I’m going to come back to the subject of sea monsters as there’s plenty to discuss but first I feel drawn towards a post about the crab. This is one of the cards in the Animal Allies Oracle Deck and so this post will form my thoughts about what that card means to me.
As with all my animal spirit posts, this is my personal feelings and not affiliated with the very talented Jessica Swift who created the deck.
One of the angles to approach the crab from is through the astrological sign of cancer. And this has been helpful to me in the past, but yesterday I learnt that the sign of cancer used to be represented by the turtle and that blew my mind. It really deepened my understanding of cancer and in doing so it also helped deepen my understanding of the crab card.
So, first a bit about the turtle… If this idea resonates with you I would recommend having a look at the turtle post as it’s more detailed.
- We have the idea of coming out of your shell, sticking your neck out, when you feel comfortable, when you are in a safe place or when you’re with your tribe.
- Links with the moon, and I’ll look at how the crab has ties with the moon in a bit, but for now it’s worth noting that the sign of cancer is ruled by the moon.
- Despite diving deep into the ocean, and the emotional world, the turtle still needs to come up to the surface to breathe. And cancer is a sign which is associated with the development of the self, of going into that emotional world.
- The turtle thrives in some environments and dies in others despite facing the same challenges and this feels like it could tie into the first point about comfort and feeling safe. Having your clan around you or starting from a secure (physical or emotional) base really affects how you meet challenges.
Ok. Back to the crab!
Crabs live in all of the world’s oceans, in fresh water and on land. They range in size from the tiny pea crab to the Japanese spider crab which has a leg span that can reach 18 foot from claw to claw… So maybe we still are thinking about sea monsters!
In general, crabs are covered in a thick exoskeleton, their shell, and this is an important part of the crab card. If you ponder nothing else when you draw this card, think about the shell.
Crabs tend to be aggressive creatures, fighting with each other over who gets the girl crab and over the best hiding holes. They communicate by drumming or waving their pincers, both of which could seem threatening to someone who speaks a different language.
However, when it comes to family, they have been known to work together to provide food, to protect he clan and to find a good spot for the female to release her eggs. This feels like it ties into the idea of the turtle and how it faces challenges differently depending on the environment (physical or other). In this case the crab is working cooperatively to protect and defend because it’s family is important.
Crabs tend to walk sideways, although some walk forwards or backwards, and some crabs can even swim. But the walking sideways may be a reminder that you can’t always head straight for the destination. Sometimes you need to go the long way round or try a different approach. Paths in life are rarely ones we can follow by walking forwards, we find we take detours, fall off the path, get distracted by another path, but these are all part of the journey.
Generally, crabs have shells. This hard layer doesn’t grow with them, instead they have to moult, a process coordinated by their hormones. As they prepare to moult, the old shell starts to soften and erode and a new shell starts to form underneath it. When it is time to moult, the crab takes in a lot of water, expands and cracks open the old shell. They then have to get out of the shell, a process which can take hours, and which can be difficult – imagine trying to get yourself out of your skin! Once they’re entirely out of the old shell, eyes, legs and all, they have to hide. They are incredibly soft and vulnerable at this point and need to avoid predators until their new shell has hardened.
This feels like a huge metaphor for so many aspects of our lives and I’m not going to unpick the process much, but I want to note that there is merit in avoiding people who are likely to hurt you when you aren’t in a strong place. It is ok to practice self protection when you are vulnerable. It is ok to set boundaries.
With this idea of self protection, comes an aspect of sensitivity. As a society, we have a terrible tendency to think of sensitivity in emotional terms and tend to view it as a bad thing. Firstly, emotional sensitivity isn’t a bad thing, like most things in life it’s how you approach it and how you manage it. But there is also environmental sensitivity, feeling overwhelmed by the sensory information that’s coming at you or by intense external inputs such as too much noise or people fighting. I know that my reaction to these types of situations is to almost literally retreat back into my shell. I pull away, I try to get out of the environment and I close down. I no longer have my true self fully available, I pull my heart and my soul tight inside myself. But then, when I’m out of that situation and I’m surrounded by people who have earnt my trust, I start to put my head back out.
The crab asks to us consider when to leave your shell and when to stay, when to focus on the external and when to focus on the internal, when to tend to community and when to tend to yourself.
There is a resilience and a strength to the crab. They are survivors. And the shell is obviously an important part of that. But shells can become stifling and we can outgrow the clothes, or the mask, we wear. To break free and to step into another self is a difficult, painful and vulnerable thing to do. But if you don’t, the pain of wearing an old version of you will get too much.
This may be a time when you are doing some personal development or rebuilding who you are. None of us remain the same forever, perhaps this is a cue to stop and check in with yourself.
Whilst shells provide excellent armour, they can also act as a divide between us and the world. Are you feeling connected to what is going on around you? Are you putting up walls to protect yourself? Are these walls helpful or hurtful right now? Are you letting anyone see beneath your shell?
Returning a moment to the idea of the turtle as the symbol for cancer, we find an interesting difference in shells. Where the shell of the crab needs replacing and leaves the crab vulnerable during growth, and creates more of a dramatic process of growth, the turtle’s shell is made up from it’s backbone and it grows with the turtle. Turtles can also feel things through their shell and they cannot live without their shell. Crabs can live without their shell, as indeed they have to when they are changing shells. Whether they can feel someone touching their shell or not seems to still be up for debate. But for my perspective, mulling over metaphors, I think it’s an interesting thinking point.
If you’ve felt drawn to hermit crabs in particular, you’re going to have a bit more thinking to do as they don’t have a shell themselves, they step into those which used to belong to other animals. They are scavengers, mask wearers and actors. They are disguised and they are much more vulnerable than other crabs.
As they are often found in or around the sea, crabs are affected by the tides and hence by the moon. For example, they tend to mate at new and full moons. This means that the female will release her eggs to the tide at the next new or full moon when there is greater tidal flux meaning the eggs are more likely to be swept away to the sea safely.
But as mating needs to happen when the female crab has just moulted, this means that their moulting cycles are also governed by the moon and the tides. This also means that they are at their most vulnerable during new and full moons so perhaps the crab is calling you to look into your self care at these times.
There is a lot here to think about, especially if you reach out to see what the turtle has to say as well. If it’s all a bit much, perhaps ponder your relationship to the sea and the moon, both play a huge role in the life of a crab.