Artful Astrology: Cancer Season's Dynamic Stillness

Artful Astrology: Cancer Season's Dynamic Stillness

Photograph ℅ Wolfgang Tillmans

Photograph ℅ Wolfgang Tillmans

Dear reader, as the sun reached its peak in the northern hemisphere, we entered the moon-ruled sign of Cancer. Take an inhale and an exhale. Notice your stomach moving up and down. That’s the energy we’re talking about. Or, get to the nearest body of water! Or, perhaps a float tank. We cannot stay in active movement forever. When we keep dispersing our energies, like cards we toss to the wind, they depart. We’re left depleted. Enter Cancer season.

Cancer, the sign of the crab, swims onto the zodiacal scene after Gemini to hold those mental energies in its nurturing waters and show us a different kind of growth. This is the first time we encounter water on the zodiacal wheel and so this cardinal H2O is deeply personal. We’re talking about the waters of the womb, the amniotic float tank from whence we all sprang. We are talking about the waters of every womb and the recognition of the one womb. This is a dynamic stillness. 

Whereas Gemini moves the mind, translates ideas and wonders, Cancer holds space. But such growth happens in the space of seeming stillness. We are never not moving, Cancer tells us. When we enter the realm of the crab, where the moon finds its home, we enter Goddess time. We’re reminded that linear growth narratives are faulty and that our luminaries and the womb of Earth are circles. Heavy, right? Real talk: It’s hard for me to write about the Cancer archetype, as it’s so much beyond the play of words. Or, before the play of words. Cancer is primordial feeling and embodied knowledge. I can only tell you what I’ve been thinking-feeling since the sun entered the sign of the crab.

I’ve been accidentally swimming down to my roots. I wake in the morning having dreamt of old lives, car rides, lovers, problems -- things I thought were gone from my head. I wake to find myself in the spiral of my senses. The smell of an ex’s shirt, the specific air of my grandparents’ backyard, the first time my heart ached. Cancer is not what we choose to think about, it’s that which we cannot help but feel. In astrology, the moon tells us about our history, the places and people that reared us, whatever is lodged in our memories and bones. It tells a story of nonlinear time, of what happened before birth, while we incubated, and what we carry forth in our own circle.

Cancer is oxytocin, psychic downloads, the roots of our natal karma, the terrible and gorgeous smells of the past which might very well be the future. Cancer is progress in its most unlikely and human form: Circular and dynamic stillness. When we are in meditation, unmoving save for inhales and exhales, heartbeats and blood, that’s the energetic pulse of Cancer. When we feel a rush of bonding with someone based on something beyond our intellectual explanations, that’s Cancer, too. Point to the space below the earth, as that’s where the Cancer archetype finds home.

Speaking of home – that too, is Cancer. Whatever or wherever we call home – where we grew up perhaps, or a circle of people we’ve recently met, or that sudden rush of this place feels like home or this person feels like home. The inexplicable. The felt. As the first water sign on the wheel, Cancer asks us to look at our relationships to our past and to notice our bodies, made mostly of water. Cancer wants us to grow.

Questions and exercises for the season

  1. Think about your relationship to the word and the feeling of home. Who or what comes up?

  2. Think about those who don’t have homes or don’t feel safe in their homes. What can you offer?

  3. Notice where your mind wanders without trying. Dwell there. Where do you feel it in your body?

  4. Write down your dreams.

  5. Cancer rules the center of the body. How do you center?

  6. What is your relationship to “progress” or “growth”?

  7. Do you follow the cycles of the moon? Cancer season is a stellar time to start.

  8. Get to the nearest body of water.

  9. Take baths

  10. Float!

  11. Cite your sources

About the Author

Emmalea Russo (she/her) is an artist, writer, and astrologer. After her whole system got shocked by her first grand mal seizure at age 19, she started to wonder how the stars and planets influence our minds and bodies. Her interdisciplinary work focuses on edge spaces in human consciousness, art, and epilepsy. Her books, which combine visual art and writing, are G (2018) and Wave Archive (2019). She received her MFA from Pratt Institute and has been an artist in residence at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and 18th Street Arts Center.

She has taught classes and workshops on the creative process at RA MA Institute, Parsons School of Design, The Art Institute of Cincinnati, and elsewhere. She writes about astrology, art, and culture at The Avant-Galaxy Journal and hosts The Avant-Galaxy Podcast. She lives between the New Jersey shore and Los Angeles. Book a chart reading or astroplanning session with her here. A version of this piece first appeared on Emmalea’s journal, The Avant-Galaxy.

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