12 Myths of the Zodiac

Mythology of Cancer

Myths related with the constellation of Cancer are among the most complex in the whole Zodiac, and the mere symbolic of cancer seems to be hiding a lot more than it’s explaining.

From another Zeus’ love affair, this time with the most beautiful and the wisest among all mortal – Alcmene, the son Hercules was born. Zeus’ legal wife Hera, furious because of his disloyalty, tried to prevent the birth of the child, its growing up and afterwards the normal life. Finally, she managed to bring Hercules in the state of insanity which made him kill his wife and children. When he came back to his senses, he went to the prophetess in Delphi hoping to find redemption.

Prophetess told him to search for redemption in the service to the king Eurystheus where he spent 12 years and completed famous 12 Hercules’ tasks which made him the greatest hero of the ancient Greece. Second among those tasks was the order to kill nine-headed snake Hydra. During the battle in which Hercules was cutting off hydra’s heads hoping to strike the one that’s giving her the immortality, Hera sent gigantic crab Karkinos to distract him in the battle. Crab managed to bite his heel, but Hercules smashed it and won Hydra. In a sign of gratitude, Hera placed Karkinos in the sky and therefore the constellation of Cancer was formed; Hercules successfully completed his tasks, he even dipped arrowheads in the poisonous bile of dead Hydra which helped him in later battles…not knowing that many years later, in another myth, those arrows will indirectly be the cause of his death.

Ancient Egyptians related this constellation with Scarab, the insect that would roll before itself the ball of droppings along the steep dune slopes in order to feed its progeny. They were connecting its movement with the Sun that “rolls” in the sky up to its maximum in the summer solstice and after that it would start to “roll” backwards. In the ancient Egypt the year was beginning in nowadays July because it was considered that the constellation of Cancer was the place through which human souls were coming from the sky on the Earth. The whole myth gains more sense once we include the symbolic meaning of individual stars from this constellation.

In the central part of the constellation there is cluster M44 – Praesaepe with approximately 40 visible stars. In the origin of the word Praesaepe there is a meaning ”hive”, “trough” or “crib”. Trough is surrounded by two stars Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis, which symbolize two donkeys. And each year, sometime in this period, the Christian world celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ in the stable with the animals in Bethlehem that Mary and Joseph reached on donkey and they put the newborn baby in trough….

Somewhere in all this there’s a merging of myths on creation of Milky Way from spilled Hera’s milk due to unsuccessful breastfeeding of Hercules; and why exactly that Milky Way was the place from where human souls were coming to the Earth with the help of “divine” father and earthly mother. Similar to the creation of Dionysus from the love of Zeus and mortal Semele; his symbolic coincides in many aspects with the symbolic of Jesus.

The constellation of Cancer is between 26°00′ of Cancer and 20°59′ of Leo and some of its brightest stars are:

Al Tarf – South, back foot of Cancer on 4°15′ of Leo
Praesaepe – head of Cancer on 7°20′ of Leo
Asellus Borealis – back of Cancer on 7°32′ of Leo
Asellus Australis – body of Cancer on 8°43′ of Leo

                                      Photo of Cancer constellation taken from

It was between 8600 and 6450 B.C. and it coincides with the Neolithic revolution that was present worldwide. It’s the period of domestication of animals, the development of agriculture and the beginning of sedentary lifestyle. With the ending of the last ice age glaciers were melting, the sea level was rising and the navigation was developing. Religion is dominated by cults of the Mother Goddess related to the Moon.

In this period the first habitations were built – the home, archetype primarily related to the meaning of Cancer. It is considered that the oldest preserved city in the world – Jericho was founded approximately between 8350 and 7350 B.C.

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