Cancer is the 4th Sign of the Zodiac and is Cardinal Water. Cardinal signs are initiatory and explore the nature of their element. Here, we are exploring the nature of emotion and feeling with Water, discovering what it means to be fluid and intuitive. This season begins with the Summer Solstice, an invitation to honor the light and begin to embrace the coming darkness. This combination of Water energy in Cancer and Fire at the Summer Solstice causes this season to be one of alchemy, of combining opposites and creating opportunities.
Alice Sparklykat calls Cancer the clan mentality because it is associated with family, heritage, race, ancestry, and roots. In Cancer, we seek belonging and connection. There is a desire to find familiarity and to explore what it means to be together. However, this energy can quickly slip into fear of "other" and "outsiders" when it is not soul-centered (to use a term coined by Jeff Hinshaw). When observing the symbol of Cancer two things stand out. First, it forms a circle of protection and boundary around its center. Cancer wants to protect what it knows against anything it doesn't. Second, it represents the claws of a crab - the creature associated with Cancer. With the crab we get a clear picture of Cancer - hard and protected on the outside but soft and vulnerable underneath. The claws act as a symbol for another quality of Cancer - holding onto something and refusing to let it go. There is a consistency and longevity that Cancer deeply desires even within the fluidity of the emotion that it explores.
The deep lesson of Cancer is to make a home. Crabs carry their home, their shell of protection, with them wherever they go. When we are able to feel safe and secure in any situation because we trust our boundaries, we trust our community, we trust our ability to face and explore emotion, we are living in the fullness of Cancer. As you explore yourself and your fluid emotion this season, look to protect what is important to you. This is the time to honor what you find sacred and what you want to continue on in your legacy. It is also the time to look backwards to the legacies that came before you. Spend time with ancestry, whether it is familial, cultural, or identity ancestry. Find ways to honor the past while preparing to create the future you desire. This is the duality of the Summer Solstice which begins Cancer: the peak of light and the descent into dark
When we look at Cancer in a chart, we often find softness, nurturing, and a desire to protect and keep an energy or quality safe. Planets and houses in Cancer are often emotionally driven and intuitive or empathetic. Take a moment and look at your chart: Where is Cancer's influence present? Perhaps it is your Sun sign, or your Moon. Maybe you have another planet or two, or at least it rules one of your houses. (If you don't know your birth chart, you can find it quickly here or here. I also offer birth chart readings if you want more detail!). If Cancer is nowhere in your chart, not even ruling a house, then it is an intercepted sign and you will have to access it through deeper digging and learning to work with the sign that comes before it, Gemini.
In my chart, Cancer rules both my 1st and 2nd houses but contains no planets. As my Rising Sign (1st house), I view the world with compassion, empathy, and deep emotion. I'm a very emotional and sensitive person and tend to cry A LOT. With my 2nd house, Cancer also determines the way I interact with the physical and material world and create values. I've always felt deeply in tune and emotionally connected with nature and my environment. I also tend to only keep physical things that have some sort of emotional value to me. My room is decorated with art from friends and trips that I've gone on. I was the little kid that cried when toys broke, not because I lost the toy, but because I felt bad for it and thought it had 'died'. Emotion is always at the forefront of my connection with the world and that really embodies my Cancer 1st and 2nd houses.
Cancer's cards, especially the top row, are reserved and controlled on the outside but full of emotion and fluidity within, much like the sign itself. It's Major Arcana card, The Chariot, depicts this fully. Its surface meanings are will, ego, achievement, and victory. It seems to have it all together but there is always more going on. At its core, the Chariot is a card of exterior protection and security that still requires inner depth. It is out of the Chariot that we enter the inner world of death and rebirth starting with Strength and continuing through to Temperance (the 2nd line of the Major Arcana). The Chariot is the initiation into this deeper emotional self (Cardinal Water). We also find this entry point to inner worlds with the High Priestess, the card of the Moon which is Cancer's ruling celestial body. In the High Priestess, we channel the subconscious and the collective unconscious through intuition. Cancer's watery nature and connection to cycles and changing moods shines through in the High Priestess. Working with this archetype allows us to get to the bottom of how we feel instead of only dealing with surface emotions. Working with depth and intuition are key parts of being in soul-centered Cancer energy.
In the system that I follow, Cancer is represented by the King of Cups in the Court Cards. The King is a facilitator, a nurturer of the inner world of both the self and the community. Embodying this King is using all of the tools you have available for personal healing and using your tools to create community healing as well. It is holding space for all emotions without letting any of them overwhelm or grow too big. To be the King of Cups is to be within the full of energies of Cancer - holding space for emotion and finding ways to cultivate healing.
The Minor Arcana cards for Cancer are the 2, 3, and 4 of Cups. The 2 is a beautiful card of mutual exchange, of interaction and connection to the world around us. It is the duality of water: the interaction of emotion with other emotions, of feeling with other feelings. It is very Cardinal energy, the initiation of interchange. Out of that exchange and duality comes the beautiful 3 of Cups, a card of joyful community. The 3 is connection but with a greater whole, with a group, with a family. It is soul-centered Cancer, a desire to enjoy the people and energies that surround us. In the 4 we can find many things, all of which feel aligned with Cancer. This card can be dissatisfaction with the world around us and a desire for something more. It can be holding on to past experiences, especially negative ones, and ignoring the opportunities that are present. Or it can patience and discernment, making the best choice without rushing into any particular decision quickly. Cancer may be initiatory in its Cardinal energy, but it can also be wise enough to protect the self and keep up the shell of defense until it is sure that it won't get hurt. Each of these cards shows a different side of Cancer that we may face or experience in the next month.
Astrologically, this Cancer season is intense. It contains 2 eclipses, 3 more retrogrades beginning, and various celestial bodies changing signs. It starts with the Summer Solstice and Neptune stationing retrograde the same day the Sun shifts into Cancer. Mercury leaves Cancer the next week on the 26th, heading into fiery and passionate Leo, but we will only get a taste of this energy for now. Mars joins Mercury in Leo on the first of July, right before a Total Solar Eclipse at the Cancer New Moon on the 2nd. Mars in Leo brings us a much needed spark after the time it spent wading through watery Cancer and hopefully this spark will give us the fiery kick we need to take advantage of the eclipse. It is a chance to move into the evolution that is available to us, a powerful opportunity for upgrades and ascension. The next day Venus will move into Cancer, drawing our attention to appreciation of community, family, and loved ones. Venus in Cancer may also help us nurture the growth that the eclipse invites us into.
After those 3 busy days we get a short break before two retrogrades hit us back to back. On July 7th, Mercury goes retrograde in Leo and will be heading backwards into Cancer on the 19th. Any expression or creative movement you may have been inspired in or passionate about since the end of June will need to be reconsidered as Mercury returns to Cancer. We are being asked to make sure our projects and self-esteem are truly going to support us and bring us joy instead of just being ego-boosters. July 8th brings us a Chiron Retrograde which will continue until December. Chiron is our wounded healer, so be ready for old wounds to be dug up during this time. This is a chance to do proper healing that we may have passed over or ignored, especially regarding wounds of self-identity or anger as Chiron is in Aries.
Between the 9th and the 14th of July the Sun will oppose Saturn and Pluto which are both retrograding in Capricorn. If we have been doing the work of these retrogrades, facing our inner critic and our karma, these oppositions may feel like a Full Moon where realizations and revelations can come through. If not, we may be faced with deep trauma or shortcomings that we weren't aware of. Don't fear however, this opposition will give you a chance to start the work now and continue it over the remaining months of their retrogrades. Either way, the oppositions lead us into the Full Moon partial lunar eclipse in Capricorn. This eclipse lets us release whatever we are evolving out of and moving on from. Prepare to let go of old patterns and habits that hold you back. The season ends with a meeting of the Sun and Mercury on the final day of Cancer season. This is a call back to their conjunction on the first day of Gemini back in May. Now 2 months later, we are invited again to align our thoughts with the center of our self. They will meet a third time this year in September, right in the middle of Virgo.
This spread is designed for both the Summer Solstice and Cancer Season. You can use your favorite Tarot or Oracle deck (or combine a few decks). Take a few deep breaths before laying out the cards and ask your higher self to speak to you through this spread. Really sit with the imagery of the cards when you have laid out the spread and let it speak to you. Then take some time to reflect on what the cards mean to you. Return to this spread throughout the season and especially at the end to see how these lessons have played out.