The Book of Talismans, Amulets and Zodiacal Gems, by William Thomas and Kate Pavitt, , at sacred-texts.com
The Dark Sign—Its Duration—Origins—Summer Solstice—Hercules and the Crab—Characteristics—Goddess Esmeralda and the Ancient Peruvians—The Emerald Isle—Moonstones—Blue Moon—Pearls—Cat's Eyes—Rock Crystals—Crystal-gazing—Virtues of the Crystal.
Cancer, the fourth sign of the Zodiac, is situated in the northern celestial hemisphere; being composed of small stars, the brightest of which are only of the third magnitude, and very few visible to the naked eye, it was known in olden times as the dark sign, and is shown with its symbols in No. 4 of the coloured Frontispiece.
The Sun enters this sign on June 22nd, remaining in occupation up to and including July 23rd, being in that part of the Ecliptic highest above the Equator, marking midsummer.
Its name Cancer, meaning a Crab, is popularly supposed to have originated in the resemblance of its constellation to this crustacean, but the likeness is not at all obvious, even if it may once have existed, so that the name probably had its origin from some other cause.
The earliest known illustration of this symbol is very like the Egyptian Scarab, many antiquarians favouring this as the real symbol, it having been used as an emblem of resurrection for over 3000 years B.C., and as this sign marked the resurrection of the earth from the Flood which ended in the preceding Zodiacal sign Gemini, the Beetle or Scarab is sometimes shown placed in the centre of the Crab's back. The significance of this, the new world bearing its symbol of eternity, is not so very surprising when we remember that the Zodiac characterised highly developed religious ideas.
The beginning of the sign ♋ is called the Tropic of Cancer, and when the Sun arrives within this sign it has reached its utmost limit of north declination and seems to remain stationary a few days before it begins to decline again to the south. This stationary altitude is called the Summer Solstice, or "Sun standing still"; and the Hindus, having derived their knowledge of the stars principally from the Chaldeans, used the Crab as symbolic of this House, as in order to move forward it is compelled, as it were, to walk backwards, which illustrates the apparent motion of the Sun when it commences to move backwards towards the Equator.
In Ancient Mythology we are told that this constellation
was formed by a Crab placed in the heavens by the goddess Juno as a reward for the sacrifice of its life which it lost in an attack on Hercules in her service, and so earned its translation to the celestial domains.
Cancer, being the Zodiacal House of the Moon, is much under her influence. It is the first of the watery signs and presides over the Ocean; subjects born during this period, because of their receptive and plastic natures, may be said to reflect the influences of their surroundings like the sea. Impressionable, yet tenacious, they are well symbolised by the Crab, as their tenacity when roused is remarkable, requiring little prompting to move them to determined action; but owing to the changeability of their moods, alternately hopeful and depressed, they often surprise their friends by suddenly letting opportunities slip just when success is within their grasp. They appreciate congenial society, but can be quite happy alone, and most intensely do they object to having their plans or arrangements made for them.
They are keenly interested in the domestic side of life, this sign representing the principles of home life; family ties and duties are in consequence more keenly felt by this type than by any other, and old friendships or associations are held sacred.
Children born during this period are very sensitive to the physical and mental conditions of others, and if forced to live with natures that are inharmonious and not in sympathy with them, their vitality is readily depleted and they become nervous, listless, and morbid. For this reason children should never sleep with the elderly or ailing.
Strongly imaginative and reserved, they are at times mistrustful, over-anxious, and exacting; and so great is their tendency to experience every kind of sensation, that when badly aspected by the planets of their horoscope their feelings amount to an obsession, and from the overdevelopment of their intuitional faculties they become the subjects of presentiments and delusions. When their characters are well developed and their erratic tenacity made consistent, they become firm-willed and reliant, with clear keen intellects and strong intuitions capable of high accomplishments. Although generally quiet and reserved, brilliant conversationalists are sometimes found among them. Where clans and sects meet they will be found, and they form no small portion of the intellectual members of secret societies and mystic and occult communities. They greatly appreciate old customs, curios, books, and relics of the past, their faculty of imagination placing
them pre-eminently above all other types in the realms of poesy and fancy. They are keen observers of Nature in all her changing moods, and in the solitude of woods, or by shady lane, stream, and hedgerow they can best recover their balance when out of conceit with a practical and unsympathetic world.
This sign has given us some of our greatest composers and writers of romance. As a rule their work is spasmodic, but energetic whilst the fit lasts or when spurred by approbation, but slackens when the mood has passed or the incentive is removed.
They succeed best in professions or employments affecting the public, as authors, artists, musicians, politicians, and clairvoyants. They also make good naval officers and sailors, and do well in professions connected with the sea and liquids.
They will be most in harmony with people born during the periods of Taurus, Virgo, Scorpio, and Pisces.
The fortunate gems for this House are the Emerald, Moonstone, Pearl, Cat's Eye, and Crystal.
The Emerald held a very high place in the esteem of the Ancients, and no other precious stone has probably been the subject of so much regard and admiration, one of its principal charms
being its brilliant green colour. Very curious are some of the traditions connected with it.
In the first place, it is interesting to note that this gem being the Zodiacal stone of Cancer, the Crab was thought to have the same healing powers as the Oculi Cancrorum, or Crab's Eye ointment, prescribed in olden days as a cure for ulcerous sores.
Emeralds are found in Siberia, India, the United States, and Mexico, and the belief that demons and griffins guarded the mines is said to be as strong amongst the Peruvians of the present time as in the days of the Romans.
The origin of the word Emerald is from a Sanskrit word meaning green, it being thought that there was nothing in Nature to equal its colour and brilliancy, and it was an old Hebrew belief that if a serpent fixed its eye upon the lustre of this stone it would become blind.
The cause of its beautiful green tint has been attributed by some scientists to the presence of oxide of chromium, by others to copper, whilst in 1848 an experimenter believed it to be derived from an organic matter called chlorophyl, similar to the colouring substance of the leaves of plants.
Pizarro, in his conquest of Mexico, found numerous Emeralds of surpassing beauty; but d’Acosta, a contemporary writer, states that
many of the finest stones were ruined by the Spanish soldiers, who, being informed by a priest that to test their genuineness they should be placed upon an anvil and struck with a hammer, followed these instructions with most disastrous results.
The Incas possessed some wonderful Emeralds; one (described by de la Viga) as large as the egg of an ostrich, was believed to be inhabited by Esmeralda, the chief goddess of Peru. When sacking her temples the Spaniards discovered immense quantities of Emeralds, it being customary for her priests to obtain them by representing to the worshippers that these gems were esteemed by the goddess above all else, Emeralds being her own daughters.
Emeralds were known and esteemed in most remote times of the world's history, and are to be met with amongst even Egyptian and Etruscan remains. Faith in its virtues and qualities exist amongst the Orientals to the present time, representing to them hope in immortality, courage and exalted faith, and protection from pestilence, as well as a preserver of eyesight, its efficacy being increased by a verse from the Koran engraved upon it.
In India it is believed to confer the gift of memory and a knowledge of secrets and future
events. Frequently used in the decorations of sacred images, and is endowed by the Indians with very high attributes.
The Romans believed that nothing evil could remain in the presence of this gem which discovered falsehood and treachery by changing colour and turning pale, and when powerless to avert misfortune would fall from its setting, giving rise to the belief that the falling of this gem is a bad omen.
This stone was also considered very beneficial to the eyes, on which account it was worn as a seal ring; in connection with this Pliny states: "If the sight hath been dimmed and wearied by intense poring upon anything, the beholding of this stone doth refresh and restore it again." It is also recorded that Nero, who was very shortsighted, used an emerald eye-glass to watch the gladiatorial contests. Probably from its connection with the Moon, which rules the House of Cancer (and was the goddess of midwives), it was considered particularly fortunate for women at childbirth, and was held to promote constancy and domestic felicity.
Worn in a ring it strengthens the memory and protects from giddiness; it was also said to guard sailors and fishermen from perils and mishaps at sea if suspended round the neck so as to lie upon the
breast (the part of the body ruled by Cancer). It taught unknown secrets, and bestowed eloquence and renown, and, in the words of Miss Landon, an English poetess:
It should, however (being a very sensitive gem), be only worn by those whose birthdays fall between the 22nd of June and July 23rd, or by those with the Moon in good aspect.
The Moonstone.—The Moonstone is a variety of Feldspar and, as its name suggests, is considered to be in close affinity with the Moon, because its pale lustrous blue colour resembles moonlight, which is believed by the natives of India to give the stone its colour. Indians believe that the best variety of the blue Moonstones are washed up by the tides when the Sun and Moon are in very harmonious relation, at intervals of twenty-one years (three periods of the Moon whose number is seven), and from this has arisen the saying of "Once in a blue moon"—to express a lengthy period.
It was known to the Ancients as Selenite, and Camillus Leonardus says it is powerful in reconciling
lovers, and helpful to consumptives when the Moon is increasing in light, but when the Moon is waning, its stone will only enable its wearer to foretell future happenings; he also tells us that if the Moonstone be held in the mouth it will decide which affair should be taken in hand and which left alone; if to be undertaken, the matter is
r firmly fixed on the mind; if not, it passes out and is soon forgotten.
Pliny asserted that this stone contained an image of the Moon which waxed or waned according to the state of that luminary.
The virtues attributed to this stone were to protect from harm and danger in travelling by sea and land; to give mental inspiration, and to bring success and good fortune in love; also to preserve its wearer against dropsy and other watery diseases to which the Cancer type is liable.
Pearls.—Amongst all nations Pearls have ever been considered the most beautiful products of Nature, but having their origin in a living organism cannot be called a precious stone. Most scientists are agreed that Pearls are formed in the endeavour of certain bivalves to obtain relief from the irritation caused by some foreign substance which has penetrated the shell and which the Oyster, by covering with a pearly secretion, forms into a beautiful gem.
The idea that Pearls are symbolic of tears arose from this fact, and illustrates the old adage that the most noble achievements have their origin in painful and enduring effort. Nowadays in the Pearl Fisheries, particularly in the Bay of Ago, (Japan,) foreign matter is intentionally introduced into the shell, but the results do not equal the Pearls found as the outcome of natural influences, a considerable time being required to bring them to perfection.
Pearls are extremely hard, and the well-known story of Cleopatra's Pearl cannot be believed, unless the Pearl was first ground to powder, as any acid sufficiently strong to dissolve a Pearl would be fatal to human life.
Among Eastern nations this gem is credited with the power of preserving the purity of their wearers, and as an emblem of maidenly purity. The Romans also set a high value on Pearls, consecrating them to Isis, and wearing them for her favours. Pearls were also made into a decoction with distilled water and given to lunatics to restore their reason. In China Pearls are powdered and taken as medicine for syncope and stomachic ailments.
The occult properties of the Pearl in olden times caused them to be worn as Amulets by divers as a protection against sharks.
This gem is, however, considered unfortunate for those in love, and if worn by the married signified "torrents of tears," and for this reason is seldom used in engagement rings, even at the present day.
The Cat's Eye.—The Cat's Eye, a semi-transparent stone of the Chrysoberyl family, has a distinct ray of light running across it, which ray has been compared to a drop of water enclosing a beam of light. It is most commonly translucent, of a milky-white colour, but is also found in shades of yellow, red, and brown. It has always been greatly valued in India, where it is regarded not only as a bringer of wealth, but a Talisman to prevent its owner's gain diminishing. The Cat's Eye is also considered powerful against the terrors of the night; it will relieve asthma if hung round the neck, also helps babies suffering from croup, and it is also worn for mental balance, foresight, and general attractiveness. As a popular charm for success in speculation, gambling, and games of chance, it is said to have no equal.
The Crystal.—Rock Crystal is a form of quartz, clear and transparent, the name Crystal coming from a Greek word signifying "frozen water" or "clear ice." The magical powers of revealing the hidden secrets of the future supposed to exist in the ball of Crystal is of very ancient
origin; and it is said that Saint Augustine believed that Crystal-gazing, as it is called, originated in Persia.
The Moon, the ruler of the House of Cancer, has direct influence upon the intuitive faculties of the brain, through which seers visualise events foreshadowed in the Crystal; making it peculiarly appropriate and sympathetic to subjects of this type, so that it is not surprising that this sign produces some of the best seers. Pliny states that Roman physicians also used the ball of Crystal for cauterising purposes, holding it against the rays of the Sun; they also used them applied externally as a remedy for diseases of the kidneys.
Those whose birthdays fall within the periods of Aries or Libra, however, should not wear the Emerald, Moonstones, Pearls, Cat's Eyes, or Crystal, as they would not be in harmony with these gems.