The Mode of Cancer: Determined to nurture and protect

Cancer is one of the water signs of the Zodiac, but so are Pisces and Scorpio. If that is the case, why are those signs so different from one other? What makes Cancer so distinct? For part of this answer, we need to take a peek into the modalities, or Cancer’s mode.

Cancer’s mode is cardinal. The cardinal modality is that of initiation and a push toward something new. This ambitious energy influences Cancer to seek out new emotional experiences for themselves and others. Cardinal mode inspires the very nurturing Cancer to add feelings where there once none.

Keep reading to learn about how the cardinal mode impacts Cancer and what this modality may mean for you!

man decorating a doll house with his daughter, illustrating cancer mode

How the Cardinal Mode Comes Out in Cancer

The cardinal modality represents the start of a new season. For Cancer, this is the beginning of summer. The earth warms from its dip toward the sun, and the soul seems to warm, too. In summer you just seem to feel more intensely. You may be excited for that first jump in the pool or catching the first fish of the season. But you could also be miserable from a 100-degree day and feeling grumpy from feeling like every part of you is sweating. This resembles the cardinal modality playing out in Cancer.

Cancer may not seem that much of a go-getter in the sense that they may not be ambitious to push themselves to new heights at work and they may not be excited to be the first to climb a mountain. This actually may not appeal to Cancer whatsoever! But the cardinal modality is still present in Cancer and is visible in Cancer’s area of expertise, emotions. Cancer initiates the expression and feeling of emotion into environments, relationships, and situations where none existed before. It’s like they can sense “Hey, there are no emotions here. I will add some!” This is still constructive and ambitious, traits that come directly from the cardinal mode.

Three other signs of the Zodiac also share this cardinal mode, Aries, Capricorn, and Libra. However, Cancer is the only water sign among these. Even though they share the cardinal mode, it plays out differently in each of the signs.

Empathetic and Deep

The element of Cancer is water and to experience a water sign is to experience an incredible depth of emotional intelligence. Water signs are not signs that experience the world first through logic or facts. They experience the world by feeling their way through it. In order to do this well, water signs possess a wider range of emotional “vocabulary” than the other signs. They feel deeper and with a greater level of complexity.

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For a Cancer and all of the water signs, their native language is emotion. Cancer comes off as incredibly empathetic, partly because they can “read” or “feel” the emotion in others so well. Sometimes it may seem like they can pinpoint what someone else is feeling more than that person can, especially if they are a very logical air or earth sign.

This combination of cardinal and water energy influences Cancer to not just wait for matters of the heart to fall in their lap. Instead, they go out looking for them or bring emotions to the table themselves. Cancer’s natural state is a search for feeling.

two women having coffee at their dinner table with their daughter

Nurturing and Comfortable

The ruler of Cancer is the Moon, the planet of the unconscious and emotional. The Moon adds an even stronger emphasis on feelings to this mix of ambition and initiation from the cardinal modality and emotions and soulfulness from the water element. This combination helps to make Cancer one of the most intensely emotional signs of the Zodiac.

As a water element with a cardinal modality, Cancer runs on emotions. One way it expresses this is through its ability to nurture others in a way that seems to be nearly infinite. They are incredibly giving, supportive, loving, and warm. The Moon aids in supplying Cancer with a healthy dose of “mothering” energy. This doesn’t mean literally being someone’s mom, but it describes the type of unconditional and never-ending love that a mother has for their child. Cancer has the potential to care for others to this degree and they are able to express their affection readily and easily.

The Moon loves comfort and it lends this trait to Cancer, as well. Discomfort is not something that they appreciate or seeks out. Cancer loves to be cozy, especially at home. The home is the domain of Cancer where they feel safe and are able to show their adoration to their family.

Cancer Goals

If the goal of Cancer had to be narrowed down to just one thing, it would be to experience emotions to the greatest and widest degree as it can. For Cancer to feel all of the feels, they also have to let themselves be vulnerable. This is a conundrum. Finding a healthy balance between opening itself up to the possibility of unpleasant feelings without destroying itself is the puzzle that Cancer is here to figure out.

Within this goal, the act of leading with emotion is the cardinal mode expressing itself in Cancer. The water element assists Cancer in its goal by providing it with an incredible depth of emotion, and the Moon doubles down, giving Cancer an unmatched fluency in feelings. To know a Cancer is to know someone who is intensely emotional, and that is what they are here to do.

mother and father with son reading a book on their bed, illustrating cancer mode

Cancer Strengths

Each sign of the Zodiac comes equipped with a specific set of needs and motivations. Many astrologers feel as though each sign also brings to the table a toolbox of traits that help people to achieve their evolutionary goals. If you describe the characteristics of each sign, some of what you would describe would be those tools in action.

For Cancer, if the goal is to feel as much as possible without self-destructing, they would need some tools to assist them with that. One of these tools is devotion.

It would very difficult to build a deep and intense emotional connection with someone if you are fickle in your love and friendships. To be able to experience the full spectrum of feelings that come out in a relationship, you must be in it for the long haul, and Cancer is prepared to do that. They are equipped with an endless supply of affection, support, and tenderness for the people in their lives and can be at times quite selfless.

Another strength Cancer brings to aid them is their ability to protect themselves. There is no one more vulnerable than someone who is expressing their feelings to one and all. Cancer couldn’t just run around letting it all out constantly. Their emotional roller coaster would push away the very people they are trying to pull into their lives. Instead, they learn to protect their vulnerable side and let it out only when they feel safe. If they lead or speak directly from their heart Cancer at the wrong time or to the wrong people and Cancer runs the risk of being rejected and having their heart smashed, something they definitely do not want. This protection isn’t saved only for themselves. They are also more than willing to protect those they love or someone in need.

Cancer Challenges

Even the most gorgeous full moon has a dark side, and this also holds true for Cancer as each strength, when played out too far, can become a challenge. Enter the shadow of Cancer.

Devotion is such an endearing trait and this is truly part of what holds humankind together. However, too much devotion can be destructive, and an unbalanced Cancer can find this out the hard way. There are two ways that too much devotion can play out in a bad way. First, Cancer could find themselves devoting an endless amount of energy to someone who only takes and never gives in return. This person may not be trying to be malicious, but their soul may simply be so starved for love that they take all that they can get, even at Cancer’s expense.

Another outcome could be that Cancer showers its devotion to someone to such a degree that the other person feels smothered by it. Cancer’s devotion is a gift, but a gift that is unwanted isn’t really a gift at all. This unhealthy amount of attention may look like clinginess, which is taxing to Cancer and could push away their loved one. A healthy Cancer needs to take time to reflect on how they are caring for their own needs to make sure they aren’t giving too much of themselves away.

One other pitfall Cancer may encounter, if their protective nature is taken too far, is to completely close themselves off from the world. The lure of the home is strong for Cancer, and if they are too protective they may rarely leave it. This doesn’t help Cancer to achieve its goal, it makes it hard to pull others into their world, and it is a pretty lonely place to be.

Also, their protective measures could become extreme. Cancer is naturally very tender and caring, but for some, if you cross them or hurt their feelings, they will salt the earth. Emotions are intense for Cancer, and this includes all of them, happy, sad, angry, and everything in between. Anger can be fierce in a Cancer trying to protect itself, and if it comes out when it isn’t really necessary, can also push people away.

A balanced Cancer may need to take time to evaluate their reactions from time to time to ensure they aren’t hibernating at home and overly protecting themselves or lashing out more than they needed to.

Cancer Info

DatesJune 22 – July 22
SymbolThe crab
RulerThe Moon
ArchetypeThe mother
GoalTo experience the full spectrum of emotions
LovesHome, comfort, daydreaming, nurturing others
DislikesDiscomfort, rejection, loneliness
StrengthsDevotion, emotionally deep, protective, creative
ChallengesSmothering, hiding from the world, moody