The myth of the Cancer constellation is obscure. Many people believe it is connected to the Twelve Labors of Hercules. When he is fighting the hydra, Hera, who wants him dead, sends a crab to attack and distract him. Hoping this would throw off his focus while not openly making it seem like she got him killed. She figured this small and insignificant crab would do the trick. Except it didn’t. Hercules steps on the crab after being pinched and then kills the Hydra.
Not very exciting and not very characteristic of the zodiac sign. This is the ACTUAL mythology of the Cancer constellation. This story comes to us from the Scriptures of Delphi. It is about a giant crab named Crios.
Crios the Giant Crab
The story starts with Poseidon, god of the sea, leaving his ocean home to go help defend Olympus from the monster-god known as Typhon. In order to protect his daughters, commonly referred to as ‘sea nymphs’, he gave the large and powerful crab, Crios, immortality. This would help Crios in defending Poseidon’s home and children while he was away.
This story has immediate symbolism
Very early on in the story we see the relation to Cancerian qualities. Cancer is the natural ruler of the fourth house, the house of the home. It is where Cancer thrives. Caring for their family, keeping the domicile clean and beautiful, and a very strong defender of those closest to them. Many priorities of Cancer revolve around the family unit and the physical living space.
Much like Crios who is defending the home of Poseidon, Cancer is energetically connected to their living space. If their home is disorderly and chaotic, this will directly impact their well-being. This is true for everyone to some extent, however a Cancer Sun or Moon will be much more aware of what is impacting them.
The qualities of Cancer are exemplified by Crios in many ways. He is a large and powerful crab. Jupiter is the planet of expansion and growth, it is also exalted when in the sign of Cancer. The size and strength of Crios can be observed as a representation of Jupiter’s qualities in Cancer.
In the beginning of the story, we also see the symbolic connection to the water element of Cancer. First off, the whole story takes place in the ocean, the literal water element. Next, Poseidon enlists Crios’ help primarily because of his emotional connection to the sea nymphs. This is the alchemical function of water, to tap into our emotions and feel the presence around us.
So moving forward with the story…
Typhon was an incredibly powerful god and Poseidon underestimated how long he would have to be away from his home. After a while, the sea nymphs became restless and didn’t understand why they had to stay under Crios’ protection. Several of the nymphs escaped Crios’ watchful eye and swam away. Crios knew he could not chase after them and leave the other nymphs unprotected. He asked for help from Vamari, the Giant Squid, to chase after the ones who had escaped.
An important thing to know is Vamari translates to “Vampire Squid”. He didn’t help Crios out of the goodness of his heart, he was planning to eat the sea nymphs. Crios was unaware of this prior to asking for help. When Vamari caught up to the sea nymphs, he devoured them. He then returned to Crios and told him he was unable to find any nymphs.
Crios knew Vamari was lying to him. He also knew he had made a huge mistake in trusting him and now had to right his wrong. Crios attacked Vamari and fought him to the death. It was a long and difficult battle. Crios emerged victorious, but Vamari had inflicted serious injury to him. Having been made immortal by Poseidon, Crios was unable to die and remained there in agonizing pain. Eventually, Poseidon returned and upon seeing the crippled Crios, relieved him of his immortality. Indebted to Crios for protecting his daughters, Poseidon made the constellation of Cancer in honor of Crios and his efforts.
What does this tell us about Cancer?
In the latter half of the story, we see many positive qualities of Cancer emerge. Crios placed the lives of others over his own. He fought with all his strength because Poseidon and the nymphs were counting him. This selfless quality of Cancer, to sacrifice their own well-being for those they care about, is a potent trait of the sign. If Crios was fighting for himself, he may have said, “ya know, this is too much work, go ahead and eat the nymphs” but instead he would rather suffer incredible pain before those close to him got hurt.
Another positive trait we see is the intuitive nature of Cancer. Vamari lied to Crios, and with no evidence to prove it, knew in his heart that Vamari was trying to trick him. He acted entirely on gut instinct and attacked Vamari. Being able to read the intentions of those around them is part of why so many Cancers are empaths. Being ruled by the water element, they have strong etheric bodies and are able to sense when things are off.
Lastly, we see the level of endurance Cancers have. Although he had immortality, Crios still had to endure an incredibly long battle with Vamari and bear unspeakable pain until Poseidon arrived. He could have perhaps pleaded with another god or tried to strike a deal with Hades but instead he waited for help he wasn’t sure was coming. Cancers stick by those close to them regardless of what obstacles appear in their path.
Cancer also has some downsides too though
Because of their loving hearts, Cancers can also be taken advantage of, especially when under stress. Vamari was easily able to deceive Crios because Crios wasn’t sure how to handle the escaped nymphs dilemma. It is not uncommon for Cancers to be fooled by people who put up a good front. However, once they find out you tricked them there is no forgiveness, as seen in the story.
This part of the story also shows some of the cautious nature that Cancers have. When some of the nymphs swam away, Crios was unwilling to chase after them. He had good reason to do so, yet we can’t deny there were other options available. Perhaps he brings the nymphs with him. Maybe he hides the nymphs and then chases after the others. It’s likely the ones that didn’t escape had no desire to so. Otherwise they probably would have. Oftentimes, Cancers can get stuck in their thinking and only approach a situation from one angle. Their emotions get involved in the process and it is difficult for them to break out of their mental shell.
The story of Crios shows us many of the traits of Cancer, which is why most astrologers would agree it is a better myth to exemplify the constellation’s attributes. Not everyone bothers to dive into symbolism and the story is not nearly as common as the Twelve Labors of Hercules. Nonetheless, I think anyone who took a moment to compare the myths would willingly agree.
If you enjoyed the story, I would love to hear your take on how it applies to Cancer in the comments. Maybe something stood out to you that I missed! Or if you have strong Cancerian qualities, check out some of my zodiac tea blends to help calm your nerves and unwind at the end of an energetically active day.
To my fellows, may your seeking be fruitful and your findings bountiful!