From the writings of Nancy Fenn…
Astrologers have Utopian ideals for the future and idealistic expectations for the present but I find astrology even more useful for the patterns it reveals from the past.It is sad and a little disturbing to realize that for the past 125 years, Saturn has been transiting Cancer during great wars including World War I, World War II and Vietnam. Therefore, I think it is worth taking a serious look at what Saturn in Cancer may really have meant in history.
Saturn in Cancer Emotional Profile
History is made by people. Far from “building walls and hiding behind security,” the people I will describe to you with Saturn in Cancer instead provide those very things to others, despite often never having had them themselves due to traumatic events occurring in the outer world at the time of the birth which also affected their home environment.
An article appeared in The Mountain Astrologer in 1978 by David Horbovetz called The Seven Most Challenging Aspects. At the top of the list was “any combination of the Moon and Saturn”. This includes Saturn in the 4th house, the Moon in the 10th house, the Moon’s Nodes in Cancer/Capricorn, Moon in Capricorn and Saturn in Cancer.
Saturn is a complex and critical planet in chart interpretation and in mapping human territory. Since we are discussing Saturn in a water sign, we may learn much by considering Saturn in Cancer briefly as contrasted with the other two water signs, Scorpio and Pisces.
Saturn is uncomfortable in water. The water signs are about emotions and bonding. Emotions are meant to flow. Just when you want to appear strongest, your voice cracks or your eyes fill up with tears. Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces revolt at the cold demands of Saturn and become like children who, denied the sympathy they deserve if for no other reason than that they are children, cry even harder.
Scorpio, unlike Cancer, has traveled through the experiences of Leo, falling in love, sometimes foolishly; Virgo, cleaning up after a messy affair, financially supporting a child engendered in a one night stand or choosing to be alone rather than in a relationship which is not significant; and Libra, where the whole martial arts world of relating is encountered. After the Libra experience, you can’t say you don’t know that other people have boundaries and definition outside yourself with a whole set of expectations that may or may not guarantee that you will have what you want in the relationship, regardless of the initial attraction.
Scorpios have social awareness, whether they chose to use it or not. And they have built up some very real and persuasive personal power. Scorpios may be stung and stung badly – in fact if I had to choose between the greater pain, Cancer or Scorpio, it would be a very close call. But Scorpios never remain victims. They will destroy something, even themselves, to end a position of victimization.
Saturn is equally miserable in the water sign of Pisces. The Piscean ocean washes over the best efforts of Saturn and leaves not a trace. Your deepest commitment? Your greatest aspirations? Washed away. Saturn in Pisces often chooses to deal with things in life that are most corrosive to hope and most offensive to our desire to believe in the concept of progress. Wherever there is enduring poverty, where people are dying for lack of resources but forbidden to use birth control or eat cows, where people perish because they are too poor or too scared or too ignorant to get medical care before their conditions become untreatable, where people are slaughtered in the name of loving gods, where families pass along degenerative diseases and continue to breed and care for each other, in places where every birth is a still birth in a certain sense, there you will find Saturn in Pisces … enduring. Saturn and Pisces together, two very old souls. They can be quite gloomy together. But do we pity them as much as they pity themselves? No. Something inside us says, “You knew it would be like this all along. Now why complain?” They partake of the nature of the aged, which is to know all and endure all.
As we know from horary astrology, Saturn is in its “house of joy” in the 12th house, a similar energy to Saturn in Pisces. [William Lilly said: “Malefic Saturn rejoices in the baleful 12th house, which supports its theme of limitation.”]
This brings us full circle to the first water sign, Cancer. What does Cancer know of all of this? Of Scorpionic revenge and the Piscean Rivers of Lethe? Cancer is a little child.The horror of Saturn in Cancer is that a child who knows nothing is expected to endure with nothing. A child can’t build walls to protect itself. That’s what the walls of the home are for, the shelter of the father materially and the mother emotionally. What can a child do without these walls?
Vulnerabilities in this astrological transit
There is an awful vulnerability to Saturn in Cancer. I have seen people with this placement repeat the same mistakes in trusting over and over again, each time opening their arms and hearts as wide as a four year old child to embrace the snake that will bite them. There is an old song, “You knew he was a snake when you took him in.” What does Cancer know of snakes when their question will always be, “Why did this snake bite me when I loved it so much and took it home and cared for it so tenderly?”
The reason this is more painful than Saturn in Aries, Taurus or Gemini, other early and “naïve” signs in the wheel, is that Cancer bonds. That is its nature as the first water sign. If the snake bites me in Aries, I will be surprised and furious! I will cut off its head.
If it bites me in Taurus, I will hit it over the head with a shovel and throw it away or I will pay someone else to do this for me.
If it bites me in Gemini, I will be amazed and curious and talk about it and find out more about it and what other things are dangerous in this world.
But if it bites me in Cancer, I will continue to love and care for it though it may bite me again because I bond with all living things and I will be very, very puzzled. Why did it bite me? Was it something I did wrong?
I know that the traditional reading of Saturn is that you are limited in the area concerned but I sometimes believe it is just the opposite. It may be that we have unlimited access to an energy that the world insists must be limited (Saturn). Perhaps our lifework in our charts is to stand against the influence of a cynical and denying world and to pour out this energy from within, from the limitless source we have inside ourselves. Many of the people whose charts I studied did just this. At some level, regardless of stern disapproval by a denying world, they refused to believe that we are not a human family.
Cancer is the sign of the mother and the child. Every time we see a wonderful picture or painting of a mother tenderly embracing her baby, implied in the background is some strong protecting presence (father? husband? brother? provider?) who permits this intimacy to thrive. There is someone who battles the bill collector, and repairs the leaky sink, and works on the heater and pays for the car to drive to the doctor so that mother and baby can be safe in the budding of their sacred circle. All single mothers know this because they do not have this luxury of turning their backs on the world to be alone with their babies.
But there is something else about this picture, something that only people with Saturn in Cancer may really know — and that is that it is the child who loves unconditionally and not the mother.
When Saturn is in Cancer, thousands of little people are allowed to walk to school by themselves without umbrellas and raincoats, without warnings about cars and dirty old men. Where are their parents? And how can those with Saturn in Cancer become their own parent when they have no experience about the wider world to guide them?
My client Amy, with Saturn in Cancer, said, “I cried myself to sleep every night until one day it hit me. No one could hear me. I mean they couldn’t hear me emotionally. So I quit crying.”
I watched a military training film which flashed photographs of breasts, loving mothers, soft touches, tender looks, hair stroked, shoulders patted, hands tenderly held, sweet, loving young wives — with photographs of children being beaten, pushed to the floor, shoved to the ground, hit and humiliated, sometimes standing alone with no clothes on or huddled in a corner. The images were alternated, a long gaze at the mother’s love, a quick hit of denial, back to the longing for a mother’s love, another hit or rejection.
This was a propaganda film. The intent of this film was to put the tender throat of a man’s emotions on the razor’s edge and then turn him loose with as much pain as he could bear, directly onto the enemy. The film showed sadistic events and was itself sadistic. The Marquis de Sade had Saturn in Cancer.
Statistics from studies done in World War II have revealed that only about 10% of men are willing to kill under any circumstances. The images in this film were chosen to drive those on the borderline over the edge, in other words, to make normal men willing to kill. Please notice, that it was the denial not of sex but of motherly love which was the propagandist’s weapon of choice. This kind of love is embodied in one sign and one sign only, Cancer.
Natal Saturn in Cancer can be heartbreaking not only because these children are old before they are young but also, paradoxically because, like innocent little children, they persist in retaining a trust and vulnerability which takes them into shark infested waters over and over again without weapons or protection, with only their own determination to love and endure. Their armor eventually becomes their very vulnerability.
They believe that we, here on earth, are bonded, that we are clan and family, that we protect and care for each other.I analyzed the charts and lives of over 75 famous people with Saturn in Cancer from Michelangelo in 1475 CE to those who are currently making their initiation in to the adult world with their first Saturn Return [at the time tihs article was written], such as Drew Barrymore (February 2, 1975) and Angelina Jolie (June 4, 1975). Although the group of charts I looked at included some of the world’s greatest generals, geniuses, artists, writers, performers, scientists and even presidents, it was the private lives of these people, the most intimate details of their lives which revealed the meaning of this placement of Saturn.
Far from barricading themselves behind stone walls as I’ve been reading so many astrologers predict for Saturn transits through Cancer, they reach out to embrace and protect those around them, even sometimes their whole country and all their country men, in many cases making their siblings or parents feel safe and protected, while never having known these feelings themselves. Let’s take a look at some of these people.
Many of these people whose charts I looked at left school at 12 and 13 to support families: Raymond Burr and Jackie Gleason are examples. The list of runaway or missing fathers lead me to websites that addressed the issue of “father hunger”. Robert Baden-Powell (founder of the Boy Scouts), Galileo, the Duke of Wellington, Jackie Gleason, Eminem, Angelina Jolie and Drew Barrymore had fathers “missing in action”. The deaths or loss of mothers …, endless, but most profoundly: Michelangelo and Queen Elizabeth I. The loss of a child: Shakespeare, Sylvester Stallone (autism), Mia Farrow (two children: one to heart disease and one to Woody Allen). The loss of a mother and a child: Mary Shelley. The loss of both parents: Joseph Conrad.
Dealing with Loss
Some people with Saturn in Cancer have lives one almost cannot bear to imagine. Edith Piaf and Eric Clapton had the unbelievable loss of both parents and a child. Edith Piaf was born underneath a street lamp and abandoned there, while Saturn was in Cancer in 1915. At one time this French singer, known as the “Little Sparrow”, was the highest paid entertainer in the world. Her life was a tragic mixture of unrequited love and drugs, reflected in her soulful and emotive songs that captured audiences around the world (“Milord”, for example, and my favorite “L’Amour, Toujours l’Amour”).
Eric Clapton’s life has been so painful, it is difficult to write about. Born in 1945, he was abandoned by both parents (illegitimate) and raised by grandparents. His life was plagued with drugs and alcohol. At one of the times in his life when he was on an even keel, his little two year old fell 40 stories from a hotel window. His song “Tears in Heaven” attempts to come to terms with this incomprehensible tragedy. Clapton is considered by many to be one of the most talented musicians who ever lived.
Nostradamus, who lived around 1503, has the distinction of being someone whose entire family was killed by the plague (wife and children). Few lives are as filled with pathos.
The great Mexican artist Diego Rivera lost his twin brother at two and a son at two. William Wordsworth lost his parents and was separated from his sister at eight. He was eventually reunited with his sister and cared for her during her long mental and physical degeneration into death, the result of a severe illness.
Mary Shelley was born with Saturn in Cancer in 1797. Eleven days after her birth, her mother, the famous feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, died. Mary Shelley later gave birth to a child who died eleven days after it was born, in one of the horrifying equations of the subconscious. Her father and her lover, the poet Percy Byssche Shelley, died within a one year period. Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein”, a work of art that has captured the imagination of generations.
The love of and longing for the mother you would expect to see with this placement is eloquently described by the great British writer, D. H Lawrence who had Saturn in Cancer. This is a rather long quote but so illustrative of the feelings of Saturn in Cancer, I think you will enjoy reading it …
“My mother was a clever, ironical, delicately moulded [sic] woman of good burgher descent. She married below her. My father was dark, ruddy, with a fine laugh. He was a coal-miner. He was one of the sanguine temperament, warm and hearty, but unstable. He lacked principle, as my mother would have said. He deceived her and lied to her. She despised him – he drank. Their marriage life has been one carnal, bloody fight. I was born hating my father: as early as ever I can remember, I shivered with horror when he touched me. He was bad before I was born. This has been a kind of bond between me and my mother. We have loved each other, almost with a husband and wife love, as well as filial ,and maternal (…) It has been rather terrible and has made me, in some respects, abnormal (…) I think this peculiar fusion of soul (…) never comes twice in a life-time – it doesn’t seem natural.” [“The Geographical Background of the Early Works of D.H. Lawrence”, Claude Sinzelle, pp 78, 79.]
As well as great love for the mother, great and grave disappointment in the father is a common theme with this placement. “Father hunger” is the inevitable companion of excessive mother love and both accompany the feelings of abandonment that come with this placement.
It was the poet William Wordsworth, with Saturn in Cancer, who penned the line, “The child is father to the man.”
Another approach to Saturn in Cancer is personified by Michael Douglas (1944), Liza Minnelli (1946) and Drew Barrymore (1975) who were born into famous families so famous they had other crosses to bear. It touches me very deeply that Michael Douglas, born with Saturn in Cancer, has released a film this year, the year of his second Saturn Return, entitled ”
It Runs in the Family”, starring … Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas, Cameron Douglas and Diana Douglas. The trailer says this is a story about the “loving, frustrating, reassuring, insane, and ultimately inescapable bonds of family”.
Liza Minnelli was enduring a humiliating divorce at the time this article was being researched. God only knows what it was really like to have a mother like Judy Garand. We have yet to see how Drew Barrymore will play out her family issues but she has already “divorced” her mother.
People experiencing their second Saturn Return in 2003-2005 were born in the thick of World War II. Saturn entered Cancer June 22, 1944. The Normandy invasion took place just 16 days earlier. In December came the Battle of the Bulge (Band of Brothers). It was the last German offensive. More than a million men fought in this battle including 600,000 Germans, 500,000 Americans, and 55,000 British. Hitler committed suicide April 30, 1944. Germany surrendered May 7. The bomb was dropped on Hiroshima August 6, a very sad day for the Family of Man. Japan surrendered August 14. The trials at Nuremberg took place the next year (1945). The Nuremburg testimony ended August 30, 1946 and verdicts were handed down on October 1st. Saturn left Cancer in August of that year. The Marshall Plan, a humane and pragmatic plan for rebuilding the Allies, did not go into effect until 1947.
Saturn in Cancer is about resources and the truth is that often there are limitations in material as well as emotional resources with this placement. There is a wounding of both parents at the archetypal level because the good that the mother would do when the father is missing is also denied the child because she has to play both roles.In the mopping up of World War II that began as Saturn entered Cancer in 1944, we saw women everywhere in the western world cope with the financial, material and emotional disaster of global war for themselves and their children. In America in 1942 gas and coffee were rationed. The sale of new cars was banned. Meat, fat and cheese were rationed in 1943. Canned goods were rationed in 1943 and people were rationed to three pairs of shoes a year. In January 1945, a nationwide dim-out conserved fuel. As late as April 1945 sugar rations were cut by 25% as reserves neared empty.
Food is a frequent and familiar battleground for working out the issues of Cancer, Lebensmittel in German – the stuff you can’t live without. While food is materially important, it is also one of our primary symbols for nurturing. So often the obesity associated with the sign Cancer is an exchange of the comfort of food for the cold, cruel world which seems to deny any reliable source of sustenance, either because there is no mother or the mother is incapable of nurturing.
Not by any means to oversimplify the issues connected with obesity, nevertheless, for many with Saturn in Cancer, food is the one reliable source of comfort in their lives. Fatty Arbuckle (1887), Jackie Gleason (1916) and Raymond Burr (1917) are three people with Saturn in Cancer who achieved fame in the entertainment world. Fatty Arbuckle was an extremely successful film star and one of the most highly compensated before scandal ruined his career. Fatty was being paid $1 million a film back when $1 million was a lot of money. He was accused of having very crude sex with a young girl wherein his weight was a factor in injuring her. Jackie Gleason incorporated jokes about his weight into his highly successful tv shows, “The Life of Riley” and “The Honeymooners”. [also see Obesity: A Special Cancerian Challenge.]
Personally, I think Raymond Burr deserves to be in a class by himself. This gigantic man left school early to support his family. He left a budding career to earn a purple heart in World War II. He returned to the death of two wives and a young son. He carried his burdens with great dignity, being a very private person. His weight is believed to be perhaps a hormonal condition as he reached his full height of 6’3″ before he started junior high. This is one of the things that permitted him to get a full time job so young.
If there was rationing in America and that was a hardship, a deprivation, only imagine what was happening in Germany, Austria and other European countries where moral and military defeat slept with deprivation and impotence. Most families lived very close to the edge. All during this period, babies were born with Saturn in Cancer. Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy was one of them, born to a family in Nordenham, Germany, on October 2, 1944. Roy was experiencing his second Saturn Return at the time Montecore mauled him. I have written about how this was a “family: tragedy for Roy, who raised his white tiger cubs like a mother. [See “Brother Tiger, Brother Bear.”]
Wherever veterans gather to talk about Pearl Harbor and storming the Beaches of Normandy, I doubt that they mention their home lives but I have listened to their children, who have endured their bad tempers, addiction to pain killers and seething resentment for the waste of their “best years” and the loss of young limbs or an eternity of hopes.
Many a child with Saturn in Cancer was conceived by a scared kid who was shipping out the next night, afraid he might never have a chance to have sex again before he died. Thousands of young men returned to women they hardly knew and children engendered in the most unconscious circumstances. My client Lilly’s father drank because he returned to a life that made no sense to him at all and Lilly’s mother drank because she grew to understand that she was not loved, only tolerated out of duty and honor. Lilly cared for her young brothers and sister while her parents drank themselves to death.
A child from a similar home, Michelle dreamed she and her mother were lepers, scratching through rubble with their rotting fingers for scraps of garbage and debris, hating each other because they had to compete for so little. Michelle felt it was her father’s love they were competing for.
Three of the world’s greatest literary geniuses were born under Saturn in Cancer, William Shakespeare, Alexandr Pushkin (Russia’s greatest poet) and Leo Tolstoy. If the purpose of writing is to touch the emotions, here we find Saturn in Cancer elevated to the level of genius. It is interesting to consider very briefly the Cancerian characteristics and subject matter of each of these world renowned writers.
Shakespeare had a genius for making his characters so personal one feels that no one else could see, or think or feel like King Lear or Lady MacBeth. They rise from the stage vivid and unique. Shakespeare also had his South Moon Node in Cancer.
In describing Alexandr Pushkin’s greatness, Fyodor Dostoyevsky singled out the great Russian poet’s “endless sympathy for all”. The writer Andrei Bitov believed that Pushkin singlehandedly developed Russian culture and created Russian civilization. “In Pushkin,” he says, “we have found our freedom, not the freedom people are talking about, but an inner, secret freedom. This freedom is present in his every line, in his every gesture.” The poet in Russia is far more than a poet, but a high priest. Alexandr Pushkin was born with Saturn in Cancer.
Leo Tolstoy, the father of twelve, wrote often about the family. In fact, one of the most famous opening lines in literature is the beginning of his book “Anna Karenina”, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Tolstoy was born with Saturn in Cancer. [Also see What Planet Does Your Family Come From: Uranus or Neptune?]
Now in closing, let’s look at two of the greatest generals in history. Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington, who both had Saturn in Cancer and who both became protectors of their country and countrymen and ultimately immortals.
Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington, and Napoleon Bonaparte were born in the same year, 1769, on May 1 and August 15 respectively. Forty six years later they were destined to meet on the battlefield of Waterloo to fight the war of worlds. Both boys were withdrawn and troubled youths.
Napoleon saw his homeland invaded. He felt his father sold out to the enemy for which he never forgave him. At 9, Napoleon was sent away to school in a foreign country where he was mocked and ridiculed. The great impression this made on an impressionable child is reflected in this statement by Napoleon: “I was born when [Corsica] was perishing. Thirty thousand Frenchmen spewed on to our shores, drowning the throne of liberty in waves of blood… The cries of the dying, the groans of the oppressed and tears of despair surrounded my cradle from the hour of my birth.” His mother, Letizia, was a hard, austere woman, toughened by war, who punished her children to teach them sacrifice and discipline. “She sometimes made me go to bed without supper, as if there were nothing to eat in the house. One had to learn to suffer and not let others see it.” [Napoleon scholar Sandra Gulland on PBS Online]
Napoleon fell hopelessly in love with a very Cancerian woman, Josephine. This is how she is described by Gulland: “Contrary to popular opinion, Josephine was submissive. Very calm and gentle, she was Bonaparte’s haven of peace … he would be able to come here to his wife and find a home and tranquility. She was always ready to serve him…. She was very soft and very gentle, which was important for Napoleon because she was the contrary of what he was.” Their love was immortal.
In attempting to understand a personality like Napoleon, that shaped our western world, one cannot help but see the pathos in his not being able to fight for his own country or bring it to glory, as I believe Corsica was the great love of his life. His family was eventually spit upon and briefly exiled from Corsica and he, himself, never returned…. But this is material for another article at some other time in the future.
The Duke of Wellington’s father died when he was young and his mother neglected him to the point of scandal. With Capricorn Rising and Mars conjunct Saturn in Cancer opposed by Pluto in Capricorn, he was a somber boy and later noted for his iron will and cold menacing stature.
In contrast, the Duke of Wellington reveals his Cancerian qualities in this oft quoted anecdote, “The Duke once met a little boy, crying by the road. “Come now, that’s no way for a young gentleman to behave. What’s the matter?” he asked.
“I have to go away to school tomorrow,” sobbed the child, “and I’m worried about my pet toad. There’s no-one else to care for it and I shan’t know how it is.”
Keen to ease the little chap’s discomfort, the Duke promised to attend to the matter personally.
After the boy had been at school for just over a week, he received a note: “Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington presents his compliments to Master —- and has the pleasure to inform him that his toad is well.
“Who would know better than the “Iron” Duke, the miseries of a young boy whose heart is troubled upon first leaving for school … and amidst the horrors of war?
One of my favorite sayings has always been, “In your vulnerability lies your strength” and certainly that is the deepest possible meaning of the placement, Saturn in Cancer. In the charts I’ve looked at and presented here, far from finding people who retreat into shells and barricade themselves from the world, we find people who give themselves to the world with a vulnerability and trust that is both raw and real. In the charts of the 75 people I researched, I found men and women who loved their country, their parents, their children and their fellow men under conditions where many of us would not think love was possible. I believe it is because these are the people who believe that we are family.
Let us remember this as Saturn moves into the sign of America’s Sun and let us remember this as we honor all those who serve the human family. This is a eulogy I wrote to the young people who are currently experiencing their first Saturn Return in Cancer.
“During your life, many of you will give your tender and devoted touch to the frail elderly or to vulnerable newborns … to those most at-risk in the human family. Many of you are born empaths and healers. Under the spreading tree of your kindness many lost and struggling souls, old and young alike, will gather for rest and shade before continuing on their way. You will be like serene lakes in the moonlight to your friends, who will drink from your simple kindness and be refreshed. You have the broad shoulders and soft breasts your friends will cry on when their ships crash against the rocky shores of life’s adversities. Your’s is the door that is always open, the heart, the lap ….. You, yourselves, who have been so often orphaned in this weary world will provide safe haven for countless others. It is because of this and for many other reasons that I’m writing this article for you. For you are the Loving Parents of this World.”