by Eleanor Buckwalter © 1994, 2000
Cancer is the first water sign, and it symbolizes the awakening of one’s emotional nature, of the desire and need to be loved and cared for by another, and to be cherished unconditionally. It is the second cardinal sign; so there is the urge to go outside of oneself to seek the desired circumstances and relationships. With all of the cardinal signs fulfillment seems to lie “out there.”
Cancer creates situations in which others have to react emotionally to it. It moves into the other’s space in such a way that the person reacts as the Cancer native wishes him to. Cancer is itself emotionally reactive, extremely sensitive and defensive. It does not take the attitude of “offense is the best defense,” but prefers subterfuge and can be passive-aggressive. It is neither detached nor objective; rather, it is immediate, intimate, and highly subjective. Cancer does not easily respond from a position of thought-out consideration and deliberation. It tends to react along the lines of pleasure seeking and pain avoiding.
“She said something that hurt my feelings, so I am angry with her.” It does not occur to the subjective, emotionally motivated Cancer to ask whether it was the woman’s intent to hurt, or, “Was it just my interpretation of her words?” Again, “He brought me flowers and candy! I really love him because he loves me.” There is no cynical suspicion that maybe he is trying to soften me up, or maybe he feels guilty about something. Cancer, like the other three personal signs (Aries, Taurus and Gemini), tends to be self-oriented and naïve.
The Cancer part of us wants and needs emotional nurturing and support. It is the baby looking for the breast and the breast looking for the baby. The baby or child wants T.L.C, the assurance that it is loved no matter what. The infant within us wants to be heard on an emotional level. Cancer represents the qualities of the mother-child relationship of unconditional, indiscriminate love. The mother and the child love each other simply because they belong to each other. And they love each other as they are.
This particular kind of emotional bond can be described as a psychic umbilical cord. At a certain point, around ages 14 to 17, the cord must be broken through a weaning process. When this is not done the person remains stuck in an emotionally dependent mode of relating and does not go into the next phase of loving and relating symbolized by Leo. Leo relates to others from a position of self-confidence and the desire to give love, to radiate it. Cancer can be dependent and needy, wanting to get love from another. Cancer wants somebody to love and watch over him, while Leo wants someone he can love, enjoy and have fun with. Today, we see many “children” well over thirty still living (or not living) with Mom and Dad, who are still psychological adolescents.
The U.S.A. is a very Cancerian culture, having its birthday on July 4th. As a collective, she tends to identify with a needy, reactive style of relating, and with the mothering need to nurture others and do it her way. “Mother knows best” has been our national attitude toward foreign countries.
The American male stereotype is fascinated with large breasts and the U.S. chart boasts a Venus-Jupiter conjunction in Cancer! Pop psychology emphasizes Cancerian qualities. Books and seminars on the needy inner child have brought John Bradshaw (a Sun sign Cancer) fame and fortune. The book, Women Who Love Too Much, describes the struggle to free oneself from co-dependent relationships. Many people prefer to see themselves as helpless, innocent victims of their parents, society and culture, and the government, all of whom are to blame for their present sorry plight. The Cancer shadow is a refusal to grow up and be responsible (that would be Capricorn), and along with that goes a tendency to blame someone else for one’s problems.
Cancer has a tendency to love and care for “what is mine” and give little thought to what is not. There is a double standard based on the feeling that what is mine is best: my child, my mother, my family, my country, my church, and so on. This attitude gives rise to patriotic, chauvinistic and xenophobic proclivities. This, coupled with a longing for the past, may account for the rising popularity of fundamentalism in the U.S. The outer planets in universal signs right now call us to grow up collectively and join the one world. Those who fall under the Cancer shadow want to cling to the past, to “Mom and Apple Pie, ” the “good old days” (pre-Civil War if you are in South Carolina), and so on.
A part of Cancer longs for a return to the past. The paintings of Andrew Wyeth, a Cancer native, are highly evocative of a sense of nostalgia. The surrealist painter Salvador Dali had Neptune in Cancer conjunct his Cancer ascendant, and everyone remembers his melting clocks in Nostalgia of the Infinite. The French writer, Marcel Proust, a Cancer native, titled his great work Remembrance of Things Past.
Many beloved comedians are born under this sign: Bill Cosby, Red Skelton, Phyllis Diller, Terry Thomas, and Dan Rowan, to name a few. Their humor brings us back to the child within, a rather innocent and comfortable place that is a bit silly, sentimental and homey.
Many actors, singers and musicians are Cancerians. TV show hosts Art Linkletter and Merv Griffin made us feel at home with them and with ourselves. We cannot forget the famous twins who share the U.S. birth date and to whom millions turn for advice and consolation on their domestic and romantic problems, Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren. The present Dali Lama typifies the highest Cancerian qualities and values of loving kindness, warmth, trust in life, and the feeling of being at home in the universe.
Cancer has a sense of being a unique, self-contained individual, and out of that arises a sense of isolation, loneliness and alienation. Cancer is concerned with content, not form or structure, as readers of Ernest Hemingway novels will attest. Cancer comprehends not so much the words that are heard, but much more the feelings and intent behind them. Cancer listens for the “subtext.”
The life-purpose of the Sun in Cancer native is to break away emotionally from the background, whether it is family, ethnic, national/cultural, religious, etc. The dharma is to cut all umbilical ties, to grow up into a kind and caring person, self-confidently at home with his own unique individuality.
About the author:
Eleanor Buckwalter has studied, practiced and taught astrology in Los Altos, CA for more than twenty-five years, including three years with the late Richard Idemon, a psychological astrologer. Her primary astrological focus of interest is parent-child relationships and family dynamics.