The Constellation Cancer – Crab or Sheepfold?

By Katie Calonje – Talon staff writer

Cancer. When this word comes up most of you would probably think of the disease.

The constellation Cancer. Most images from the constellation stories this week have come from Wikipedia.

The constellation Cancer. Most images from the constellation stories this week have come from Wikipedia.

But there’s another meaning which is in the heavens above. Cancer is the name for a constellation that has been around for more than 1,000 years. Many times in life we don’t ever just stop to look around and appreciate what God gives us, or look up at the sky at night to just appreciate the beauty of the night.

Have you ever noticed the constellations?

Cancer is one of these constellations that has been around for centuries. It is between Gemini and Leo which makes it easier to find.

In most planispheres and in a Greek legend, the Cancer is recognized with the symbol of the large crab. Apparently Juno placed the crab among the signs as a reward for helping Hydra in a battle with Hercules where the crab bit his foot. Hercules then trod on the head of the crab.

Also another symbol people associate the constellation Cancer with is a Middle-eastern Inn. In past times many travelers would rest safely in an inn and it was a constellation that people could follow. Cancer means to Hold or Encircle in Latin and also means the same in Greek. The crab relates to the meaning of the word Cancer because the crab has the ability to hold tightly with its large claws.

But these stories aren’t really true representation of the constellation. In the book, Field Guide in the Night Sky by Mark R. Charttrand, it says it represents a sheepfold because in inside of the crab are the bees in which the crab holds. It can be interpreted in many different ways. Also some have interpreted it as Jesus gathering the gentiles as the inn because the crab gathers the bees. Some have even called it the manger because of the idea of a place being encircled.

Of the many conflicting mythologies regarding the constellation of Cancer, the sheepfold is one way in which some Christians in the past have interpreted this constellation’s symbolism. In John 10 it says, “To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” which goes along with the idea of being the constellation being like a sheepfold.

Seeing a constellation in such a unique way is by no means promoting astrology. It’s merely one potential biblical way to reinterpret our shared cultural mythology of what we know as the Zodiac.

This interpretation of a sheepfold seems to be the most accurate to me as well because it goes with Scripture, too. Next time you look up at the sky, try to look for the constellation Cancer think on what can be true, lovely, pure and good about it from the perspective of the Father of lights – the One who has named all the starry hosts and declared His glory in the heavens.