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Cancer (Latin for "crab"), the fourth sign of the zodiac, is a cardinal water sign. It is a negative (in the value-neutral sense of being negatively charged), feminine sign ruled by the Moon. Its symbol is the crab, and its glyph is said to represent the two claws of a crab. A moody sign, Cancer is the source of the term "crabby." Cancer is associated with the breasts and the stomach, and people with a Cancer sun sign are prone to digestion and weight problems. The key phrase for Cancer is I feel.

Cancer, like many of the other signs of the zodiac, does not have a developed mythology. During the second labor of Hercules (it might be better termed the second feat or test), while he was struggling against the many-headed hydra, a giant crab bit him on the heel to create a diversion. Hercules, however, crushed it underfoot. This crab, Carcinus (Greek for "crayfish"), was an ally of Hera, queen mother of the gods, who opposed Hercules. The crab was rewarded for sacrificing loyalty when Hera promoted it to distinction as the constellation Cancer. The sign Cancer is often compared with a turtle (the symbol for Cancer in the Babylonian zodiac), and a rich source of symbolic associations for Cancer can be found in the image of the turtle, another shoreline dweller.

Cancerians are best known for their attachment to home and, like the turtle, would be happy to carry their house everywhere (if only they could!). Although homebodies, they enjoy travel if they know they have a secure home to which they can always return. Like Carcinus, they are strongly attached to their mother (or to the more nurturing parent) and tend to be nurturing parents themselves. They are highly sensitive individuals who are easily "crushed," which is why they have developed an emotional "shell" within which they can retreat. They are moodier than any of the other signs of the zodiac, and food represents emotional security to them. Like all water signs, they regard emotions as more real than any other aspect of life.

The sign that the Sun was in at birth is usually the single most important influence on a native's personality. Thus, when people say they are a certain sign, they are almost always referring to their sun sign. There is a wealth of information available on the characteristics of the zodiacal signs—so much that one book would not be able to contain it all. Sun-sign astrology, which is the kind of astrology found in newspaper columns and popular magazines, has the advantage of simplicity. But this simplicity is purchased at the price of ignoring other astrological influences, such as one's Moon sign, rising sign, etc. These other influences can substantially modify a person's basic sun sign traits. As a consequence, it is the rare individual who is completely typical of her or his sign. The reader should bear this caveat in mind when perusing the following series of sun sign interpretations.

One traditional way in which astrologers condense information is by summarizing sign and planet traits in lists of words and short phrases called keywords or key phrases. The following Cancer key words are drawn from Manly P. Hall's Astrological Keywords:

Emotional key words: "Artistic and dreamy, maternal, kindhearted, romantic, domestic, impressionable, psychic, imaginative, serene, intuitive, restless, despondent, sometimes lazy and self-indulgent."

Mental key words: "Versatile, self-sacrificing, receptive, expresses great veneration for ancestry and precedent, thorough, persevering, cautious, reserved, brooding."

At present, there are various astrology report programs that contain interpretations of each of the 12 sun signs. A selection of these for Sun in Cancer has been excerpted below:

Woodcuts of the zodiacal signs Cancer and Scorpio, from a late fifteenth-century astrological text. Reproduced by permission of Fortean Picture Library.

Very emotional and sensitive, you have an intuitive understanding of the "vibes" around you. You tend to be quite generous, giving, loving and caring, but only when your own needs for emotional support, love and security have been met. If they are not met, you tend to withdraw into yourself and become very insecure and selfish. Your home and family (especially your mother or the person who played that role for you early on) represent security for you and thus assume a larger-than-life importance. Very sentimental, you have vivid and long-enduring memories of the past. No matter how well adjusted you are, you will always need a secret quiet place of your own in order to feel at peace. Feeding others can give you great pleasure; you would enjoy being part of a large family. (From "Professional Natal Report." Courtesy of Astrolabe [].)

You have powerful emotional attachments to the past, your family, your childhood, those places you associate with safety and security and your beginnings. Maintaining a connection with your roots and heritage and keeping family bonds strong are very important to you. Loyal, devoted, and sentimental, you tend to cling to whatever is dear to you, be it person, familiar place, or cherished possession.

You are sympathetic, nurturing, supportive, and very sensitive to the emotional needs of other people. You like to be needed, to care for others, and you often worry about the people you love. You have a very strong need for a sense of belonging and acceptance, and you center much of your life around your home. You are more concerned about people and their feelings than with power, achievement, or position in society. Kindness, consideration, and tenderness impress you more than any sort of honor the world can bestow.

You are primarily emotional and your views are often dominated by your feelings and by your own personal, subjective experiences, rather than reason, logic, or abstract principles. It is difficult for you to judge situations in a fair, objective manner for your personal sympathies and loyalties usually enter in. You take things very personally, and sometimes build a wall around yourself to protect yourself from pain and rejection. You feel rather shy and vulnerable at heart. You also tend to be moody, experiencing frequent emotional ups and downs. You need to have a place and time in your life to withdraw, introspect, dream, and replenish yourself; otherwise you become cranky and unhappy with those around you.

You function in an instinctive, nonrational manner and like to immerse yourself in creative activities where you can express your feelings, imagination, and instincts. You often love to cook, since it can be both creative and a way to nurture and nourish others. You also have a great affinity for music, because it evokes and communicates feelings that may be difficult or impossible to put into words.

Your compassion, sensitivity, and imagination are your strong points. Your faults include an inability to release the past and go forward, clan-nishness and prejudice, and a tendency to be self-pitying when you meet hardships in life. (From "Merlin," by Gina Ronco and Agnes Nightingale. Courtesy of Cosmic Patterns [].)

Opening the inner eye, mapping the topography of consciousness, learning to express compassion —these are Cancer's evolutionary aims. To assist in that work, Cosmic Intelligence has cranked up the volume on the Crab's ability to feel. No other sign is so sensitive—nor so vulnerable. A certain amount of self-defense is appropriate here; after all, this world isn't exactly the Garden of Eden. Trouble is, legitimate self-defense can degenerate into shyness or a fear of making changes. You really do care about the hurts that other beings suffer. That's good news. You also have an instinctive ability to soothe those hurts, homing in on the source of the pain. More good news. The bad news is that you could choose to remain forever protected within the safe (and invisible!) role of the Healer, the Counselor, or the Wise One.

With the Sun in Cancer, you feed your solar vitality by finding a role in the world in which you address the hurt in the lives of other beings. You become a nurturer or a healer of some sort. You also need to make sure that you have enough real intimacy and quiet, private time to "nurture the nurturer"—yourself, in other words.

Those methods strengthen your sense of identity. They trigger higher states of awareness in you. If you don't express your soothing wound-

binding instincts, all the glories of the world would leave you feeling like an imposter in your own life. And without quiet time and naked intimate honesty, you'll quickly burn out on playing the role of everyone's psychotherapist.

Like the crab, you're a vulnerable creature who's evolved a shell. That's fine and necessary. But again like the crab, you must eventually shed your shell and grow a larger, more inclusive one, or you'll be awfully cramped. (From "The Sky Within," by Steven Forrest. Courtesy of Matrix Software [] and Steven Forrest [http://].)

Among its several natal programs, Matrix Software created a unique report based on the published works of the early twentieth-century astrologer Grant Lewi (1901-1952). Lewi's highly original delineations were recognized as creative and insightful by his contemporaries. One measure of the appeal of his work is that his books Astrology for the Millions and Heaven Knows What are still in print. The following is excerpted from the report program "Heaven Knows What":

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, which as a nation was born in Cancer, July 4, 1776.)

The defensive, protective instincts dominate Cancer, whose life aims primarily at security, material and domestic. Capable of great self-sufficiency, or of being a clinging vine (male or female), the Cancer branch will take the turn as indicated by the roots, which must always be in secure soil. If independence serves security, Cancer will be independent; if security depends on another, Cancer will cling. If security requires taking a chance, Cancer will take a chance—generally, if possible, with someone else's money, and once he has put his capital or someone else's into a venture, he watches it like a hawk. His sense of responsibility toward another's money, security, etc., is as deep as if they were his own; he pays his debts and expects others to do the same. It was Coolidge, Cancer President, whose solution to the war debts was of naive simplicity: "They hired the money, didn't they?" It is this simple, direct possessiveness toward what rightfully belongs to him that makes Cancer outstandingly successful in business, where he makes his fortune buying and selling, rather than in Wall Street. Cancer will gamble when he has a nest egg, not before, and then as a game rather than as a means of livelihood.

With livelihood (security), Cancer takes no chances, either in getting it or keeping it. It is therefore tops as a home-making sign; the maternal-paternal instinct is powerful; and the Cancer, male or female, will go to great lengths to protect, defend and improve his home, mate and children. If Cancer remains unmarried, it is because protectiveness has turned somehow into fear or selfishness; or because he feels that in some way his security is best served alone. Cancer protects himself, as well as his possessions, and may protect himself from the chances of emotional hurt by withdrawing into himself and making his security there, alone. This is a pitiable sight, because Cancer really needs a home and should have children, and few persons give the effect of incompleteness more than the introverted Cancerian who has no one to lavish his protectiveness on but himself. For in its complete development, the Cancer protectiveness becomes encompassing love that fills all its world, and warms and comforts those who are lucky enough to live in the sphere of its radiations. (Courtesy of Matrix Software [].)

The following excerpt comes not from a natal report program, but from David Cochrane's 2002 book, Astrology for the 21st Century. Based on lessons for astrology students, it approaches the signs of the zodiac from a somewhat different perspective than the other short delineations cited here:

The strongest attributes of Cancer that I have noticed is very strong attachment to people and things that they are familiar with, and having their feelings hurt by loved ones. Cancer depends on close friends and family for the support and love they give, although they rarely discuss it. These views of Cancer agree closely with the findings of most astrologers. I have also observed that Cancer is easily prone to feelings of jealousy if it feels excluded from the inner circle of closeness, and sometimes is suspicious that it is being pushed away or kept out of something when this is not the case. Cancer is also inclined to be careful about spending money, and is usually aware of the exact balance in the bank account, and sometimes will go to great lengths to ensure prosperity and financial strength; money is security and protects the family, and Cancer tends not to trust the outer world to provide in the future. Cancer's concern for financial security appears to be a symptom of its tendency to be emotionally attached and bonded to close friends and family, and a fear of losing the closeness from an uncaring outer world. (Courtesy of Cosmic Patterns [] and David Cochrane [[email protected]].)

A number of specialized report programs have been developed that offer useful supplements to the generic delineations of general reports. The following sun-sign interpretation has been drawn from a program written by Gloria Star (originally part of her book Astrology: Woman to Woman) that generates a specialized report for women:

With your Sun in Cancer you can radiate a kind of comfort and care which comes from the core of your being. You thrive most when you're taking part in nourishing—whether you're tending your garden, teach ing others, safeguarding children or fostering growth in a company. You may express strong sentimentality due to your attachment to the past, and can be especially tenacious with situations, people and your goals. Emotional sensitivity is simply a part of your essence, although your protective shell can fool people.

Even when you're expressing your assertiveness and will, your emotional sensitivity acts as a filter. You innately know that expressing your masculine side has nothing do with acting like a man, but that, instead, you can assert yourself and enjoy the edge that being a woman confers. Your projection of the masculine has a feminine quality—Cancer is a feminine water sign! Before you can readily assert yourself, you must "get a feeling" for the person or situation; it's almost as though you turn inward before you turn outward. It may be difficult for you to stand up to boisterous, power-hungry individuals, and your shields are likely to go up when you're confronted with circumstances that seem to assault your vulnerability. However, once you're more at home with a situation, your sensitivity will help you navigate through it more gracefully than some of those rowdy types of individuals. You appreciate sensitive men, although you may attract men who need to be mothered. As you've discovered, there are many ways to nurture However, you may also think you need a man to protect you. When you step back and look at it, who is protecting whom? Your drive to accomplish recognition may be stimulated by your need to create the security you need for yourself and your family, and once you have children, they may take first priority.

Regardless of your priorities, you will feel successful only when you've created a real sense of security with your Sun in Cancer. Defining this security is a very personal thing, and you must be happy with your own definition. Your work, your roles within your family, and your creativity all depend upon your sensitivity in this regard, since when you're insecure, you hang on tenaciously to everybody and everything. But when you're feeling stabilized, you don't even over-water the plants! (From "Woman to Woman," by Gloria Star. Courtesy of Matrix Software [] and Gloria Star [[email protected]].)

Responding to the revival of interest in pre-twentieth-century astrology, J. Lee Lehman developed a report program embodying the interpretive approach of traditional astrology. The following is excerpted from her book Classical Astrology for Modern Living and her computer program "Classical Report":

You are inconstant, easily changing your purpose, and sensitive to changes of Moon phase. You are innocent, cheerful, libidinous, and a lover of recreations like music, dancing, sports and games. If stressed, you suffer from poor digestion, and you have a tendency to edema, or water retention.

You are a Water Sign, which means that you are "cold" and "wet." The "wet" component means, among other things, that you blur distinc tions, and that you are more swayed by passion than by intellectual argument. At your worst, you see too many connections, becoming lost in conspiracies. At your best, you spot the connection that everyone else missed. You are perceived as being "cold," which in your case simply means you may not be quickly reacting on a surface level. In the modern parlance, it fits better with "cold and dry" than with simply "cold." However, a "cold" type is basically lethargic, or slow to react. Here we have an interesting apparent contradiction: your emotions run deep, but that doesn't mean you're talking about them all the time! The quiet quality of "cold" may mislead others about what you're feeling. The "problem" with "cold" is that it makes it hard for you to forget slights. Because you don't tend to lash out immediately, it's hard for you not to allow your anger to build up.

The sign of Cancer is called a Cardinal sign in astrology, which means that you are better at starting new things than on finishing them. Laboring overlong at any task is not your strong suit. (Courtesy of J. Lee Lehman, Ph.D., copyright 1998 [].)

Readers interested in examining interpretations for their Chinese astrological sign should refer to the relevant entry. A guide for determining one's sign in the Chinese system is provided in the entry on the Chinese zodiac.


Cochrane, David. Astrology for the 21st Century. Gainesville, FL: Cosmic Patterns, 2002. Forrest, Steven. The Inner Sky: How to Make Wiser Choices for a More Fulfilling Life. 4th ed. San

Diego: ACS Publications, 1989. Green, Landis Knight. The Astrologer's Manual: Modern Insights into an Ancient Art. Sebastopol,

CA: CRCS Publications, 1975. Hall, Manly P. Astrological Keywords. New York, Philosophical Library, 1958. Reprint, Savage,

MD: Littlefield Adams Quality Paperbacks, 1975. Lehman, J. Lee. Classical Astrology for Modern Living: From Ptolemy to Psychology & Back Again.

Atglen, PA: Whitford Press, 1996. Lewi, Grant. Astrology for the Millions. 5th rev. ed. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1978. -. Heaven Knows What. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1969.

-. Astrology & Your Child: A Handbook for Parents. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 2001.

Star, Gloria. Astrology: Woman to Woman. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1999.

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