December’s Full Moon is all about inversion, turning points and the restoration of the natural order of things. Following a week packed with some truly off-the-chart transits, all centering around the theme of transition and change, the Cancer Full Moon asks us to let go of old habits, emotional ties or memories that no longer serve us, in order to make room for newer, healthier ones at the Capricorn New Moon in January 2019. This is also a good time to consider the internal costs – and benefits – of any external shifts we may have been forced to undertake during 2018.
The final Full Moon for 2018 takes places in moody and sentimental Cancer. This is the Moon’s natural home, which makes it extra powerful. On top of that, it will also take place just after – and right along – the solstice axis that links the first degrees of Cancer and Capricorn. So, in many ways, it is also about the return of light to the world after the months of darkness, struggle and intense soul searching brought on by the summer eclipses and autumn retrogrades, making it the perfect Christmas Moon.
These two zodiac signs were very important to ancient astrologers and philosophers because they represented the primary archetypes of father and mother, birth and death, youth and old age. In fact, many believed that the soul descended down the Cancer-Capricorn axis at birth, and that this process was reversed at death. They thought it no coincidence that the sun crossed these important thresholds (what we now call the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn) at mid-summer and mid-winter – the periods which mark the peak – and trough – of the solar year in terms of light and darkness.
Cancer is the natural sign of the Moon, and is associated with birth, motherhood and fertility, as well as the realm of the emotions – this is the cardinal of the water signs – in other words, the astrological equivalent of the Queen of Cups. (Not the king, I would argue because that is solar (and therefore masculine) energy, so Sun in Cancer = King of Cups).
According to Deborah Houlding:
In ancient astrology the condition of ‘moistness’ was viewed as the capacity to release emotions and connect with other beings. Moisture blurs the boundaries that define us as distinct individuals, allowing empathy, sympathy and a shared experience of personal or collective events. The act of sharing emotions represents an important aspect of forming bonds and unions, so moisture is also a creative condition, which forms the basis of love, fertility and reproduction. When we become too emotional the natural reaction is to release the ‘excess of water’ through the shedding of tears. Hence, water as an element relates to the emotions and the world of feelings.
Cancer as a sign is instinctual, moody and territorial – home is a refuge from the outside world – and like the walls of a house, it’s tough outer shell and sharp claws guard a soft inner centre. As a result, this sign is private, secretive and sensitive and very safety conscious – they don’t like to take risks.
Cancer is also the sign of the family and it’s fair to say that these people are very tribal – you’re either ‘in’ or ‘out,’ depending on whether they feel a sense of connection or kinship with you or not. And often logic doesn’t really come into this – a factor worth remembering, given that this Full Moon will make a sextile to unpredictable Uranus – more on that later…
Food is also important – not only does it provide a sense of comfort but it is also the constant over which loved ones bond and reunite, so it is fitting that this Full Moon takes place just before Christmas in the western world. As does self-nurturing (eating is really just one expression of this, isn’t it?).
The past, especially one’s memories of early childhood, and the impact these can have on how we treat ourselves and others later on in life, is always going to be significant during a Cancer Moon. If your past is painful, do you hang on to it – and keep repeating the pattern – like a crab with its pincer claw? Or do you learn to let go and become the caring parent – or create the loving family – you feel you never had? (And these may not necessarily be through blood, but rather soul or heart ties…)
At this Full Moon, then, we may come to realize that we have a choice: cling on to old habits, patterns or stories, or write ourselves new ones? (Here the Sabian Symbol may have a little wisdom for us – see below…)
In general, this Full Moon is likely to activate Cancer-ruled themes such as:
- Home, belonging, hearth and family
- Food, nourishment and self-nurturing
- Caution, safety and security
- Pregnancy, birth and motherhood
- Instincts, emotions, habits
- The past, memories, history, nostalgia
- Shellfish, sailing, sea travel, the ocean, the seashore
December’s New Moon takes place in the very first degree of Cancer, the Sabian symbol for which is:
Sailor ready to hoist a new flag to replace an old one.
As the first degree of Cancer, this symbol makes sense: it represents the start of a new cycle or order. As I have pointed out, it occurs at the earth’s internal ‘new year’ – the point at which the sun, whose orbit gives us our year, ‘turns direct’ or is reborn (hence so many myths about the birth of light gods like Jesus and Mithras) and of course, this Full Moon is the last of 2018, and being close to the solstice, is intimately tied up with the New Year (which is, of course, based on the solar year).
The sign of the Crab is also intimately bound up in imagery around sailing and the sea, which evokes the fluid, adaptable nature of water and the Moon, as her ever-changing cycles, which mimic those of life on earth.
In his book on the Sabian symbols, ‘Full Circle,’ James Burgess makes a few observations about this using the analogy of the founding of America, which is largely considered to be a Cancer-ruled country:
The development of the American nation illustrates how, in order to find a safe, wholesome place to raise families, it is often necessary to face the dangerous unknown – crossing an ocean or land-mass to do so. Even when metaphorically the oceans and continents are experienced within, such journeys can bring us into strange associations, and require us to adapt to extreme challenges.
Two of the key qualities that Burgess feels enable us to navigate new territory are: the courage to take risks and the ability to adapt to our surroundings. He also talks about the necessary survival skill of making chaos and instability work to our advantage – something Theresa May may want to take on board, given how things currently stand with regards to Brexit… As we will see further on in the ‘aspects’ section, these qualities resonate strongly with the planet Uranus, which has been quite busy this week making aspects to the luminaries in the lead-up to the Full Moon.
On the other hand, he also points out that in order to do so, one has to have a strong sense of direction, conviction or determination to succeed because this is the constant that will keep us moving forward, however precarious our position; or unsteady the terrain. In this regard, he is pointing to the Moon’s opposite sign of steely and determined Capricorn, which is known for its toughness and ability to keep climbing upwards, no matter how difficult conditions are. And of course, this is where the Sun landed just a day before during the solstice. All in all, a very fitting description of this particular Full Moon – and some sound advice for how to navigate the new year – and these uncertain times…
The Sabian Oracle offers us some alternative suggestions for how to interpret the meaning of this degree, which include, interestingly enough some overlaps with the idea of the solstice:
Keywords: Changing loyalties. Turning points in one’s obligations or duties. Announcing new standards. Turning a corner. Getting rid of the old guard. Letting go of old allegiances and taking up new ones. Giving up old ways. Changing bad habits. Taking the helm. Switching sexual preferences. Sailors. Ships. Flags. Divorces. Marriages. Change of shifts.
The Caution: Rejecting the old just for the sake of change. Fickleness. Not sticking with one thing for long enough to realize the rewards of loyalty. Being a traitor. Religious quarreling. Going only where the “good action” is. Piracy. Mutiny. Treason. Abandoning former priorities.
Unlike the last two lunar phases, which were rather fraught as a result of some difficult angles to Mars, the 2018 Cancer Full Moon will make some pleasant trine and sextile aspects to Uranus, planet of surprises, sudden shifts and revolution.
This is likely to help us to facilitate some of important inner shifts needed to adjust to the shifts in the outer world initiated by this week’s power transits, including:
- Monday’s dramatic Mars-Pluto sextile (17th);
- Thursday’s Sun-Uranus trine (20th)
- The solstice itself (21st), which was preceded by a Venus-Neptune trine and Mercury-Jupiter conjunction.
Wow! That’s an awful lot going on! And often, although we can adapt quite quickly to changes in external circumstances, it takes us a bit longer to process things internally, as anyone who has relocated, got hitched/unhitched, changed jobs or lost someone close will tell you.
I think the key thing is to see the need for change as good. These are all positive aspects and nowhere near the gut-wrenching, full-throttle changes many of us went through around eclipse time, or during the recent Venus retrograde.
The only thing to bear in mind is that Uranus is retrograde and back in volatile, angry Aries, so it’s entirely possible that this could unexpectedly throw up some unfinished business from its stay in this sign, which was for a good seven years or so (Mar 2011 – May 2018). This planetary combination forced us all to come to terms with our anger, frustration or resentment about technology, social injustice and inequality towards minority groups. But closer to home, it also made many of us impatient to throw off personal or professional restrictions and live more authentically and independently. So it’s entirely possible that there may be a few issues left over from this tumultuous period that need closure!
In this respect, it may be worth taking a quiet moment sometime over the next two weeks or so to simply acknowledge any feelings that may arise, including unexplained anger, anxiety or pent-up tension and then let find a way to release them, whether it is writing them down and then burning them, throwing some pebbles into the lake/ocean, or being very Cancerian and having a good cry. That way, you’ll be ready to move on by the time that 2019 rolls around (and certainly by the time Uranus leaves for good in March 2019!). 2019 has the potential to be a corker, so make sure you’re ready to embrace it with all your heart.
Seasons’ and solstice greetings to you all!