The Cancer New Moon & The Psychopomp

*This is a personal post, outlining my journey and the astrology and symbolism of my mother being welcomed into the afterlife. 5k words.

The New Moon in Cancer that took place on July 9 / 10 was the first New or Full Moon in Cancer, since June 2017, that wasn’t impeded by Saturn or impacted by eclipses.

Thus, the fertile lunar waters of Cancer beckoned a nostalgic trip to reflect upon memories, both happy and painful. In the waters of our body, the sign of Cancer holds the “muscle memory” of our feelings, earliest relational patterning, the way we were cared for by our mothers or caretakers.

With the walls of Saturn and the insatiable hunger of the head of the dragon, aka the North Node, removed, the exoskeleton of the Crab could be softened and penetrated. Memories, stories, patterning and our unconscious habits were made raw, vulnerable and exposed.

The first two weeks of July saw the skies play out some of its most dramatic theatre we’ll see in 2021. The expectation of an emotional, nourishing and tender lunation was poised to be the much longed for maternal cosmic cuddle.

As is often with astrology, we can describe the weather, the terrain or the feelings that will emerge from the interplay of the wandering stars dancing with each other. What isn’t always easy to do, is to decipher exactly the way the messages of the sky gods will play out.

The maternal cosmic cuddle certainly did happen. Just not in the way I anticipated.

On the eve of the lunation, while in the dark Moon phase, my mother slipped into the loving embrace of our ancestors.

Being a Cancer isn’t always cosy.

I’ll be honest. My mother wasn’t a loving mother. She didn’t relish in her children, she resented us. That was obvious to me at a young age. It took me years to understand it wasn’t about me. She was just a hurt child hurting her own children. Acting out patterns that came before her. She wasn’t a mother I couldn’t confide in, feel protected by or feel loved unconditionally. The condition of the Moon in our birth charts can tell us a lot about our mother story. My Moon is at the exaltation degree of Saturn, flanked by Pluto and the North Node. My experience of her was acceptance with exception. Judgement. Coldness. She was very Saturnian after all. Her own Moon was in Aquarius conjoined the ascendant.

In the 26 years since I left home, we had very little to do with each other. When we did have times of coming together, it was one-sided. I grew tired of being a puppy running back to its owner, anticipating a treat or a pat or the proverbial “who’s a good girl?”. Instead, I’d just get a kick in the guts. It took me a long time to learn, but I eventually stopped running back.

Shortly after my 43rd birthday and entering an 8th House profection year, I had a strong urge to do some form of ancestral work. One Saturday afternoon (Saturn’s day) under a Cancer Moon, I felt the need to go through a whole bunch of family memorabilia I decided I didn’t want to keep anymore. My son’s art, certificates and other collectables needed more space at the top of my cupboard. Out with the old and in with the new, as they say.

I sifted through wedding albums, baby photo albums and other random photos that were dumped on me when my parents sold their house. Not my mother, father or brother were interested in keeping the family photos after my parents divorced so I figured someone had to keep them. Seven (there’s Saturn again) years later, I figured no one was coming back to claim them.

I called my mother out of the blue after about three or four years to tell her I had a bunch of stuff and if she wanted it, I could arrange to get it to her or else I’d get rid of them. She asked me ‘what’s going on,’ not how I am or anything. She didn’t ask about my son. She told me, “I’ll have to think about it.” I gave her a time frame to get back to me. She eventually asked that whatever photos I was going to get rid of, could I scan them first. She wasn’t interested in finding out more about what I had, didn’t want to collect them or go through them, so I wasn’t going to spend time making digital copies of things that she didn’t seem to really want.

The Psychopomp

Last year, under the dark Moon in Virgo, just prior to becoming new exactly conjoined my Ic, I took certain family photos and burned them, ritual style. I was guided by a dear friend who advised using a powerful Indian deity for cleansing and protection. It was one of the most profound, powerful and right things I’ve ever done. I was about six weeks into my 8th House profection year and felt confident it was going to be about metaphorical death and chord cutting.

Three weeks later, I found out my mother had a tennis ball sized brain tumour. The breast cancer she was diagnosed with in 2012 had returned. In fact, she was riddled with cancer. The urgent issue was the tumour as it was growing rapidly and also impacted her ability to speak. Brain surgery followed by two months in hospital, she was allowed home just after Christmas. During those two months, I visited as often as I was able. The visits weren’t regular, but I stayed for a long time when I did. On Christmas Day, I arrived after lunch and was there until I had just enough in the tank to safely drive home. Her speech was really good. In a relatively short time, she’d gone from extreme stuttering to speaking almost all but normal again. We talked a long time about random things. She always kept it light. Together, we ate the traditional Christmas cake from my childhood. I made it especially for her knowing how much she loved it and how much she loved Christmas. The cake wasn’t gluten free and the fruit wasn’t organic, but she made an exception on this occasion. It wasn’t the best cake. It needs a few months to mature in rum and this was only a couple of weeks old. She also had some shortbread I made too. She reminded me no one can make it as good as me. That was nice. But those frozen walls didn’t melt. Maybe she couldn’t admit to me she was dying. Maybe she was scared or in denial. Maybe she thought she could overcome it, as she had done once before. That was the last time we spoke in person.

When she arrived home before New Year, I called her to see if her and my son, Lincoln, could come over and help her out. Get her groceries, make her food, clean up and attend to general things that need doing after two months in hospital. I was also aware that she wasn’t in hospital with nurses, doctors and staff waiting on her hand and foot. She was alone. She was dying. She’d need help. And comfort. “I’ll have to think about it” she told me. Another kick in the guts.
One thing I’ve learned is that is it difficult to graciously accept what you are not willing or able to give.

I called her a few times. We’d send each other messages. I sent my gardener over to do her lawns for her. She loved that and I was glad I could help her. I got a message from her in February saying she was due to start radiation. I asked her how she felt about that. The response was, “I’ll have to grin and bare it I suppose.”
“Ma,” (I always called her that), “I didn’t ask you what you’re going to do, I asked how you feel about it.”
I never heard from her again.

To be honest, thoughts of her began to slip my mind. This our pattern. If she disapproved of something I did or said, I got the silent treatment. I’m sure the phrase ‘my way or the highway’ was coined with her as inspiration. I had to make a choice. I knew those walls weren’t going to melt. In fact, they were being fortified. She shut everyone out in the end. The puppy had no where to run back to, so it didn’t.

Around the time Jupiter entered Pisces, something changed, a feeling. I just thought that it was nature of this internal and introspective transit. In hindsight, Jupiter left her first house. She was left without any cosmic support. The South Node was conjoined her ascendant ruler, Saturn was conjoined her ascendant and Mars was returning to her natal placement. A very tough combination.

During this time, I started engage with various practitioners of magic, hoodoo and animist traditions, alongside my usual arsenal of other astrologers and mediums. I figured this was a part of the manifestation of the Jupiter in Pisces transit. All of them kept on harping on about connecting with my ancestors. Naturally, due to the relationship with my immediate family and even my extended family, for that matter, I was hesitant to open those channels. Funnily enough, some people I cherish the most in my inner circle are practitioners and guardians of these sacred traditions.

One piece of instruction I got was to set up an ancestral alter. Reluctant, but somehow, I knew it was the right thing to do. Despite going on a photo burning rampage only several months before, I surprised myself at just how many photos I still kept. I found photos of my four grandparents and three of my great-grandparents. Who is lucky enough to have photos of their great grandparents, let alone three of them?
A few days later, I decided I’d do the practice that was suggested to me and set up an altar. I had to pray to my ancestors every day for 21 days. The prayers were intended to wish them well and that they are released from any bonds from the material world that still cause stress, worry or pain. I missed some days because I was busy or I’d forget, and sometimes, I just wasn’t bothered.
21 days after I initiated this practice, my mother was back in hospital.

Thanks to the undying love my brother has for me (that was a monumentally sarcastic statement), it took me a few days to get to see Mum. Brisbane was in lockdown and my brother excluded me from the ‘end of life covid exemption list.’ Thankfully, one of my Uncles arranged to get me on it. People who’ve been in the military know how to get shit done!

Mum was so highly drugged, she was practically unconscious. Her kidneys had failed. She didn’t have a lot of time. I hadn’t seen her since Christmas day and it was July 1. Her hair was grey and short. I’d never seen her with grey hair. Red was her signature colour, though she isn’t a natural red like I am. She had scabs on her left cheek that were remnants of a nasty staph infection she’d got that took a long time to heal. Mum was very vain. Her day was ruined if her foundation didn’t go on right. It would have been hard for her to have no hair, scabs all over her face. No wonder she didn’t want anyone around. I was only beginning to learn what she’d been through. All at the same time I felt angry she couldn’t confide in me, ask for my help, my love, my support. I felt ashamed that I didn’t do more, even though I knew I couldn’t. I had wished I pushed my mother harder to not bury her head in the sand about choices that needed to be made. I also knew that this was her journey, and she wasn’t going to budge, nor change, for anyone. Maybe she was making the choices that were right for her. Maybe it was me who just didn’t like them. She wasn’t one to compromise or apologise. Honestly, she was fucking impossible to deal with. I know there was nothing I could have done. It wasn’t only me that was shut out.

When she first was in hospital back in October, I hadn’t seen her in years. As I waited in the ED, a social worker had come out to speak with me. She told me of my mother’s prognosis and that she was very nervous to see me. What the fuck? I’m her daughter for Christ’s sake! There was no relief, or joy, or happiness in her eyes to see me. There never was.

When she returned to hospital two weeks ago, and saw her again, I grappled with what to do next. Mum was non-responsive, she couldn’t speak. There was no chance of closure, completion, final words of love, or regret, or wishes that things were different. The nurses told us that she can still hear us. I talked to her about things. Sometimes her eyes opened a tiny bit, then her eyes rolled back before her lids closed. I knew there was no point in trying to get emotional, philosophical or spiritual with her. When she did wake up a bit, I dived into my handbag to show her a lipstick I recently got from a brand she introduced me to quite a few years back. As I held up the sleek gold tube, I could tell she was impressed as she raised up her eyebrows a bit. As it’s an online only brand, sometimes you take pot luck on the colour. I told her I wouldn’t have chosen it if I had of seen it in real life first, but a change is always good. If she could have spoken to me, she’d probably remind me that unlike most redheads, I was quite lucky with the wide spectrum of colours I could wear. She used to tell me that.
That response with her eyebrows was the most I got out of her and it was about lipstick. It is what it is, I guess. Maybe she was angry I didn’t do more too. I don’t know and I never will.

The weekend passed and she didn’t. Recalcitrant. Right until the end, refusing to give up, let go, surrender. I honestly didn’t know whether I should go back or not. It didn’t make sense to shuffle work appointments, arrangements with my son or inconvenience other people. She was just laying there. There was nothing I could have done for her. Her favourite Aunt, who is elderly made the trip up from interstate. Mum would have loved seeing her again as they were close. My brother was there a lot too, so I knew she wasn’t alone. I didn’t want to subject her to the unconscious attachment trauma my brother projects on to me, so I intentionally avoided being there.

Thursday morning last week, I awoke from a vivid dream about my great grandmother. I was 18 when she passed, so I remember her the most. I was anxious and unfocused, though I didn’t want to cancel my New Moon group I do each month as a part of The Golden Circle Club.
I had forgot to send a reminder to the members. Rushed, I sent it out 10 minutes before I was due to be on the Zoom call. 10 minutes into the call, no one had logged in. I figured it wasn’t meant to happen. There was a funny noise coming through my earphones, like some kind of feedback or interference. I checked cord connections and other sound troubleshooting options, but it kept getting louder and louder. Then I realized my earphones weren’t even in my ears. It was a death rattle. My mother was calling me.

I shut down my computer and left. It’s at least a thirty-minute drive. I park at a friend’s house nearby the hospital and Uber the way in. An $8 Uber fare is better than hospital parking, so it doesn’t matter if I’m there five minutes or five hours. Plus, the upside is that I get to catch up with my bestie on the way back.

Waiting to be buzzed in to the locked palliative care ward, I quickly check my phone. I had a message request on Instagram. “U better up if u want to c mum again.” (Yes, hurry was omitted from the message). I’ve given my brother my phone number numerous times so we can have an adult conversation about our mother. He chooses Instagram. I could also tell you how last week his girlfriend, who I’d never met, messaged me on Instagram asking me how we are paying for your mothers’ funeral. She can make demands for my money, but not message me about my mother’s condition or at least have the respect to say, “hey, I know this is a bit weird, but do you mind if I call you?” Isn’t this what adults do? You could imagine what I wanted to say, but I took the bitchcraft option, of which I’m quite proficient, “I’m not available to discuss the arrangements of my mother’s funeral with someone I don’t know over social media.” Instantly, I got vitriol. So, it wasn’t about my Mum, or anyone else, but the money. How good is that block button!

Once I got let into the ward and went into my mother’s room, one of my Uncles, my Mum’s youngest brother, and my brother was there. There was 1970’s music playing. There was anxiety in the air. It looked like she’d lost half her body weight in the week since I’d seen her. She hadn’t eaten or drunk anything in nine days. There was no drip, so they must have been giving her something to keep her reasonably nourished and hydrated. Her mouth was open. Her eyes were closed. The buildup of saliva gurgled at the back of her throat. She couldn’t speak. It was traumatic and poetic all at the same time. I wondered if she could, what would she say now?

My Uncle left and the hours passed. I had arranged for my Dad to get a covid clearance to see Mum. I knew it was a risk. My brother hates our father and I didn’t know what Mum would want. She left us with no will, no wishes. Even though my parents divorced eight years ago, they still maintained their toxic connection. They spent thirty-eight years together. That’s more than half my Mum’s life. He had a right to say goodbye and it was terribly emotional for him. I’m happy he got the chance.

The afternoon progressed, my mother, my brother and me all in a hospital suite. His attempts to bait me and project onto me continued. I let all his comments slide through to the keeper. Not in front of my mother. I wouldn’t disrespect her by engaging in juvenile bickering. I actually have a throat infection now. All this holding the tongue stuff is real. I don’t recommend it.

As the evening swallowed the day there were moments when the gurgling stopped. Fuck, it this it? There was a shared feeling of panic between my brother and I. But no acknowledgment of it. Just silence in between the sounds of my mother’s watery attempts to gasp for air. It was like that all afternoon except for when he was being an arsehole or I was making small talk in an attempt to appease the angry bear. I knew I was tapping into patterns by remaining silent. I didn’t like it. I wanted to rage, and rage hard. But I chose to do what my mother would do, out of respect. Then the death rattle started again. It’s weird how I wanted her to die, to be released, to be absolved of pain. But at the same time, you selfishly want just one more moment. One more time to touch her warm hand or see the rise and fall of her skeletal chest. Or even just to hear that horrible sound again, because that’s all there was. An open mouth but no words.

I was exhausted. Mum had lasted a lot longer than anyone expected. By this stage, it has been about twelve hours since the death rattle began. Then the door opened. I saw a silhouette in the shadow and the sound of a kiss. Oh, my motherfucking god. It was her. My brother’s girlfriend. My Mum didn’t like her, that I knew for certain. I also knew my mother is quick to judge and I give people the benefit of the doubt, until they prove me otherwise. She’d already done that. And here she was. Here. Now. She is my brother’s support person. Not family. She didn’t belong there. Not at the end.
My brother introduced us and she didn’t acknowledge me at all. You know those people who monopolise situations that aren’t about them, yet somehow make it all about them? Those people that their very presence can suck the air out of the room? That’s her. I’m choosing not to waste any more of my website storage, your bandwidth, yours or my time on this person.
All I could hear was.. psst psst psst between them. Like two school children whispering when the teachers back were turned. Behaving according to their emotional age, I’m sure. This isn’t how I wanted the end to be.
Then my phone rang. It was one of my Uncles and I stepped outside to take the call. We had a long conversation. He’s such a take no shit Aries. He had words with my brother the day before in the hospital. My brother hasn’t been in contact with him since.

I walked back into the room. I gently stroked my mother’s forehead and her short grey hair and whispered very quietly to her that I know what’s going on, my Uncle’s know what’s going on and I’m sorry. I know what time is it with you, and you know what time is it with me and that’s all we need to know. You’ve left us with no wishes. You never spoke of what you wanted and there is nothing I can do to help you now. Through not making a choice, you made a choice. I still have some of the Christmas cake I made you and when I cut it, you’ll know it’s time. I love you and I promise I’ll connect with you when you’re on the other side. Love ya Ma.
Through the tears, I didn’t quite know what I was saying, but it was said. I walked out. As I did, my brother’s girlfriend was eating what smelled like a Maccas apple pie. The gross smell choked the room. Funny that my brother made crack at me earlier in the afternoon regarding the food I’d Uber Eats into the hospital and how Mum didn’t like the smell of fried food. Mum loved hot chips, especially those ones with rosemary and sea salt Grilld make. I bet she’d have loved to share that meal with us, with her two kids rather than being in the state she was in. Mum was a Taurus and she loved food. I ordered two burgers and chips from Grilld as my brother had only eaten a shitty hospital cafe sandwich earlier. I thought it may have been a nice gesture to have a meal together with Mum. He refused it. But the smell of Maccas later that night was ok.
I was eighteen years old the first time I ate McDonalds. That’s how much she hated it. She refused to give it to us as kids. I was eighteen, in the military and far from home before I tried it. It was 3am some morning in mid-1995 in Hindley Street, Adelaide, when I ate it for the first time. I was drunk and club hopping with friends I was on my rookies’ course with. I asked some random stranger standing in line which burger I should get. I honestly had no idea. I ordered a McFeast, which they don’t make anymore. For a short time after that, I kind of became addicted to it. Maybe that was part of my rebellion of being denied it for so long.

As I opened the door and walked out, I admit, I stared this person down in an if a looks could kill kind of way. As I approached the door, I stared at her. As I opened it, I stared at her. As I walked through the doorway, I stared at her. I continued to stare at her through the glass panel of the door as I shut it. She shrugged her shoulders and rolled her eyes like a belligerent teenager as she stuffed her face with whatever she was eating and that her arse certainly couldn’t afford. I may not have said a word, and a part of me regrets that but I wanted my mother to have peace. I stared her down like a dog and in the dog world, the one who looks away first submits. I did not speak, but I was heard.

I proceeded to the lift and went down ten stories to the hospital entrance to wait for the Uber. I was responding to a plethora of messages while in the back of the car when I heard a bang. I thought the driver must have mounted the gutter or something, but the car I was in had been rear ended. The car that hit us didn’t stop. Imagine that, being in a car accident just minutes after the final time you see your mother alive.

Mum survived the night. I couldn’t go back as I’d cleared my calendar to have an early birthday adventure day with my son. My life, but more importantly his, needed to remain normal. No reason for his birthday celebrations to be disrupted for his grandmother who made no effort toward him.

Exhausted, I battled the last day of school holidays and the overcrowded adventure playgrounds and movie theatres. My son’s Dad came to pick him up in the evening. We had a scotch together and chatted about things. They left and I continued with the scotch. Laphroaig felt like medicine!
My take no shit Aries Uncle and I spoke on the phone for a long time as he drank beer and I drank scotch. In a therapeutic haze courtesy of the Islay region, I opened the container that housed the Christmas cake I made for Mum back in December. I cut a small slice cut into three pieces and placed it on the coffee table and continued to talk on the phone. I didn’t want to eat it just yet, as the call was winding up and I wanted to savour every bite without distraction.
It was then my Uncle noticed missed calls from my other Uncle, his younger brother. It was 10pm on a Friday night. It could only mean one thing. I got off the call and began hyperventilating. I couldn’t breathe. I managed to calm down enough to call the hospital. Mum was deteriorating fast and I was instructed to come as soon as I could. I called a dear friend, who on any other Friday night would be as drunk as I was, but fortunately he was observing dry July. Within ten minutes we were on our way to the hospital.

We were about halfway there and I got the message that my Mum was gone. It was real. Final. I made it to her no more than fifteen minutes after she left her body. Her body was yellow, stiff and cold. My brother was there, texting on his phone.
I touched her face, I kissed her forehead and told her all the things it was too late for her to hear. My brother continued texting. We never spoke to each other and we never made eye contact and I was too drunk to even care. I performed somewhat of a ritual that my dear friend had text me as I was arriving at the hospital. We had spoken about the prayers to perform but I didn’t have the information to do it. Through the tears and fogged up glasses I read his messages and did what I could figure out. I didn’t know what I was doing, if it was doing it right, or not. But I could feel it. Just like the burning of those family photos I could feel something happening. It was powerful. I rotated her seven chakras anti clockwise four times and imagined the embrace of her ancestors welcoming her home. I saw a vison of little girl running through the rubber plantation fields in Malaysia, where she spent a part of her childhood. I released her spirit from this world the best way I could. If there is a right way to do what I did, I promise you, I did it wrong. I figured there was enough scotch on my breath that made a decent offering to make up for it at least. Spirits like offerings.
I don’t know how long I was there. Five minutes, twenty or thirty, I couldn’t tell you.

I held my mothers cold bony face one last time and kissed her third eye and asked for our ancestors to welcome her home back to the primordial waters from which she sprung and so longed to return. She was never the same after my grandfather died. Three months after that, she found out she had breast cancer, and that happened just a few weeks after I returned to Brisbane almost nine years ago. We lost my Grandad and Mum had cancer. I couldn’t shake the feeling I returned to bury my family. Less than a year later, my grandmother passed. And now, quite literally as I type this, I received a SMS from my Uncle about my mother’s funeral. Not myself, nor my Uncles were consulted regarding its arrangement. My brother and his girlfriend excluded us all.

I did what I could Ma, I helped you transition into the spirt world, to let go of any fear or resistance or worry about what awaited you on the other side. To release you of any regret you might carry from this world. I feel like so much of my own personal journey especially over these past twelve months or so was to facilitate that. Gemini is the ruler of your 5th and 8th Houses and is my ascendant after all. I’ve been all but a hermit this past year. Less than two weeks from entering my second Saturn profection, the 9th House, I can see the meaning, the purpose and the spiritual side of it all. The synchronicities, the dreams, the insights and intuitive knowing’s. Everything I had as a child has been coming back stronger than ever. I don’t know if people are the same in death as they were in life. I don’t know if we have the chance to establish a new and better connection in alternate Universes. One thing I know for sure is that that these generational cycles that have been perpetuated for too long end now. You dying with 29 Pisces on the ascendant ensures that. With my own Midheaven close by at 25, I do hope that we’ll have a connection, most likely next year when Neptune conjoins it. Just as it was in your own natal chart.

I was the first child, unplanned and unwanted, so you couldn’t be the mother I needed. You’d just turned 20. You were a child yourself. They say we choose our parents and I chose you. Maybe a part of all this was to take you home.

7 thoughts on “The Cancer New Moon & The Psychopomp”

  1. Beautiful, vulnerable, brave. Thank you for sharing. Many echos of my mother’s transition, she too not a soft place to land. Your words washed over me like a familiar balm. You have my sympathy, empathy, and respect.

  2. Pure, raw, cathartic, beautiful are just a few words that come to mind after reading your post. Thank you for sharing your story. Your words echo what many of us have felt & experienced within our own families-the pain, disappointment, grief,
    sadness, & regret. xoxo

  3. Thank you for this poignant and vulnerable post. I’m sorry for your loss and for how complicated your relationship was with your mother. Take care and I wish you all the best.
    –Anita

  4. Thank you for sharing such a raw, brave and vulnerable post. It definitely struck a chord with me. Take care and I wish you the best xoxo

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