are the pure essence of their nature and thus, they are always at their highest expression. On the other hand, the planets themselves function better in some signs than in others. The relative strengths and weaknesses of the planets in each sign are known as their essential dignities and debilities. Below are the essential dignities and debilities for Cancer.
Ruler – The Moon
The Moon is the planet that is primarily associated with motherhood. Just like a mother provides for and regulates every aspect of her children’s lives, so the Moon governs every aspect of our existence. The cycle of her waxing and waning is one of the primary rhythms of our lives. Unlike the other planets, the Luminaries, the Sun and the Moon, only rule one sign.
Exaltation – Jupiter
Jupiter is the Greater Benefic, and she wants to give us blessings and prosperity. As the sign of the Mother who wants all good things for her children, Cancer welcomes Jupiter with open arms. For this reason, Jupiter is an honored guest in this sign.
All three signs of an Element are ruled by their Triplicity Rulers. In the Dorothean system, the rulers of Water are Venus by day, Mars by night, and the Moon is the participating ruler. According to William Lilly, Mars is the only triplicity ruler for Water, by both day and night.
Detriment – Saturn
Saturn is the Greater Malefic, and the lessons of Saturn often involve hardship and restriction. Because no mother wants her children to experience Saturn, this planet is not welcome in Cancer.
Fall – Mars
Mars is the Lesser Malefic and brings conflict and strife. Cancer would prefer to avoid these things, and thus is not kind to Mars. On the other hand, one of the roles of a mother is that of a protector for her children. Because of this, Mars does have some dignity in this sign.
In addition to the planets that have dignity in a sign in its entirety, there are planets that rule specific degrees of each sign. These are known as the planet’s terms or bounds. There are two main systems of the division of the terms, Egyptian and Chaldean.
Egyptian Terms for Cancer
0 – 7 Mars
7 – 13 Venus
13 – 19 Mercury
19 – 26 Jupiter
26 – 30 Saturn
Chaldean Terms for Cancer
0 – 6 Mars
6 – 13 Jupiter
13 – 20 Mercury
20 – 27 Venus
27 – 30 Saturn
Each sign is divided into three parts, known as face or decantes. Each face has a separate ruler. The faces of Pisces and their rulers are:
0 – 10 Venus
10 – 20 Mercury
20 – 30 Moon
Cancer and the Body
Cancer rules the chest and the breasts. If Cancer is prominent in your chart, you need to be careful of these body parts because they are especially prone to illness and injury. This is also the case if you have an Aquarius Ascendant because in that case, Pisces governs your 6th House of injury and illness.
If either your Moon or your Jupiter are in Cancer, you need to take problems with your chest and breasts very seriously. The reason for this is that the strong parts of your chart are the most dangerous. If you have a Sagittarius Ascendant, you also must be careful, because Cancer rules your 8th House of Death.
Cancer in a Nativity Chart
When reading a Nativity Chart, most astrologers look first to the placements of the Sun, Moon, and Ascendant, which is also known as the Rising Sign. You can learn these by getting a Nativity Chart report from an astrologer, or by getting a computerized report for free from Astrolabe. Below are brief descriptions of how to interpret a Cancer Sun, Moon, and Ascendant.
There is some disagreement as to whether or not the Sun has dignity in Cancer. By a strict interpretation of the quantitative aspects of dignity, she does not. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine that the Sun is not at least dignified in the Northern Hemisphere when she is at the height of her power and strength. Some astrologers consider that the Luminaries are dignified in each other’s signs, meaning that the Sun is dignified in Cancer, and the Moon is dignified in Leo.
I am not sure how I feel about that, but Cancer is a Night Sign, and the Sun prefers being in Day Signs. My own sense is that the Higher manifestation of the Sun does well in Cancer, bringing unconditional love, light, and warmth. The Lower manifestations of the Solar Principle, such as ego and pride, can be very problematic in this sign, however.
Cancer Sun by Day
If you were born during the day, it will be easier for you to manifest the higher aspects of a Cancer Sun. Your sense of identity will be tied to your role as a nurturer, and you will have little trouble in subordinating your own needs to that of your charges. You may have to be careful to take care of your own needs as well, though. Remember that if you deplete yourself, you will not have anything left to give.
Cancer Sun by Night
If you were born at night, you have a greater risk for the negative traits of a Cancer Sun to rise to the surface. Those with Cancer prominent in their charts have an absolute need to care for another living being. If they do not, their nature can turn in on itself. Instead of being the mother, they can become a perpetual child. Instead of protecting others, they can become self-protective, which can leading to self-pity and loneliness. In order to ward against these negative traits, it is helpful to find someone or something to nurture or care for, even if it is only a houseplant.
The Moon is at her most dignified in Cancer. If you have a Cancer Moon, it is easy for you to manifest the positive, nurturing qualities of this sign. You will take in anyone who needs you. It may be necessary to look for other areas of your chart for balance; otherwise, your desire to care for others could make it easy for others to take advantage of you. On a practical, material level, you are likely to be a very good cook.
Cancer Moon by Day
With a Cancer Moon by day, your motherly nature may be a little more hidden, depending on your Sun Sign. On the other hand, because the Moon is so strong in this sign, it would be hard for it to go completely underground. No matter what you do for a living, you will be the one that people around you go to for help and support. If you do not have children or a job in which you are caring for others, you will almost certainly have pets or a hobby like gardening.
Cancer Moon by Night
If you were born at night with a Cancer Moon, all of the traits of this sign will be intensified. In Western Astrology, this is as strong as a person’s Moon can get. In a real way, you will be “Mom” wherever you go, regardless of your gender. Additionally, you will be blessed with many positive Lunar traits, such as a good memory and a heightened intuition. You will have an easier time than most in adapting to the inevitable changes that come along with living in manifestation.
People with Cancer Ascendants are often rather shy, particularly with strangers. The symbol for Cancer is the crab, and like the crab, if you have a Cancer Ascendant, you might have a hard shell protecting your soft inner nature. Crabs also have claws, so you might come across as a little grumpy. Alternatively, you may come across as kind and approachable. More likely, you will vacillate between these extremes.
Much will depend on the position and condition of the Moon in your chart. With a Cancer Ascendant, the Moon takes on heightened importance as the Lady of your chart.
Using Whole Sign Houses, your Ascendant will determine which planet and sign rule all aspects of your life.
Home – Libra
If you have a Cancer Ascendant, Venus-ruled Libra governs the 4th House of the Home. You want a pleasant living situation and for everyone in your family to get along. You work hard to make your home beautiful. You are unlikely to feel completely at peace at home, however, because of all of the work, effort, and worry you experience in making things nice for your family or those you live with.
Partnership – Capricorn
As with all Ascendants, the House governing partnership for Cancer is its opposite, which is Saturn-ruled Capricorn. As discussed above, the Cancer/Capricorn duality represents the polarity between the Hestia and the Agora. While many couples have a division of labor in which one partner takes care of the home and the other is the breadwinner, this is particularly likely for someone with a Cancer Ascendant.
Career and Public Reputation – Aries
While gentle Venus-ruled Libra governs the 4th House of the Home for those with Cancer Ascendants, aggressive Mars-ruled Aries governs the 10th House of Career and Public Reputation. While the main focus of your life will be centered on the home, you can be quite tough in public. This goes along with the side of Cancer that is a fierce protector and works hard to provide for the needs of her family.