• Yolanda McAdam

Cancer: Creator, Kitchen Witch & Memory Keeper



I remember feeling disappointed when I learned as a child that I was a Sun sign Cancerian.


All the other signs sounded a lot more interesting to me. Aries start fires and build empires, Taurus seduces with home-grown roses and music, Gemini (and Sagittarius) will make you laugh, Libra looks and smells good - all the time, Leo will make you co-ruler of The World, Virgo will analyze you, Pisces will leave poems under your pillow and read your tea leaves, Scorpio are sorcerers, Sagittarius will take you places (metaphorically and literally), Capricorn will buy you expensive gifts - because they can, Aquarius will help you become a better human and Cancer - wait for it - will make sure you’re properly fed and swaddled.


I bet if you’re a Sun sign Cancerian, Cancer Rising or have a small team of planets playing beach volleyball in Cancer you identify with a bunch more archetypes than just The Mother.


Now to be clear I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being the sign best at nurturing and empathizing but I feel - like those crabs scurrying on the shore - that we're underestimated.


You’ll note I’m not saying we’re undervalued. Most of us accept that the people and pets we care about are the happiest of bunnies because Cancer is the sign of the womb and the home.


But I’m jumping ahead…


To understand Cancer we have to start at the beginning. Before the Romans named us after the crab that Hera sent to harass Hercules while he was fighting the many-headed monster Hydra, the Egyptians conceived the sign as a scarab beetle and the Babylonians associated us with the turtle.


The scarab beetle has always fascinated me. It lays its eggs in dung balls fashioned through rolling. In other words, it’s not scared of a little (or a lot) of poo. This beetle doesn’t shy away from dirty work. It does what it does for the sake of its progeny or whatever they identify as "their babies"- very Cancerian. The scarab was associated with creation, renewal, and growth and also with the heart, as scarab amulets were placed in the bandages of mummies to symbolize the deceased’s heart.


The heart as we know is associated with emotions and emotions are what drive Cancerians.


Our capacity for feeling is what makes us good at taking care of others but as SF Reynolds reminds us, Cancerians aren't just nurturers.


“Cancer is a grower, not always a nurturer. There’s a difference. People always picture a mammy or something for a Cancer (but) Cancer is not your mama/papa. They might feel attached to their mamas, but they’re not here to nurture you as if you’re a lost orphan.”

The most abiding Cancerian image is of the hard shell, the built-in defense system. This shell is understood to mean guardedness, shyness, and a lack of confidence. I like Claire Comstock-Gay’s interpretation that the shell should be seen as a “useful protective adaptation” and its purpose is not only to keep others out but to “protect a rich, complex, endlessly fascinating inner life”. For Cancer, our interior life is a fountain from which meaning bubbles forth. Gemini finds meaning through social connection for example and Capricorn from tangible successes.


Cancerians have to develop a rich interior life.


Now let’s consider the territory. Crabs live on the shoreline. They live with the ebb and flow of the tides. This tells us that Cancerians are familiar with themes of transition as well as containment and separation. They like to “home” things in the sense that not only do they want a safe place for themselves and their family, but they also create homes for everything they care about, including their memories. Cancerians, like the other water signs, Scorpio and Pisces, are the shrine-builders, bone readers, and memory keepers.


Recording history - especially their personal history - is of vital importance to them because just like the crab scurrying sideways on the shore, there is no guarantee that what they’re in the process of creating will still be there in the morning. So they take photographs, keep journals, stitch quilts with special symbols, bury wooden chests in the garden...


Cancerians want to leave something behind - a legacy - in order to be remembered.


Smartphones are a favorite accessory not only because they can chat with their mom as much as they like but because it makes it easier for them to record or photograph a mood, a moment, and an experience. Yes, we are collectors of porcelain cups and kitchen gadgets but also caribou bones and moonlight.


A selfie for a Cancerian for example has everything to do with curation and memory-making and rarely anything to do with impressing others. They share things to remember them.


The house where Cancer sits in your birth chart can indicate where you experience the most fluctuation and change and also where you experience deep feelings. It can also reveal the issues you are potentially in denial about.


At best this is the house where you give birth to something extraordinary as Cancer is the womb.


Cancer’s ruling planet is the Moon and this fast-moving planet affects them powerfully. The Moon’s weather changes every two or so days as she travels through the zodiac. Because the Moon’s mood alters and changes so often Cancerians experience a fluctuation in feelings too. If you understand this, it is easier to love a Cancerian because they’re not constant and predictable.


Like the Moon, all Cancerians are mysterious.


The Moon also reflects the Sun’s rays and like her, Cancerians are experts at projecting the emotions of others. Picking up on “vibes” and other people’s moods is a Cancerian talent.



We make terrible enemies. Cancerians have looooong memories (remember we’re ruled by the Moon). But on the other hand, we’re the most loyal of friends. If a Cancerian likes you they will shower you with lavish attention (and many emojis) and delicious food. If you know a Cancerian who does not enjoy cooking, then I can guarantee you that they will enjoy talking about food. Food equals love.


Lastly, Cancerians make great healers not only because they’re intuitive and empathetic but because they have the ability to make you feel like you belong in whatever space has been created. They are able to contain you just as the constellation of Cancer contains a smudge of stars called Praesepe, “the manger”.



Now over to you,


Are you a Cancer Sun or Cancer Rising? What would you add to this?




Further Reading:


This wonderful thread on Cancer by @SFReynolds


Comstock-Gay, Claire, Guide To The Stars, Harper 2020


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