Astrology – the way I use it anyway – makes use of archetypes. Our sign of the month, Cancer, is just one of these archetypes – meaning it has within it concepts or things that belong together. A group. A family, you could say, to use a Cancerian theme. To give you an idea of what this one includes as well as family, we have home, mothers, care, food, cows, breasts, nurturing and many other things – archetypes are very broad and contain positive and negative versions of the concepts. For example, care can be good, but no-one wants it to be smothering!
Archetypes are often thought of in the same way that nature is – fixed and unchanging. The ‘laws of nature’ is a term we hear often, however Rupert Sheldrake challenges this fixed view of nature in his work and refers to nature as having ‘habits’. And habits are not fixed – they can be changed or updated. In a lecture I gave a while ago, I related this to the astrological archetypes and suggested that these ‘fields’ or archetypes also have habits, however they can change as we interact with them. So using our example, to me this means that people who are Cancerian or who have strong Cancerian themes in their horoscopes, will especially affect the Cancer field. It also means that what we all say, believe, think and do about Cancerian themes, will ‘update’ the Cancer archetype.
We are family
So with this in mind, I wanted to look at family, a theme close to the Cancerian heart. Once upon a time we had a pretty clear understanding of what family was. A mother, father, kids and our grandparents and ancestors, related by blood and marriage. Researching our ancestry has become very popular, including tracing DNA – biological lineage. Many shocks and surprises have resulted from these forays into ancestral research. Looking back into my own heritage, I often get stuck because of non-registration of births, or the lack of a father’s name on a birth certificate. (Tut tut…) My surname is not strictly ‘correct’ as it comes from a step-ancestor. What does all this mean for the definition of family?
What is family?
Interestingly, the original word meant something more akin to household. It was understood as people living under the same roof, and included servants. The word ‘familiar’ comes from the same root. A link to a good article on this is below in the websites section. Perhaps we are coming full circle and returning to that original definition. Today we have nuclear families, extended families, step families, traditional families, complex families, foster families and now, of course, biological parents who aren’t seen as family. Or are they? It’s all very confusing.
Google offers many different definitions. And of course the word family is used for things other than people! Living in the Netherlands makes it more complicated too as there are two words for family, so in the beginning I used the wrong words all the time. ‘Familie’ means usually blood relatives – whereas ‘gezin’ is usually used for ‘nuclear family’ although I have seen the use of a one person ‘gezin’ which I am! But then … is my cat part of my family? Many would say yes.
One word I tend to use for Cancerian principles when discussing a horoscope is belonging – so back to google for that. From Middle English belongen – to belong, (big help) from Old English langian – to pertain to. This is similar to the Dutch (and presumably from the same root) belangen which means to concern or have an interest in. Or to be of importance. But I don’t use that word in Dutch for Cancer – usually I would say ‘bijhoren’ which means to be included or part of something. I am always explaining that ‘family’ can mean work colleagues – if you feel ‘at home’ at work. But what does that mean? Then we get into house and home definitions – and house can be used for ancestors as well – the House of Tudor for instance. Oh dear.
With so many difficult family relationships and so many displaced people, due to conflict, war and/or immigration problems, home and belonging are huge issues. In many cultures there used to be, and sometimes still is, a requirement to be hospitable to strangers. But if you were a blood relative of a person in need, you were obliged to take them in and house and feed them. These days some parents won’t even do that for their own children. Nations and countries are struggling with this same issue as well, albeit it on a bigger scale. Cancer is a sign that should know how to do this, but the most well-known Cancerian country – the USA – is mainly using this archetype to put borders around what they define as family – often heterosexual, white and American heritage – whatever that is! Incidentally the Philippines shares the US birthday of 4th July, when it gained independence from the US in 1946, so it too is a Cancer country. It’s not auguring well for these two countries. With the current leaders, Cancer is being used in a negative protective sense – protect those closest to you and get rid of the ‘non-family’. Used positively, being protective is a wonderful part of this archetype. A crab’s shell is useful after all. Cancer is often associated with mothers. But we all know some of those can be difficult too!
A need to belong
We are a social species with a need to connect and belong. But as Brené Brown points out (see the wonderful video below – also good about men!) we often give up who we truly are so that we can fit in and belong to a group. This happens all the time in nuclear families as well. As children, we have only our parents or other care-givers to protect and feed us. So it’s wise to fit in. The thing about Cancer caring though, is that it is watery. It requires emotional involvement, not just a practical solution to being housed, fed and clothed. Brené suggests we need to ‘belong to ourselves’ first.
Blood is thicker than water?
There is a suggestion that this saying means the exact opposite of what we usually mean by it – i.e. that ‘blood’ family is more important than anything else. The internet is full of references to it coming from “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” But I can’t find a reliable source for that. However, it did make me think about what water means in this saying. This suggested source makes more sense to me – those bound by the spilling of blood – in a war or in a ‘blood-brothers’ type pact – do have stronger bonds than many who have sprung from the same womb! And what about surrogacy or sperm donor children? Is that blood tie thicker than water? Below in the links is a video on what these children think of family. A clear example of why the definition of family needs to be expanded.
We need an archetypal upgrade!
As well as being associated with the Moon (how we feel nurtured and fed), the sign Cancer is related to the fourth house of ancestors and family in the horoscope. So maybe this archetype is the one we should use to redefine what the word ‘family’ could mean in a positively conscious universe. What might we aspire to in our global world today if we look to this sign for advice? It is clear that just looking after our own isn’t going to cut it at a time where we are aware that we are all connected. Each country has an effect on others too. The term ‘family’ needs to be widened – we are all family. Current DNA research is proving it!
Making the sign of Cancer great again
To upgrade this archetype I think we need to start with ourselves, and work outward from there. What is it that nurtures you? Where do you belong without giving up who you are? What do you really like to eat? And especially, what and who makes you feel safe? Where is your nest? And who do you really want in there with you? Who are you happy to care for?
The next level out is friends and family. Does your ‘blood family’ really support who you are? You can’t do much about who they are, but you do have a choice as to how much time you spend with them or how much you bend to ‘family’ patterns or roles. Remember – your habits are not laws – they can be changed! Maybe friends or colleagues who support who you really are, and make you feel safe, are more of a true family. Being part of something is very comforting and of course this is not all one way. Cancer is not just a receiving sign – it requires the giving of emotional support to others as well!
And then, how can we use this energy outside friends and family? If we have a chance to influence policy in companies, countries or in any other groups, then we need to suggest doing more than offering displaced people practical help. A sense of belonging is created by some kind of emotional sharing. We need to feel we are not all alone in this world. Simple acts of kindness help. Listening and being heard helps. Sharing stories helps. Hugs help. Being a decent caring human helps. And voting for inclusive, decent human beings in politics can change things. And let’s not forget the past – many cultures honour their ancestors. Feeling part of a lineage and knowing our history is important to this archetype. By knowing and appreciating what went before us, we are less likely to repeat mistakes of the past.
Be emotionally fierce
Cancer is not a passive sign. How can you be fiercely protective of whatever you hold dear – be it people, animals, plants, the earth or old traditions that honour the fact that we are all ‘family’? If we go back and extend the older definition of family to mean living under one ‘sky-roof’, how would thinking of everyone as a (non-dysfunctional!) family change the way you interact with others? Perhaps we can all upgrade this caring archetype. By doing so, more people can tune into it and make use of its positive qualities.
Faye Blake and family helping with this post.
Interesting websites of the Month
Lots of links this time!
A review of Brené Brown’s Book Braving the Wilderness
What kids think about sperm donors and family – interesting Ted talk…
A bit more on Sheldrake and his ideas on nature
Quotes of the Month
“We must take care of our families wherever we find them.”a Cancerian, author of Eat, Pray, Love.
“Family is the most important thing in the world.”