Principles, absolutism, fate, burden, suffering

About the meaning:  One of the most obvious and simple interpretations of the Cross would be religion or religiosity. But since I move in social circles which are almost without exception secular, and am not religious myself, I have not done one single reading yet in which religion played a role. Luckily, there is an abundance of other possible interpretations which I focus on in the paragraphs below.

Ideology / absolutism / principles: Transferred to a secular context, the Cross most importantly represents ideologies, (unquestioned) beliefs, convictions, and dogmata. Ideologies are conglomerates of interrelated doctrines or beliefs which direct our expectations, motivations, and goals. They usually have a strong normative component - our ideologies also say what is "correct" or "good". They prescribe how society should be structured, for example, or how we should behave as individuals. A dogma is a principle of a belief system (e.g. of an ideology) which is viewed as incontrovertibly true. Far from being a simple conviction it is so fundamental to the belief system that, were it rejected, the whole ideology would collapse.
Ideologies can be dangerous, especially when they are absolutist, which dogmata definitely are, so they are always problematic. In this sense, the Cross can be understood as a warning sometimes. It might be hinting at harmful absolutist thinking, grim intolerance, or indoctrination. But the Cross can also stand, often very affirmatively, for a strong adherence to principles, and for our principles themselves.

Life's work / fate / strokes of fate: Not the same as ideologies but similarly directive for us is what we perceive as our life's work, what we believe is our task, our quest, our calling. The cross can for example mean that we are putting a lot of effort into achieving what we feel we were born to achieve. Sometimes, this is a positive, empowering experience. But the Cross may also suggest that trying to follow a calling which is unrealistic for us to fulfil is a terrible burden. Furthermore, the Cross can be interpreted as a belief in predestined fate, or as events which seem predestined to us. And it can stand for strokes of fate. Strokes of fate can't be warded off. We can only prepare for them and then learn to come to terms with and deal with them in a dignified and productive way.

Duty / responsibilities / burden: Closely connected to the belief that some or all things are fateful (in the sense of "predestined"), is the idea that there are such things as inescapable duties. We might take pride in fulfilling our duties. Or we might feel they are a burden - the Cross could be saying either. The same goes for responsibilities. The Cross possibly means that we take on responsibilities willingly; that we are able to deal with them well. But often the Cross suggests that responsibilities are forced on us. They are too heavy for us to shoulder without getting adversely affected.

Exertion / travail / suffering / pain: Continuing on from the last paragraph, the Cross can represent anything which is a hardship. It can stand for hard work, exertion, travail, (labour) pains, and for any kind of non-physical suffering. And especially in combination with the Mice it can represent a state of utter exhaustion.

About the Image: The Cross was one of the cards I found most difficult to paint. While I needed to make a cross shaped object the card's main feature in a way which expressed the card's meaning I also desperately wanted to stay away from too overtly Christian or worn-out symbolism (e.g. a gravestone in the shape of a cross, or someone carrying a wooden cross). As with quite a few other cards, I owe the solution of the problem to inspiration from family and friends. In my version of the Cross the cross itself is not a physical object as such. The cross exists as a shadow in the shape of a cross. I chose this solution for the reason that when a shadow falls on something, it makes that something seem darker. So: that my Cross is a shadow is the most important indication for this card's somewhat heavy, even despondent meanings. But if you want to look at the details of the illustration, you will also see that the shadow is cast by a person under a yoke (burden, responsibility). The person is carrying two water pails home (life's work). The setting sun is before them (the ideology they follow, which might also be blinding them), putting them in strong back light. It is this backlight which makes their body and the yoke cast a long, dark shadow (strokes of fate; suffering) in the form of a cross. And if you look closely, the water bearer is walking across a meadow full of the same kind of clover which also features in the card Clover. In the card Clover the plant meant ease, lightness, an unburdened state. But now a dark shadow falls on the clover. The ease, the untroubled lightness is gone.
<< PREVIOUS CARD | NEXT CARD >> | VIEW ALL | menu | home | imprINT | shop