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Symbol: A30_130.gif

Element: Water

Quality: Cardinal

Polarity: Yin/feminine

Ruling Planet: Moon

Tarot Key: The Chariot

Sun in Cancer: from around 22nd June to 22nd July

Season: Summer solstice, fertility, withdrawal under shady trees due to great heat

Cultural: midsummer festival, midsummer night, fertility rituals

Physical body: Breasts, chest, stomach (and sometimes abdomen)

Star constellation: Cancer

Mythology of the star constellation

One of the twelve labours of Heracles was to slay the many-headed serpent called the Lernaean Hydra. When Hera heard of this, she sent a giant crab to aid the Hydra which bit into Heracles' heel, but Heracles managed to crush the crab with his other foot. Hera, who despised Heracles who was one of the many illegitimate children her husband Zeus (Latin for Jupiter) had fathered from one of his numerous affairs, immortalised the crab for its help by transforming it into the star constellation of Cancer.


Cancer is the fourth sign of the zodiac. It is associated with empathetic and maternal qualities. It is sensitive to impressions rising from the depths of the soul. It embodies a world of images and dreams which is difficult to put into words or describe in any kind of concrete way. And although this world is ever present, other signs generally find it more difficult to access than the imaginative and sensitive individuals born under the sign of Cancer.

The energy of Cancer is introverted in nature, and Cancerians usually prefer moments of quiet contemplation in which they can sense the more subtle aspects of life. They can passively receive impressions and reflect them back.

Taking care of others and being taken care of are also important themes in the lives of those with the sign of Cancer dominant in their horoscopes. They want to make their loved ones feel warm and secure and expect the same in return. They enjoy the company of children and can empathise with them because they have not lost contact with their own inner child, which can also mean that they are sometimes reluctant to grow up themselves.

They have a fine intuition and are always receptive to the moods of others, which can sometimes cause them to be moody. Their need for emotional contact can sometimes lead them to unintentionally manipulate other people, and because of their strongly emotional nature, they are sometimes in danger of rejecting all appeals to reason, only allowing their feelings to guide their actions. They often build up a thick emotional shell with which to hide and protect their sensitive, impressionable, shy and vulnerable core from being hurt or completely at the mercy of others.

If they feel that it will help them to reach their goals, Cancerians are able to retreat into their rigid shells. They are also in a figurative and literal sense strongly orientated towards the past, and can tend to be rather conservative. For them the past is often equally as important as the present because for them past experiences continue into the present. These may often be related to earlier experiences and relationships in childhood, especially to the mother, but also other events and relationships outside the family.

Planets and axes in the sign of Cancer exhibit sensitive, imaginative, nurturing and to a certain extent childlike qualities.

Cancer, together with the other two water signs, Scorpio and Pisces, is highly sensitive and tuned in to the world of emotions. But where the qualities of Cancer are reminiscent of the Sea out of which all life developed, Scorpio could be compared to a deep muddy swamp out of which the lotus flower grows, and Pisces to a slowly meandering stream. Both Cancer and its polar opposite sign Capricorn are associated with aspects of society: in Cancer's case it is the smallest unit, namely the family, whereas with Capricorn these are the general structures and laws upon which society is based. Cancer can learn valuable lessons from the signs that form natural square aspects to it: from Aries the ability to take direct action, and from Libra the ability to socialise with ease.

The sign of Cancer in the view of Johfra Bosschart.

Jupiter is exalted in Cancer, Saturn in detriment, and Mars in fall.



  1. From Liber Astronomicus by Guido Bonatus, 1491.