As a cardinal water sign, a useful image for Cancer is water moving powerfully in one direction or another, such as rivers and waterfalls and waves. I think the key to this sign is its tidal nature, since it is ruled by the Moon, which is constantly waxing or waning and rules the ebb and flow of the tides. Physically, Cancer rules the breasts and the stomach, the functions of giving out nourishment to others and taking in nourishment for oneself. As long as the ebb and flow are kept in some kind of balance, this sign tends to function positively.
When the tide is coming in, Cancerians can be sociable, generous and loving, crazy, lunatic and exuberant. When the tide is going out the Cancerian will retreat and you will get nothing but the shell. You can knock on the shell but there is nobody there. In common with all the water signs, there is something very private about this sign. Cancerians will hide under rocks and not respond, except under duress, when they are likely to be extremely crabby and touchy. The Cancerian Marcel Proust, whose life can be described as falling into two major tides, spent the first half of his life as a socialite, and the second half of his life as a recluse in a padded apartment in Paris, during which time he wrote his famous book, The Remembrance of Things Past, which is full of references to his mother and to memories of food. This is an extremely sensitive sign with strong emotional connections to the past, not just the personal past but an interest in the origins and roots of all things. Cancerians can do nostalgia better than any other sign.
It is not unusual for Cancerians to get stuck at one extreme end of the spectrum. At the all-nurturing, all-giving, all-providing, all-self sacrificing end of this tidal spectrum, there is often a shadow side which is full of resentment and self pity. Alternatively, the all-demanding, dependent, needy, vulnerable end of the spectrum is too much for most people to cope with, which will reinforce the sense of abandonment and dependency and the Cancerian will become even more emotionally demanding and clingy. Cancerians can also be masters of emotional blackmail, along the lines of: 'If you don't eat my food, it means you don't love me'.
The positive integration of Saturn and Mars, which are in their detriment and fall in Cancer, can help the Cancerian to develop the strength to stand on their own feet (Saturn) and to stand up for themselves (Mars). As a cardinal sign, Cancer is extremely tenacious and determined and, like a crab, tends to approach its goals subtly and invisibly and, when nobody else is looking, get what it wants to the surprise of all.
Audience: What is the meaning of the Jupiter exaltation in Cancer?
Clare: Ultimately, the sense of belonging which is such a feature of this sign reaches beyond the personal clan to greater connections to community, society, country, to ancestors and back into history. Water is impersonal; it is just as likely, and a great deal safer, for a Cancerian to draw their strength not from their personal mother or family, but from a deep emotional connection to Mother Earth herself. Jupiter expands, and in this sense Cancerians can often find meaning through a sense of belonging to something which is much larger than the personal family.
Audience: My son is a Cancerian, and I never feel that I really know him. I can never get to his centre.
Clare: It sounds as if you are trying to force his shell open, which is unlikely to succeed. Cancer is immensely protective and self-protective. The strength of this cardinal water sign is that it achieves its goals quietly and subtly. It is prepared to wait for the tide, or until everybody else has lost interest. I suspect that your son doesn't want you to penetrate into his soft centre, which he will only reveal in his own time and on his own terms. Most of the time he is likely to throw up smoke screens as a way of defending himself.
Audience: But why won't he ever give me a straight answer to a straight question?
Clare: Do you, by any chance, have a strong air emphasis in your chart? Yes, I thought so. This is a good example of the tension between the opposite elements of air and water. You won't get a straight answer because your son is a water sign. You will get deflection, deviation and changing the subject, and you will get a lot of other stuff, but what is really happening is that you are not getting the answer. This is not accidental, but an example of a watery defensive mechanism working powerfully.
Audience: I thought that Cancerians were very trusting.
Clare: I don't think so. My feeling is that this sign naturally tends not to trust unless it is absolutely safe to do so. On the other hand it is normally safe to trust the past and to trust memories.
Planets in Cancer
Sally has Mars in Cancer, so this will describe how she asserts and defends herself. This is an extremely self-protective placement, and Sally is likely to protect her own feelings very strongly. Although this planet is traditionally in its fall in Cancer, it also describes the kind of fierce aggression with which a mother will protect her young. In the animal world no other animals will take on the mother with cubs because she will fight to the death to protect them. If we can find the right relationship to this placement of Mars, there is nothing weak about it at all.
Audience: I have Uranus in Cancer, and I have certainly rebelled against my family and even against my country, since I left the US when I was eighteen. As soon as I could, basically.
Clare: Yes, that is an excellent example of a generational issue. Uranus was in Cancer from June 1949 until August 1955, with a brief period back in Cancer between January and June 1956. A kind of shorthand for Uranus in the chart is to ask, 'What is it that we don't believe in?', or 'Where do we feel cut off?' Uranus in Cancer refers to a particular group of people who, in general terms, don't believe in family, in belonging or in any kind of biological containment. Any kind of nest will make Uranus in Cancer panic. Many people with Uranus in Cancer actually dislike their relatives and simply don't want to be involved with their family. They will leave home or travel to another country as soon as possible.
The Uranus in Cancer generation often feel like strangers in their own family or in their own culture, and the urge will be to challenge the status quo or to escape. There is a kind of double bind to this. On the one hand, as a generation there is an urge to break down the old patterns and habits, rebel against the restrictions and limitations of family and culture and seek to find new ways to belong which are not genetically or historically programmed. This generation will seek to make new connections based on intellectual honesty and shared minds and new ways of living. The Uranus in Cancer generation, for example, has tended to reject the values and religious traditions of their own cultures, finding it much easier to adopt the religious and philosophical traditions of cultures other than their own. Before 1949 we could even say that the 'nuclear family' was the rock upon which societies and cultures were built, and that it was not until Uranus entered Cancer that this began to be challenged. Nowadays, of course, we take the fragmentation and breakdown of the family unit for granted, and one-parent families are now the norm.
On the other hand, from a personal point of view, this fragmentation can be immensely painful because, as ordinary human beings, it is hard for us to feel alienated from our biological and cultural roots. Taken to extremes, this placement can lead to a refusal to belong to any group at all or, as Groucho Marx famously remarked, to any club which will have us as a member, which means that we can be in a state of rejection and refusal which traps us just as much as being caught within a family clan. This is an example of the way our Uranian ideology can trap and imprison us. We can find ourselves rebelling against and pushing away any intimacy and containment which, on one level, is anathema to us but which, on an ordinary, human, lunar level we desperately need. If there are other planets in Cancer as well as Uranus, then a tension is set up because you are part of a generation that wants to destroy the very thing you need on a personal level.
The point I am trying to make here is that, unless we can make some kind of conscious relationship to the generational issues we are all born into, then we are at their mercy. At its most dangerous, Uranus is 'group think', blind, collective ideology. This can result in an identification with some kind of external ideology which has never been taken down in voltage, internalized or brought down to a human scale. We need a strong ego structure in order to find our own relationship to the collective forces if we are not to be possessed by them.
Audience: I have Uranus in Cancer, and as soon as I went to university my parents sold the family house and moved to the other side of the country. I found that devastating.
Audience: I find that as I get older, my family gets more important.
Clare: Perhaps at last, now that you have a strong enough sense of yourself and a good strong ego structure, it is safe to get closer to them without being overwhelmed. There is no doubt that with Uranus and Cancer you can be the positive carrier of necessary change and honest truthfulness, which your family can benefit from considerably.
Audience: Does that mean that the current generation who are being born with Uranus in Aquarius will be against ideologies?
Clare: Well, that would be a logical assumption, but I suppose we will have to wait and see.
Copyright ©2005 by Clare Martin.
More Information about the Book.