Astrology Astrology FAQ:
Basics for the Beginner or Student of Astrology
by Michael Star, Astrologer (c)1997 JUN 02
in STAR SIGNS Astrology Zine.

Kelly's Questions, Michael's Answers

2. Why do the Signs all have an animal of some kind as their symbol?

Link-to: | Question 1| Question 2| Question 3| Question 4| Question 5|

Link-to: | Cancer| Scorpio| Page-END|

 Received: from for
 Date: Sat, 29 Mar 1997 15:28:05 -0500 (EST)
 Dear Reader,
 For my eighth grade English report I chose the topic of 
 Astrology. I have to interview three people, and I was 
 wondering if you could answer some questions for me. My 
 report is due on April 10, so it would help a lot if you 
 could reply before then.  Here are the questions...

Since sending my email reply to Kelly, I have edited and added to the original answers to create this series of FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) pages for the STAR SIGNS Astrology Zine website. Her questions were good ones, and probably represent the kind of questions many children, teenagers, and adults ask about Astrology. I hope that my answers based on my experience with Astrology will be helpful to the many people who may read them here on the world wide web. These are one man's opinions, and you are welcome to take what truth you see here, or to ignore what does not resonate with your personal view of what is true for you.
-- Michael Star, Astrologer

Hi Kelly!

I'm glad you wrote to look for some answers to your questions, as it has stimulated me to write quite a long explanation, as you will see...

2. Why do they [the Signs] all have an animal of some kind as their symbol?

Link-to: | Question 1| Question 2| Question 3| Question 4| Question 5|

Michael's ANSWER 2:

Of the twelve Signs of the Zodiac, eight Signs have animal symbols, but four do not: Libra is "The Scales" (a tool), Gemini is "The Twins" (a human/god), Aquarius is "The Water Bearer" (a human) and Virgo is "The Virgin"" (a human). The word "zodiac" comes from two ancient Greek words and originally meant "circle of animals", so you could think of it as a "Zoo" full of animal (zoological) symbols, except for the four non-animal symbols mentioned here.

Three of these exceptions all happen to be Air Signs, and in Astrology the Element Air symbolizes thinking and talking -- things the animals are not as well-equipped for as we humans. Don't be misled by Aquarius sounding like "aqua" or water -- the symbol is the Water BEARER, not the water itself; although the glyph (written symbol) with the wavy lines which is used to represent Aquarius does refer to waves of water. Aquarius, like Gemini and Libra, is an Air Sign, not a Water Sign. They are more logical like Mr Spock in the Star Trek TV series (an air-sign trait) and NOT overly emotional like Dr McCoy in the same show. Emotional sensitivity is a typical "water element" trait shared by the Signs of Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces.

The other Sign with a non-animal symbol, Virgo, is ruled by the planet Mercury and is also a very "logical" Sign, even though it is not an Air Sign but an Earth Sign. So we see that the four Signs which are NOT represented by animal symbols are also Signs that most exhibit the human qualities of "conscious thinking" and "logic" which is absent in most animals. Did you know that only the "higher apes" like chimpanzees and gorillas are capable of looking in a mirror and actually recognizing that the image they see is themselves, and not some other animal? Only humans and higher apes have this "sense of Self", but even a human baby does not recognize itself as a "Self" until it reaches a certain age.

"Figuratively Speaking"

It is quite amazing how well the animals chosen as symbols for the Signs represent the qualties of the Signs themselves. It is important to remember that when we are working with symbols we need to think "metaphorically" and not literally. When we say something is like something else -- "figuratively speaking" -- we do not mean that the one thing is exactly like the other, but that there are one or more aspects or qualities that both things seem to share.

When someone says "You eat like a horse" they do not mean that you literally eat hay and oats or graze in the grass! They are comparing your habit of eating large quantities of food, which is what a large animal like a horse would eat. That is the figurative or symbolic similarity between a big eater who is human and a big eater which is an animal. If you wanted to make a literal comparison, you might point out that you eat "cereal" in the morning, such as oatmeal; and a horse eats almost exactly the same thing -- "cereals" like oats and barley. A cereal is a kind of grain like oats or wheat. There was a mythological godess named Ceres who was the godess in charge of looking after the crops like grains which could be dried and stored for winter, and that is where the name "cereal" came from. An asteroid discovered in this century has been named Ceres after this same godess.

I mentioned some symbolic similarities between the qualities of the Sign of Aries and its symbolic animal, The Ram, in my answer to Question 1. And near the end I also mentioned a trait of The Sign of Taurus that was similar to the quality of its animal symbol, The Bull. The Sign of Gemini has The Twins as its symbol, and these are human figures; so let's skip to the fourth Sign of the zodiac and see how its symbol is similar to the traditional traits of the Sign.

Cancer the Crab

The Sign of Cancer has an animal symbol called The Crab. A crab belongs to a species of animal called a "crustacean" which has a hard outer shell. Since we've been talking about cereals like oats and wheat, can you see a symbolic similarity between a loaf of bread and a crustacean? They both have a hard outer shell, and the shell of the loaf of bread is called the "crust". Think symbolically again and see if you can come up with a word that symbolically describes someone with an outer personality or style that is pretty hard. I'll "toss you a crumb" of a clue: this word also has a "crust". If you are a fan of the TV cartoon show, "The Simpsons", you might notice how this word symbolically describes a certain hard-nosed clown of the same name. I hope I didn't have to tell you the word in question is "crusty". We have now found a symbolic connection between crabs, crustaceans, crusty cereals, and crabby clowns - they all seem to be pretty tough on the surface. But they are all pretty soft once you see through the crusty exterior, even old Crusty the Clown!

Can you think of any friends or family members who were born under the Sign of Cancer and share some symboic similarity to the crab and his hard outer shell? Are they tough on the outside but kind of "soft" on the inside? This is one of the qualities of The Crab and also of people who were born when the Sun or the Moon was in the Sign of Cancer, or when the Sign of Cancer was "rising" up past the eastern horizon and is thus said to be the "Sign on the Ascendant" or "Rising Sign". Cancer types usually seem to be acting somewhat tough (and sometimes gruff), when they are really kind of sweet inside (like those delicious crabs). Actually, they can be so emotionally sensitive that they think they HAVE to hide behind a barrier like that hard exterior to protect themselves, because they are so vulnerable to having their tender feelings hurt.

The purpose of a hard outer shell or crust is protection of the soft and vulnerable innner part, like the crab's muscle tissue which we humans love to taste as a delicious delicacy. People whose birth horoscope had planets in the Sign of Cancer also are protected from emotional hurts by their tough exterior -- that "act" or "style" which makes them look invulnerable like the crab. The other two Water Signs also have animal symbols with a tough exterior: Scorpio is a scorpion, another eight-legged creature from the "arachnid" family (which includes spiders) that has a hard outer shell and even pincers like a crab; and Pisces is two fishes, another water-dwelling animal which has tough scales on the outside to protect its delicate flesh from abrasive rocks or coral and also from predators.

"Protection" works both ways for Cancer types of people. They protect themselves from emotional hurts; but they also are very protective of the people they care for, especially babies and children and their own famililes or people they consider to be "like family" to them. They are sensitive people, "soft-hearted" but not soft or helpless. If they feel threatened, or if they see something threatening a member of their literal or symbolic "family", those strong emotions can be aroused and drive them to act fiercely and furiously to protect the ones they love.

Sometimes they extend their feeling of "family" to their homes, their home town, their home team, their school, their town, their state or province, or their country; and this is seen as a kind of "devotion" or "loyalty" or "patriotism" or "nationalism". The old saying "Blood is thicker than water" applies to the Cancer type of people and their devotion to the members of their biological family or "blood relatives" who share the same genes or "blood". Notice the word "water" in that saying, for it is another link to the concept of the Element of Water and the Water Signs like Cancer.

Cancer types are emotional, and they get most emotional or passionate when it concerns their "blood" relatives or "family". They will fiercely defend their homes, their land, or their country -- which is symbolically similar to the way a crab will wave his big claws to defend himself or the hole which is his home. Cancer types are like the homesteader in an American Civil War story or Western movie who grabs his gun and goes off to war to defend his land and his country from an enemy who threatens to harm or take away his woman, children, house, estate, farm, or land. Cancer types are generally fond of and sympathetic to women and children, and especially nurturing and protective towards anyone they care for, especially babies and small children. In many species of crabs and other crustaceans, it is the male which has the largest pincers to defend himself from other males when fighting for the females in the mating ritual, and to defend his female who does not have the large pincers to defend herself.

The male and female crab together are symbolic of the female and male aspects (the Yin and Yang) of the Cancer type of person -- gently nurturing and passively sensitive and inwardly vulnerable, yet fiercely protective and actively combative and outwardly invulnerable. If you ever find a sand crab along the beach, you will notice how he will leave you alone if you leave him alone, and will try to avoid you; but if you try to get too close he will raise those pincers and try to attack you, and if you try to get into his hole he will fight to the death to defend his home or his family inside. That pretty well describes a human male or female with Sun in Cancer!

I can't resist pointing out another trait which those sand crabs symbolically share with Cancer types of people, especially ones with Moon in Cancer (like me) or Cancer Rising. Notice how the crab doesn't walk forward or backward, or come directly at you, or back down from you - instead the crab walks sideways and approaches or retreats indirectly.

When these Cancer types of people are feeling hurt or angry over something they think you did to hurt their feelings, they will not confront you directly and just tell you that you hurt them. No, they seem to expect you to be able to read their minds or sense their hurt feelings, so they won't tell you what you have done to hurt them -- you are supposed to be sensitive enough to know! Only when their emotions are aroused enough to express their sadness or anger, do they actually come out with it and tell you what a mean person you have been to them to hurt their tender feelings. And that is when the claws can come out as an emotional outburst of tears or angry words, or even a physical attack like beating you on the chest with their arms and hands, just like a crab waving his claws!

Cancer is a Water Sign and thus emotional and sensitive; but Cancer is also a Cardinal Sign and is initiating and active like the other Cardinal Signs: Aries, Libra, and Capricorn. Being a Water Sign, the Cancer strategy is to be active and initiating in an emotional way, or in things that have to do with feelings and nurturing and acting protective. Cancer's opposite Sign is the Earth Sign of Capricorn, and this pair of Cardinal Signs symbolically represent the masculine and feminine polarities of the M.C. vs I.C. Axis in the horoscope chart. Capricorn, the Sign on the M.C. or Midheaven, is at the top of a natural horoscope wheel, and is considered the Natural Ruler of the Tenth House of Career, Social Standing, Status, and Material Success -- all things that have to do with the outside world of work and society. Cancer, the Sign on the I.C., is at the bottom of the natural horoscope wheel, and is considered the Natural Ruler of the Fourth House of Home and Family, and one's Personal Past, especially early childhood.

In the stereotyped "nuclear family", the "breadwinner" is the father, who goes out in the world (the Tenth House ruled by Capricorn) to work to earn the money to bring home to his family and buy food and clothing and pay for their shelter, the home. The mother is the "home-maker", who stays at home (the Fourth House, ruled by Cancer) to nurture the children and care for the home and cook the meals for the father and the children and herself. She may also nurture the hard-working father when he comes home, and be his emotional support.

The father is the one who is called upon to go out and investigate a sound at night that might indicate a burlgar is invading the home, and generally to protect the family and the home when anything threatens their well-being or security or safety. The mother also protects her children, and may protect the father in an emotional sense by defending his feelings from attacks by others, such as gossip or slander. She may even protect him from his own feelings which a male is not as well-equipped to deal with as a female, or nurture him emotionally by being a sympathetic and caring support when he is feeling insecure or emotionally upset.

These "key words" or symbolic themes like "protect" and "safety" and "security" are symbolically similar to The Crab which is the animal symbol for the Sign of Cancer. Just looking at these traits of the crab with his protective outer shell shows you some similar traits of Cancer types of people. The crab is not a predator who attacks his prey, but is a passive scavenger of food that only needs to be picked up. He will not be aggressive unless his safety his threatened, or if his security (his food or his home) is threatened; but then watch out! You will have an angry crab ready to pinch you with his claws.

Another "crab quality" which is symbolically similar to Cancer types of humans is the tendency to "cling" to things and not let go even when it might be wise to let go of something, or to hold onto painful memories and past hurts which are best left in the past. Cancer types have a tendency to be "clinging" in their relationships to people they care for. In romance, they can be "clinging vines". With their children, they can cling too long and not "cut the apron strings" and let them go when they are grown up. Cancer mothers often regard their grown-up children as still being their "child" or "baby", and may treat the adult as if he or she were still a child.

If you have ever confronted a crab and let him get his pincer on your finger or your clothes, you may find he will stubbornly cling to you even when he would be smarter to run away before you get frustrated enough to kill him just to get him off you. This kind of frustrated feeling can sometimes come up in children of a Cancer parent who will just not let go when they have grown up, and continues to meddle in their life or tries to control or protect them as if they were still children who were not cabable of making their own choices in life. The film "Throw Momma Off the Train" starring Danny DeVito portrays an extreme example of this kind of frustration with a mother who just won't let go.

Cancer types, especially people with Moon in Cancer, have a tendency to cling to the Past too much, or to cling to things which have sentimental value or emotional attachments, or remind them of their Past. This is why Cancer types are often "pack rats", or have a huge collection of family photos or past events, or keep a scrapbook, or furnish their homes (especially their kitchen or dining room or bedroom) with antique furniture or furniture and heirlooms handed down from their parents or ancestors.

They find it hard to part with the Past, or anything that reminds them of their Past or triggers fond memories or sentimental feelings. They also tend to "live in the Past" by clinging to past hurts and past memories of their sweethearts or their children when they were babies or cute children. Some Cancer types, especially people with Mercury in Cancer, love to talk about their past, their children, their family members, or their treasured keepsakes; and often they can quote almost word-for-word what someone said in a past conversation which has some emotional meaning for them. Warm fuzzy feelings are important to Cancer types, and they like to re-live them in their imagination or by talking about them.

I could go on with a long explanation of how the animal symbols for Scorpio and Pisces are symbolically similar to people with planets in those Signs, but I think you already get the idea of how the animal symbol of those eight Signs is a symbolic figure which best portrays some of the qualities of the Sign is symbolizes. If you learn to think symbolically, you will find it a lot easier to remember the typical traits of each Sign, and also find you come up with new ways of looking at and understanding WHY people act in a certain way when you understand the symbolic MEANING of the Sign where their Sun or Moon or Ascendant or other planets is located in their birth horoscope.

Scorpio the Scorpion

I'll just end this explanation with an interesting example of an animal trait symbolizing a human tendency. The Scorpion is an eight-legged little creature that looks something like a flattened lobster or crayfish, but has a tail which curls up and over its back and contains a stinger that can inflict a deadly poison. The Scorpion has a hard shell like The Crab, and pincers like a crab, but it also has this stinger which can kill its attackers - and also can kill itself. Apparently, when a scorpion is backed into a situation from which it cannot possibly escape, it may actually sting itself to death! This does not imply that Scorpio types have a tendency to be suicidal, though they may have a greater tendency towards destruction of themselves or their "enemies" than the other Signs.

The symbolic quality which scorpions and Scorpio types share is that of "destructive" or even "self-destructive" behaviour. A positive expression of this quality would be a surgeon cutting out diseased parts from his patient's body to save his life, or a demolition man blowing up an old tenement building to make way for a newer and better home for low-income people.

But a Scorpio type who is holding onto hate or feelings of vindictiveness and revenge can become so obsessed with figuratively or literally "destroying" the perceived perpetrator of their pain and suffering, that he may actually "destroy" his own possessions, his own livelihood, his normal "life", or even his own body, in an insane effort to destroy his "enemies".

A kamikaze pilot of World War II would be an extreme example of this kind of self-destructive behaviour -- flying his plane with its load of bombs right into an enemy aircraft carrier "stings" the enemy but also "stings" the pilot to death in the crash and explosion. There is a brand of missile used by the American military called a "Stinger" which acts pretty much like a kamikaze aircraft, and it is interesting to notice the symbolic similarities between the self-destructive behaviour of the deadly missile and the self-destructive behaviour of the deadly scorpion animal symbol for the Sign of Scorpio.

Scorpio types are often feared and are generally misunderstood, probably because of the symbolic association of Scorpio with the Scorpion and the cycle of "life and death" (and don't forget "re-birth"). But there are many fine qualities of the Sign of Scorpio too, some of which are healing and spirituality and charisma. For every Charles Mansion, there is a Billy Graham. Yes, both of these men, the "sinner" and the "saint", the evil-doer and the evangelist, have Sun in Scorpio! So try to give those misunderstood and maligned Scorpios the benefit of the doubt, and don't think they are all like Charles Manson or the Scorpionic men often portrayed by the actor Mickey Rourke in films like "9-1/2 Weeks". Life with a Scorpio can be "hell", but it is just as likely to be "heaven", or maybe a little of both! With Scorpios, there is no in-between - it's all or nothing - and you might want to remember that when you get involved with a Scorpio type.

(c)1997 by Michael Star

"More of Kelly's Questions" are answered in each weekly issue of STAR SIGNS Astrology Zine, starting Monday, May 26 1997. Look in the |What's NEW| section of the |HOME| page for the latest weekly topic.

Next question: 3. How did you become interested in astrology?

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First Published JUN 02 1997. Updated MAR 26 1997 12:00 EST.< /p>

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(c)1997 Michael Star, Astrologer
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