the feeling of continuity with the past is terribly important to Cancer. The past is often more real to Cancer than the present, because it's known and therefore safe. Cancer's roots sink deep into the earth. Where there is a past, there could be a secure future. With his roots firm in the ground, Cancer can indulge in his love of exploration, his wandering instinct, his changeability. A Cancer who is cut off from his roots is a very sorry creature - until he learns to grow new roots, either a new family or a group of friends or a work project. Something. Without these things, the Crab withdraws ever more tightly into his shell until he is imprisoned by his own fear of the future and his terror of the unknown.
The Crab is an instructive animal to watch if you want to learn about Cancer. Firstly, it never moves directly towards something it wants. It always circumambulates, to make it look as though it is actually heading off into a completely different direction. 'What me? Interested in that? Don't be silly. It's the last thing on my mind.' But when it grabs for the prize, and those pincers close, you have to virtually kill it to get it to let go. It won't fight; crabs are non-aggressive animals. It will take pummeling, pushing, shoving, any treatment you care to give it. It simply hangs on, until you get tired and go away.
Watch a Cancer woman at a party, when she spots a man she is attracted to. Move straight in and begin a conversation? Never. She will circle around the room, studiously ignoring the desired object. She will chat brightly to everyone within range. She will somehow contrive to join a group standing nearby. She might succeed in spilling her drink an inch from his trouser leg, and probably not even be aware of what she is doing, in any calculating way. Cancer is an instinctive sign, doesn't like to analyse its own motives. But take the initiative directly? Never. That exposes her to possible rejection, humiliation or looking ridiculous. If you really want to see a Cancer terrified, threaten him with those things: rejection, humiliation, loss of face. Cancer is so sensitive, so vulnerable to other people's opinions of himself. That is, unless he absolutely trusts everyone present. Then anything might happen.
It's been said that Cancers are manipulative. This is absolutely true. But let's explore this trait of manipulativeness. It has some rather complex sources. Cancer is a water sign. His great gift is his capacity to subtly work with feeling - his own and those of others. He doesn't plan this out, as a strategy, the way an air sign would. He operates with a marvelous instinctual grace that adapts itself to the immediate situation. Rather than go after a goal aggressively and in the open - remember the fear of rejection and humiliation - he would rather work on the atmosphere and the feelings of other people, to orientate them toward his own objectives. Whatever one may think of President Jimmy Carter's political or religious sympathies, one must concede that he is a good conciliator. He is a Cancer. This facility for working to smooth quarrels and bring people together is a wonderful gift when dealing with children. Cancer will never bully a child or use unjustified 'heavy authority'. The 'do it because I say so' approach isn't one of Cancer's tools, as it is of Scorpio and Aries and Leo. Cancer gently guides, so that half the time you think the idea came from you. Subtlety is one of the chief qualities of Cancer.
This like every other gift in human nature, is double-edged. The nastier edge appears when the Cancer applies the gentle pressure of emotional blackmail to get you to do things his way. Most people in our culture are terribly vulnerable to guilt. It's ingrained in our Judeo-Christian heritage. Being selfish is a sin, almost as bad as Original Sin. And Cancer is a past master at the art of stimulating a sense of guilt. An insecure Cancer, anxious to hang on to the person or situation which gives him his safety, will often use this deadly implement to get his way. We might call this role the Martyr. It goes something like this:
ADOLESCENT TO CANCER MOTHER: Well Mum, I've finally decided what I'm going to do next year. I'm going to travel abroad, go to Paris, and study languages at the Sorbonne.
CANCER MOTHER: (after some silence, during which she digests (a) that her child is 'leaving her', (b) what she can do to stop him.)