Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

"Praise ye Him, O sun and moon: praise Him, all ye stars and light''


The great Jesuit scholar, Athanasius Kircher (A.D. 1602-1680), a metaphorial and literal "Renaissance Man," wrote that this sign was first known, at least among those of Coptic Egypt, as Κλαρια, the Bestia seu Statio Typhonis -- "the Power of Darkness," a fact symbolized by the stars that make up this constellation being very dim. But even the Greek understanding of this constellation is interesting: they saw it as a crab -- but not just any crab. They saw it as the crab that seized Hercules -- the third decan of Scorpius, and symbol of Christ -- by the foot -- a foot which Hercules uses to crush it in return. This so easily brings to mind the words of Genesis 3:15:

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.

Just after the marriage of the Lamb in the Apocalypse, foretold by Capricornus and fulfilled with Gemini, we're told of the final battle between Christ and the powers of darkness. Apocalypse 20:7-15, 21:6-8

And when the thousand years shall be finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go forth, and seduce the nations, which are over the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, and shall gather them together to battle, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they came upon the breadth of the earth, and encompassed the camp of the saints, and the beloved city.

And there came down fire from God out of heaven, and devoured them; and the devil, who seduced them, was cast into the pool of fire and brimstone, where both the beast And the false prophet shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

And I saw a great white throne, and one sitting upon it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away, and there was no place found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hell gave up their dead that were in them; and they were judged every one according to their works. And hell and death were cast into the pool of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the pool of fire...

...And He said to me: It is done. I am Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end. To him that thirsteth, I will give of the fountain of the water of life, freely. He that shall overcome shall possess these things, and I will be his God; and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

With the Sign of Cancer, we're told that at the end of time, the powers of darkness are rendered harmless forever! Christ and His Bride are left to reign in perfect joy!

The crab as a creature is interesting, too, when thinking of them in relation to the powers of darkness. The phrase "like crabs in a barrel" refers to the propensity of crabs to prevent other crabs from escaping when they are trapped. Put crabs in a barrel, and when one tries to escape, another will pull it back down inside. This shows the tenacity of demons and of humans under their influence. The former seethe with hatred for the Light Who is Christ and for all who follow Him; the latter will try to keep people from the Light as a psychological defense mechanism; those who escape the clutches of evil's claws show up those who refuse grace. They act as reminders of the evildoers' darkness, so those who are under the spell of the Evil One often do all they can to keep others in the dark and disrupt their journey on the path of holiness.

Asides: in the constellation of Cancer is an open cluster, a grouping of thousands of stars that are believed to have been born together and which are bound together by gravity. This cluster is sometimes known as "the Beehive Cluster," but its older, more common name is Praesepe -- Latin for "Manger." It was named this by the ancient Greeks and Romans because they saw in it a manger from which two donkeys -- the star systems Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis -- were eating. But we Christians have a different view of what a manger can signify, and here is where things get poetic: the Manger can be seen first, low on the Eastern horizon, in December, the month of the Nativity. At the same time, on the opposite horizon, the Northern Cross (also called Cygnus), the third decan of Aquarius, can be seen. The two together remind us that God was born into this world in order to die for us. It is by Him that we escape the darkness that Cancer symbolizes.

Just North of Cancer is a small, newer constellation called "Lynx." In it can be found APM 08279+5255 -- a quasar -- i.e., a black hole, many millions times larger than the Sun, surrounded by spiraling gases that emit enormous amounts of electromagnetic radiation -- in this case, enough radiation to equal a thousand trillion Suns. This quasar is also surrounded by a huge mass of water -- the greatest mass of water ever seen, a mass of 100 trillion times more water than is found on Earth. This discovery shows that water's been found in the Universe since at least very, very early on in its existence (if not from the beginning). Pondering this might help us better understand Genesis 1:6-8: "And God said: Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters: and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made a firmament, and divided the waters that were under the firmament, from those that were above the firmament, and it was so. And God called the firmament, Heaven; and the evening and morning were the second day."

Decan One: Ursa Minor

The first and second decans of Cancer represent a Little Bear and a Great Bear, respectively. But it's the asterisms these constellations contain that are relevant here. In each is a wagon -- also known as the Little Dipper and the Big Dipper, also respectively. The former was seen as the "Women's Wagon," and the latter as the "Men's Wagon," and old tradition relates how those "wagons" were actually funeral biers. The "bowl" parts of these asterisms were seen as the biers themselves, and the stars that make up their handles were seen as mourners. The "second death" spoken of in the Apocalypse has come. "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the pool of fire."

These constellations are believed by some to be the ones typically treated as being referred to in Job. From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

In the Book of Job — the most distinctively astronomical part of the Bible — mention is made, with other stars, of Ash and Ayish, almost certainly divergent forms of the same word. Its signification remains an enigma. The Vulgate and Septuagint inconsistently render it "Arcturus" and Hesperus". Abenezra (1092-1167), however, the learned Rabbi of Toledo, gave such strong reasons for Ash, or Ayish, to mean the Great Bear, that the opinion, though probably erroneous, is still prevalent. It was chiefly grounded on the resemblance between ash and the Arabic na 'ash, "a bier", applied to the four stars of the Wain, the three in front figuring as mourners, under the title of Benāt na 'ash, "daughters of the bier". But Job, too, speaks of the "children of Ayish", and the inference seems irresistible that the same star-group was similarly referred to in both cases.

Note: the star at the tip of the Little Dipper's handle, in Ursa Minor, is Polaris, the star that always points to true North.

Decan Two: Ursa Major

See above.

Decan Three: Argo

Argo Navis, the great ship, has, in modern times, been divided up into four separate constellations, all named for parts that make up the ship: Carina (the Keel), Vela (the Sails), Pyxis (Compass), and Puppis (the Stern). Argo, treated by the Greeks as the ship that bore Jason in his search for the golden fleece, can be seen as the Ark of the Church. While the first two decans of Cancer represent the female and male damned respectively, this decan represents those whose names are written in the book of life, those who've escaped "the second death."

M. W. Ovenden, in an article called, "The Origin of Constellations," found in the July 1966 issue of The Philosophical Journal, writes that this constellation was

often shown in early representations as though atop a mountain. Coming from the ship is the Centaur, a man-animal, sacrificing a Beast upon the Altar. We see, too, the Water-snake (Hydra) with a Raven (Corvus) eating its flesh. There can be no doubt that here we have, in imagination pictured in the sky, a version of the story of Noah and the Flood. The picture is complete with the Milky Way seeming to rise as smoke from the Altar.

And all Catholics know that the ark of Noe (Noah) is a type of the Church, the means of salvation.

We'll read about Hydra and Corvus as the first and third decans of Leo, our next Zodiacal sign.

To sum up, what we have with Cancer and its decans is the Last Judgment, with the condemned on their funeral biers, and the saved safe in the Ark of the Church.

Cancer can be seen from December through June.


Cancer relative to other stars in the Spring sky:

Table of Contents

The Zodiac


A Tour of the Heavens

Envisioning the Celestial Sphere

The Constellations of the Zodiac












Summary and a Few Odds and Ends

The Traditional Catholic View of Astrology

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