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VMs: Cancer as a crayfish
Cancer as a crayfish (the word 'crawfish' came much later and means the
In the baptistry of the Cathedral of Parma, XIIIth century, Cancer is
represented by a crayfish (Astacoidea). In other medieval zodiacs, the tail
of the lobsterlike creature is overlaid with the halo of the archangel
Gabriel, seeking to link baptism with the spiritual world.
Another sample, in the Ragione palace, in Padua:
In tarot symbology, the crayfish has also been used to represent Pisces (!).
It was also considered a symbol of prudence and tenacity. As Robert Firch
well points out in his notes, there is perhaps a possible hint of a French
origin - indeed, see the crayfish as Cancer in The Book of Hours, Use of
Rouen, in Latin and French; c. 1500, in the Bodleian:
Also, note the crayfish as Cancer in the Zodiac on the west front of the
cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris.
More on the origin of Cancer as a crayfish (and several depictions):
Another nice early zodiac (San Miniato, XIth Century):
Interestingly, in general, the sign/symbol for Cancer (a sort of 69
sideways) involves two characters, not one. As noted by some, it could be a
picture of two crabs moving sideways, but more likely it could be one crab
with its two pincers.
Do we still not have any single medieval zodiac example where Cancer is
represented by a duality of crabs or crayfish? Just curious to see if there
was any update to what feedback may have generated the 'Sky & Telescope'
article and Rene's (1998?) call for candidates...