The symbolism of the crab expands primarily with elements of the moon, protection, and water. Crabs have strong lunar symbolism, and the crab’s connection with the moon can be seen esoterically, universally and astrologically. For example, the crab is featured in Tarot where it is shown on the Moon card. The moon is the motherly guardian of the crab and sees to its well-being when the crab is immersed in water.
We’ll go through several of the most common crab meanings here below.
The crab’s symbolism of protectiveness is evident in its physical features - with its exoskeleton and hard spikes, as well as its claws. These features protect the crab’s vulnerable insides. The crab is a reminder to us that we live in a chaotic world and we should always be prepared like a warrior. However, there is no need for us to learn this preparedness as we are born with it, our warrior nature is innate, like the crab’s shell.
In the astrological calendar, the star sign of Cancer is symbolized by the crab. Crabs will shed their old shells for new ones during growth, and this is where the symbolism of rebirth stems from.
Being a highly lunar animal, the crab also takes some of its symbolic meaning from its association to the moon. The tides that the crab follows in the shoreline often come in cycles, and the moon too is cyclic in nature. The crab is a creature that teaches us to follow those cycles, not to fight them. It teaches us a sense of relief that we can get from surrendering to nature’s natural ebb and flow.
The crab never takes a direct route, instead is crawls sideways in a somewhat precautionary tap-dance when on the land. This is a reminder to us all that nothing in life, or our life paths are direct. Hardly ever is anything forthcoming in their meaning. When you are moving in a direction in your life but feel a bit lost or misguided, it is a good idea to call upon the help of the travel-savvy and ready crab. The crab’s guidance is anything but orthodox, usually taking the paths less known to guide you to clarity.
When dreaming about a crab, this animal can send a strong message that you should think about changing your path. Perhaps the most direct approach is not the most productive, and instead, you should try something new. Follow the crab’s sidestepping motion, and you may be able to unlock what you need. The crab’s appearance in dreams may also signal that you need time for yourself to retreat and go into your shell. There may be times in our lives where the chaos of the world is too much, and retreat may be a form of self-preservation, not weakness.
Variations in crab symbolism can be seen throughout cultures. We threw in a couple of them down below.
In China, the crab symbolizes status and prosperity. This is due to the fact the Chinese word for crab shell is a pun that also means the highest score you can achieve on the Chinese imperial examinations.
The crab is featured in the zodiac sign Cancer, and in one of the tales of Heracles’ great feats. As Heracles did battle with the Hydra, Hera sent a giant crab to attack him. It was killed in battle along with the Hydra, but was placed in the heavens as a reminder of its loyalty.
In Japan, a certain species of crab was known to have patterns on their shell that looked almost like human faces. They were believed to be the reincarnations of samurai that fell during the battle of Dan-no-ura.
The crab is always an interesting totem to see in our lives as it is a reminder to tackle obstacles in our paths like a warrior but to constantly be aware of letting go and let the scope of things take its course.