Friday, June 6, 2014

The Summer Signs

Cancer, Leo and Virgo

Article © 2014 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

In late 2012, I wrote about the Winter Signs. The winter triplets Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces are associated with the most contemplative, quiet time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, ushered in by the Winter Solstice. Now it’s time for the other Solstice to get its due—Summer.

Revisiting the trio of signs that make up any season helps understand the quarter of the year we’re entering and how to make the most of it. Welcome to the cusp of summerwinter’s complement and the extroverted time of year.

I love that two out of three of the summer signs are ruled by the Lights, the Sun and the Moon. The third sign, Virgo, is ruled by Mercury. Together, the summer trio’s rulers are first three bodies in the orderly line-up of planetary objects from our vantage point on earth. This third of the zodiac is concerned with how we shine (Sun), what we reflect (Moon) and how we reflect in another way—how we think and process information (Mercury).


While spring kicks off with fiery Aries action, summer starts with water and our relationship to the Moon: emotions, mother, nurturing, food, home and roots. Instinctively during this time of year, we return to the Mother of Us All, the Earth, for nurture and play. We spend more time outdoors. We revert to childhood. We sense what we should do by way of that very Cancerian, inner GPS we all own, the Moon in our astrology charts.

I found some fascinating Associations with Cancer, that I thought you’d enjoy—and I’ll add associations for the signs that follow, too. Each of these association pages on Signs of the Zodiac, Myths and Wisdom are an at-a-glance of many factoids about each sign, some obscure. For instance, I always suspected that turtles were associated with Cancer, as well as the crab, but I’d have never guessed the sphinx. Cancer’s alchemical purpose—dissolution—seems both ironic and right-on. It’s the opposite of the classical image of the Cancer mom who would kill to keep her home and family together.

That’s what transformation is about. We start out clinging to mother—or her to us—or both. To grow up, we have to dissolve that bond alchemically and create a new type of relationship with her. You’ll enjoy learning things from this list like Cancer’s tarot card, The Chariot, and her tree—the pear. (What’s that partridge doing in a pear tree in that winter holiday song?) I especially got a kick out of Cancer’s “weapon of choice,” a furnace. (A Cancer gone amok will kill you with burnt/bad cooking or incinerate you on the spot. We now know the Sun sign of the witch in the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. Aside from the fact that she wants to eat them, that Cancerian major pastime, the witch also wants to bake them in her oven/furnace.) Our fairy tales are replete with astrological imagery, archetypes as old as human history.

Summer synthesis: This is the time of year we venture away from family or with family to new places, in both literal and figurative ways. As a result, we change our relationship with them in some way. We dissolve our usual patterns to reform new ones. We often do it through play.

Kids go to camp away from Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad take the kids on a summer vacation. We miss each other or meet each other in a new way, either way. We play in Cancer’s element, water. Water dissolves.

No wonder we love summer. It starts with the sign of birth and nurturing and rebirth and replenishing. And yet something in us knows that childhood is not forever. We must defy our mothers, even a little, to begin the process of maturation and personal evolution. This never stops being true, as we always carry our mom or main nurturer in our heads.

What will you do this summer to defy Mom or Dad and claim a new piece of your freedom?

Ironic, isn’t it, that the USA—a Cancer country—celebrates Independence Day as its annual birthday party.


After we’ve tried our wings a little, extending ourselves beyond the reach of home, hearth and parents—literal or internalized—we are ready for the sign that celebrates our Me-ness, Leo. Ruled by the Sun itself, Leo is the middle sign of summer and at the center of its bell curve through time. No wonder it is yellow-orange, sunny and full of self-expression. It peaks in the season of heat and play.

We have to break the spell and the umbilical cord to some degree in order to be Free to Be You and Me, the name of that wonderful, classic children’s book by Marlo Thomas. In order to be full of ourselves, we’ve got to be a little less full of our parents’ influence. Thus Cancer’s alchemy of dissolving parental ties prepares us for Leo selfhood.

One of the funniest Leo lines in movies comes from Mel Brooks in his History of the World, Part 1. He says, “It’s good to be the king,” especially when he’s doing anything that no one else could get away with. In a sense, Leo time is about getting away with things, about letting ourselves be king or queen in some way, just as Leo is king of the jungle. I always enjoy when an older movie produced by MGM includes the roaring lion. He’s a big scary version of our house cats, yet everyone knows that in most cases, his roar is bigger than his bite or scratch—unless you mess with him or his family, something Cancer and Leo have in common. I think of them as the cosmic parents.

According to the Leo associations, Leo’s alchemy involves digestion. That sounded more Virgo to me, at first, until I thought it through. Leo is ruled by the Sun, the source of life itself on our planet. Without our Sun, we’d all die. What a responsibility. There’s something within Leo that has to stand back at some point and take in his enormous kingdom. He rules it all and his ruling Sun makes or breaks it all. That would be a lot for anyone to digest.

We have to take in the Shining Orb of Us and determine how we will shine and nurture the life around us that we have taken on in this incarnation as our “kingdom.” Digestion involves absorption. When someone acts “too Leo,” we say he or she is too “self-absorbed.”   A purely archetypal Sun Leo would be looking to find the right balance between being too self-absorbed, but proud and strong enough to be the Light around which others revolve.

During summer, each of us gets a bit of Solar Leo to remind us of this pure sunny archetype. We worship that Sun in our outdoor play, back to the beginning of human spirituality. Of course, each of us “does the Sun” in the style of our own Sun sign. Yet all of us have to meet these challenges of self-expression and leadership, of making sure we have absorbed both our own solar power and keep our light a shining beacon for us—and others.

Leo time is a time to strut, roar and eat/digest some great foods cooked on the fire. Again, our instincts are right on zodiacal cue.


Even though I’m a Virgo Sun (the Radical Virgo, even), it has taken me many years to own that my Sun sign is part of summer. I was born eight hours from the autumn equinox, and being a planner who tends to lean into the future, I have always considered myself an autumn person. I am actually a late summer person, nearly as late as you can get. (I thank Chinese medicine and acupuncture for convincing me, finally, that I have the chronic physical strengths and weaknesses the of the Late Summer constitution.)

During the month of Virgo, many people go back to work or school and generally buy into the idea that summer’s over on Labor Day, the first Monday in September. Like me, the whole world seems to hurry autumn, when summer is not officially over until September 22 or 23.

You’d think when summer is so much fun, we’d want to cling to it rather than rush headlong into the harvest. I think we’re just avoiding the next alchemical step of summer associated with Virgo—distillation. This idea, covered in Virgo’s associations, is all about synthesizing for future use what we got out of summer. My first spiritual teacher called summer the inner growing season. No matter how big we are, in order to really grow, we have to go home and write that report, What I Did on My Summer Vacation. And if what we did in school is a proper analogy (of course, it’s proper—it’s Virgo!), we need to share our experience with others.

I think we often would rather bury ourselves back in work or school than face the meaning of, and often our feelings about, our summer romance or what happened to us out there in that freer time of the year where our inner child had its heyday. Instead of mourning the freedom we lost, we can celebrate the insights we’ve gained. That takes some alone time and often comes best out of writing or journaling to distill the essence of our personal growing season. That’s why our wise teachers asked us to write those experiential equivalents of a book report. (And if you did any summer beach reading, your teacher might add that assignment, too.)

Play, be yourself, and report what you learned are the three simple steps for making the most out of summer.

May your summer be full of freedom, creativity and meaning.

Photo Credits: Sun and Moon and Zodiac Signs © goccedicolore -

Experiential playwork: Explore the Associations lists in this article. See what jumps out at you as new or just catches your eye strongly. What do you learn new about the summer signs? Thanks for sharing your ahas in the Comments.


Cameron said...

This is an insightful, incisive synopsis on the summer months and signs, and how to utilize the energies effectively. Your perspectives will definitely enhance my summer experience -- thank you!

Joyce Mason said...

It's always wonderful to hear from you, Cameron. I'm delighted to know that I helped boost your summer enjoyment.

Happy Playtime,