Cancer Goddesses — The Shell

“Precious pearls are formed by friction.” Goddesses for Every Day

Cancer is a Cardinal Water sign that marks the Summer Solstice and adds the powerful quality of emotion to the mental nature of the preceding sign.  Cancer acts like the womb, and is the Universal Mother principle, providing the vessel from which all forms are born.  Cancer energy is highly instinctual, nurturing and protective, longing to make a home and build emotional connections.  Learning to stabilize and steady the emotions is the path of Cancer.  

The Goddess Sign for Cancer is the Clam Shell, symbol of the ocean from which Cancer’s traditional symbol of the Crab emerges.  The Goddess Sign for Cancer expresses the sentiment that precious pearls are formed from friction.  Shells, which are containers of the life that emerges from the ocean, appear in numerous cultures as images of the goddess.  Sometimes it is the Cowrie shell, which is widely revered, and is suggestive of a woman’s anatomy.  The goddess Venus also mythically emerged from the ocean on a clamshell.  The sign of Cancer is ruled by the Moon, so Goddesses which appear in the sign of Cancer include lunar goddesses from diverse cultures as well as goddesses of the sea.  Cancer goddesses are nurturing, often creators, and are linked to the ocean which is the source of all life.  They are protective mothers who guard the home, keep the hearth fires burning, and honor their ancestors and ancient traditions.  

Hestia was the firstborn Olympian, older even than Zeus, and was the daughter of the Titans Kronos and Rhea.  Her name figures in an ancient Greek expression, “start with Hestia,”  Meaning “Begin at the beginning.”  She is the symbol of the hearth fire at the center of the home.  Satet is an Egyptian goddess who was thought to release the Nile flood each year at the summer solstice.  Each year the great goddess Isis shed one magical tear, which would be caught by Satet in her jar and then poured into the river to begin the flood.

Mari, like the Egyptian Isis and the Hindu Devi, is an overarching Great Mother goddess who is the source of all life. Her name and nature has come down to us in many forms, including Mariamne in Greek, Miriam in Hebrew and the English Mary.  Hina is a great goddess of Hawaii who is the eldest of the indigenous Hawaiian pantheon.  She is known all over Polynesia and the Pacific.  Nu Wa, called Lady Dragon, is a Chinese creation goddess who sculpted humanity from mud long before the similar story appeared in Genesis.  

Oshun is a goddess of the Yoruba people of West Africa, and is one of their seven great Orishas, or spirit beings.  Her domain is the fresh water of rivers and it is believe that she is the owner of the rivers.  Leucothea, whose name means “white goddess” is a Greek sea goddess.  Her nature comes from the image of whitecaps on the ocean or in the foam of the tides.  In one story it is Leucothea who rescued the hero Odysseus from drowning.  Ajysyt is a mother goddess of the Turkic Yakut people of Siberia.  Her name means “birth giver,” and she is also called Mother of Cradles.  She is present at every birth, and women invoke her to relieve the pains of childbirth. 

Devi is the Sanskrit world for “great mother,” and was merged into many Indo-European names.  Devi is cosmic force, and she is the creator, annihilator, and re-creator of the universe, which she holds in her womb.  Kaltes is a goddess of the Uguric people of Siberia.  She is a moon goddess who watches over birth and sometimes she is a shape-shifter like the moon.  Ngame is a lunar creator goddess of the Akan people of Nigeria.  She creates all things by shooting life into new beings through the power of her crescent-shaped bow and life-giving arrows.  She is also the mother of the Sun.  

Mother Goose is the familiar character from children’s nursery rhymes, but her origins are ancient.  Egyptians recognized the Nile Goose, called the Great Chatterer, who laid the cosmic golden egg from which the sun god Ra emerged.  Birds appear as companions of the goddess across cultures and reaching far back in time.  Selene is a Greek goddess of the full moon.  In classical times she was the daughter of Thea and Hyperion.  Selene was depicted with wings and sometimes she was shown riding on a bull.  More often, she rode across the night sky in a silver chariot drawn by two white steeds.  Ilithyia is a Cretan goddess who acts as a divine midwife.  Women in childbirth prayed to her as a “liberator” who freed the infant from the womb. 

In the northern hemisphere it is high summer and the time of greatest light.  It is a common time for weddings, starting a home and honoring the hearth.  We can celebrate a symbolic bonfire, releasing energy from the past that needs to be available for new forms.  It’s liberating to invoke these great mothers and dance around a bonfire, dreaming of what we desire to birth. 

Based on and excerpts from Goddesses for Every Day © 2010 by Julie Loar.   Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA  

April Fools

Aprilsnar 2001

The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.                              ~Will Rogers

A dramatic April Fools hoax marked the 2001 opening of the Copenhagen Metro, Denmark’s new subway. The “joke” was a rail car bursting up through the ground, looking as if one of the cars had broken through the square in front of the town hall. It was actually a retired subway car from the Stockholm subway that had been obliquely cut with the front end placed onto the tiling and loose tiles scattered around the car. The effect created a dramatic April Fools hoax.

The origin of April Fools is uncertain. However, the most commonly accepted explanation originates with Pope Gregory XIII and the calendar that was named after him. The Gregorian calendar is an adaptation of a calendar designed by Italian doctor, astronomer, and philosopher Luigi Lilio (also known as Aloysius Lilius), who died six years before his calendar was officially introduced. The calendar is a solar measurement based on a 365-day common year divided into twelve months of irregular lengths.

The Gregorian calendar is the most widely used in the world. It was introduced by papal bull in October of 1582, but the complete transition took more than two centuries. In 1752 the shift in North America was like the “spring forward” aspect of Daylight Savings Time. When people went to bed on September 2, 1752 they woke up on September 14, and eleven days were lost forever.

The intention of the new calendar was to adjust the date of Easter. The inaccuracy of the preceding calendar of Julius Caesar had caused Easter to slip further from its proximity to the March equinox full moon. Easter is the only Christian holiday that is still lunar. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. The Julian Calendar did not properly reflect the actual time it takes Earth to circle once around the Sun, known as a tropical year. Although Julius Caesar’s earlier calendar reform of 46 BCE had made January 1st the beginning of the New Year, after the Roman god Janus and the month of January, European countries continued to celebrate New Years on March 25, Lady Day, a feast of the Virgin Mary, until 1752.

Gregory’s papal bull only had authority in Catholic nations, and European Protestants strongly resisted the change on principle because of its ties to the papacy. Two hundred years passed before most places let go of the Julian calendar, and some locations held out even longer. New Year’s Day continued to be celebrated on March 25 in most European towns. In some areas of France, New Year’s celebration was a week-long holiday, ending on April 1, which brings us to April Fools.

It’s speculated that those who clung to the old dates became the butt of jokes. The April Fools were those who resisted change and held on to the old ways. Hoaxes and jokes became ways of tricking (and ridiculing) those who were thought to foolishly refuse to face the future. Over time April Fools practices spread to many countries and is now a tradition in quite a few places.

Calendars are a way of marking time. We “modern and sophisticated” people live in a world of artificial light, and we have lost touch with the seasons and the cycles of the Moon and stars. We have become prisoners of clocks, calendars, and many other devices that have nothing to do with the motions of the Earth and the constantly shifting cycles of light and dark that actually create time.

If we are honest, we might wonder who are the fools? We are tied to artificial timepieces and electronic devices that prevent us from even seeing the night sky. What wisdom have we lost that those who still watch the stars and move in rhythm with the seasons retain. Perhaps the biggest April Fools joke of all is that without our clocks, calendars, and cell phones we have no true idea of the passage of time and its significance.