Cancer, the fourth sign of the Zodiac, is situated in the northern celestial hemisphere; being composed of small stars, the brightest of which are only of the third magnitude, and very few visible to the naked eye, it was known in olden times as the dark sign, and is shown with its symbols in No. 4 of the coloured Frontispiece.
The Sun enters this sign on June 22nd, remaining in occupation up to and including July 23rd, being in that part of the Ecliptic highest above the Equator, marking midsummer.
Its name Cancer, meaning a Crab, is popularly supposed to have originated in the resemblance of its constellation to this crustacean, but the likeness is not at all obvious, even if it may once have existed, so that the name probably had its origin from some other cause.
The earliest known illustration of this symbol is very like the Egyptian Scarab, many antiquarians favouring this as the real symbol, it having been used as an emblem of resurrection for over 3000 years B.C., and as this sign marked the resurrection of the earth from the Flood which ended in the preceding Zodiacal sign Gemini, the Beetle or Scarab is sometimes shown placed in the centre of the Crab's back. The significance of this, the new world bearing its symbol of eternity, is not so very surprising when we remember that the Zodiac characterised highly developed religious ideas.
The beginning of the sign ∞ is called the Tropic of Cancer, and when the Sun arrives within this sign it has reached its utmost limit of north declination and seems to remain stationary a few days before it begins to decline again to the south. This stationary altitude is called the Summer Solstice, or "Sun standing still"; and the Hindus, having derived their knowledge of the stars principally from the Chaldeans, used the Crab as symbolic of this House, as in order to move forward it is compelled, as it were, to walk backwards, which illustrates the apparent motion of the Sun when it commences to move backwards towards the Equator.
In Ancient Mythology we are told that this constellation was formed by a Crab placed in the heavens by the goddess Juno as a reward for the sacrifice of its life which it lost in an attack on Hercules in her service, and so earned its translation to the celestial domains.
Cancer, being the Zodiacal House of the Moon, is much under her influence. It is the first of the watery signs and presides over the Ocean; subjects born during this period, because of their receptive and plastic natures, may be said to reflect the influences of their surroundings like the sea. Impressionable, yet tenacious, they are well symbolised by the Crab, as their tenacity when roused is remarkable, requiring little prompting to move them to determined action; but owing to the changeability of their moods, alternately hopeful and depressed, they often surprise their friends by suddenly letting opportunities slip just when success is within their grasp. They appreciate congenial society, but can be quite happy alone, and most intensely do they object to having their plans or arrangements made for them.
They are keenly interested in the domestic side of life, this sign representing the principles of home life; family ties and duties are in consequence more keenly felt by this type than by any other, and old friendships or associations are held sacred.
Children born during this period are very sensitive to the physical and mental conditions of others, and if forced to live with natures that are inharmonious and not in sympathy with them, their vitality is readily depleted and they become nervous, listless, and morbid. For this reason children should never sleep with the elderly or ailing.
Strongly imaginative and reserved, they are at times mistrustful, over-anxious, and exacting; and so great is their tendency to experience every kind of sensation, that when badly aspected by the planets of their horoscope their feelings amount to an obsession, and from the overdevelopment of their intuitional faculties they become the subjects of presentiments and delusions. When their characters are well developed and their erratic tenacity made consistent, they become firm-willed and reliant, with clear keen intellects and strong intuitions capable of high accomplishments. Although generally quiet and reserved, brilliant conversationalists are sometimes found among them. Where clans and sects meet they will be found, and they form no small portion of the intellectual members of secret societies and mystic and occult communities. They greatly appreciate old customs, curios, books, and relics of the past, their faculty of imagination placing them pre-eminently above all other types in the realms of poesy and fancy. They are keen observers of Nature in all her changing moods, and in the solitude of woods, or by shady lane, stream, and hedgerow they can best recover their balance when out of conceit with a practical and unsympathetic world.
This sign has given us some of our greatest composers and writers of romance. As a rule their work is spasmodic, but energetic whilst the fit lasts or when spurred by approbation, but slackens when the mood has passed or the incentive is removed.
They succeed best in professions or employments affecting the public, as authors, artists, musicians, politicians, and clairvoyants. They also make good naval officers and sailors, and do well in professions connected with the sea and liquids.
The Cat's Eye, a semi-transparent stone of the Chrysoberyl family, has a distinct ray of light running across it, which ray has been compared to a drop of water enclosing a beam of light. It is most commonly translucent, of a milky-white colour, but is also found in shades of yellow, red, and brown. It has always been greatly valued in India, where it is regarded not only as a bringer of wealth, but a Talisman to prevent its owner's gain diminishing. The Cat's Eye is also considered powerful against the terrors of the night; it will relieve asthma if hung round the neck, also helps babies suffering from croup, and it is also worn for mental balance, foresight, and general attractiveness. As a popular charm for success in speculation, gambling, and games of chance, it is said to have no equal.
Rock Crystal is a form of quartz, clear and transparent, the name Crystal coming from a Greek word signifying "frozen water" or "clear ice." The magical powers of revealing the hidden secrets of the future supposed to exist in the ball of Crystal is of very ancient origin; and it is said that Saint Augustine believed that Crystal-gazing, as it is called, originated in Persia.
The Moon, the ruler of the House of Cancer, has direct influence upon the intuitive faculties of the brain, through which seers visualise events foreshadowed in the Crystal; making it peculiarly appropriate and sympathetic to subjects of this type, so that it is not surprising that this sign produces some of the best seers. Pliny states that Roman physicians also used the ball of Crystal for cauterising purposes, holding it against the rays of the Sun; they also used them applied externally as a remedy for diseases of the kidneys.
Those whose birthdays fall within the periods of Aries or Libra, however, should not wear the Emerald, Moonstones, Pearls, Cat's Eyes, or Crystal, as they would not be in harmony with these gems.