If you are a Cancer female, it is probably best if you don’t read any astrological books written before the 1970s. Cancer has been associated with the mother forever, sure, but for a long time there wasn’t really anything else a woman was supposed to do. Male Cancers got to be historians and inventors, but for the women it was just breed, breed, breed. The descriptions of our personality range from the insulting (“overly emotional,” “irrational,” etc) to the insulting (“nurturing,” “good mothers”). One risks breaking a toe kicking the wall or perhaps choking to death on one’s own vomit.
This carries over into the contemporary, of course, depending on your chart reader’s views of women. I have a super loaded fifth house, and have been told by various people that this means I will have many children (ha). And because I have a Cancer Sun and Jupiter, I must have a close and friendly relationship with my mother (HA HA HA). When we are dealing with archetypes, it is very easy for people to project their own nonsense into those blank spaces.
Mystic mentioned, though, another kind of sexism in those older books, those dealing with outer planet energy. A man with a strong Neptune will be an imaginative creator, a woman with a strong Neptune will be a deluded twit at the mercy of her own fantasies. Uranian male: genius. Uranian female: insane. I dragged out some of my own texts to take a look — she was right. I had usually mostly given up on these books before getting to that point.
I started to wonder why that might be. Rather than go into a, all men are terrible and secretly hate women snit, I began to think what else might be different from men’s experiences and women’s experiences.
What exactly does a strong blast of Neptune do? It feeds creativity, it can create elaborate dream worlds, it can offer a connection to the divine realms. But it can also cause hallucinations, create fantasy escapist realms, and addiction to substances. The difference is not only our free will. It’s not simply that we choose what to do with that state, that’s the kind of thinking that leads to “think nice thoughts and you can get rid of your cancer” kinds of things.
The difference is in the support that you have. What outlets you have for that energy. What kind of education, social support, livable environment, and options for movement and adaptation you have. Women for a very long time had one or two options on hand. They could get married or they could join the church. They weren’t educated, they weren’t given creative outlets, they did not have control of their own money. And so a blast of Neptune for a man, who had the educational background and institutional support and society’s acceptance, could funnel that energy into painting. Women, who were told be pretty and birth babies, might respond to that same energy, that would become pent up and blocked, would run straight for the laudanum.
And hey, we lost some of our best men to this energy. It’s why some of our greatest Uranian mathematicians and inventors ended up in mental institutions or hanged themselves from the rafters. But with very few outlets at all, you really don’t have a chance, it starts shredding you from the second the transit begins.
The failure of the astrologers is a failure to understand why women might be more vulnerable to the bad effects of a planet’s influence. It’s a bit like my racist hometown, who when Ferguson blew up in the neighboring state, said they couldn’t understand why the protestors couldn’t just go work at a Best Buy or something, get a real job, create a better environment. It must be because they didn’t want to. They didn’t understand (and they didn’t want to) the societal underpinnings and the lack of outlets and structural support. They didn’t see how extremely lucky they had been in their lives, because their lives were still hard. Surely if they had been born into privilege, they would have millions of dollars and everything would be easy for them.
We have free will, but we are also born into a context. And that puts limits on how we can respond to certain stimulus. The important thing is not to believe that your circumstances confine you completely, nor that your will creates the world you live in entirely. And not to believe, when you look out in the world, that your ratio of free will to context is the same as everyone else’s.
Jessa Crispin is the editor of Bookslut and Spolia, and her book, The Dead Ladies Project, will be released by the University of Chicago in 2015. If you’re interested in a tarot reading, specially designed for writers and other creatives, contact Jessa here.