You can read an introduction to the light & shadow series and find links to its other installments >> here! If you aren’t yet familiar with my interpretation of the card in discussion you might want to read up on its meanings before you continue with this article.
My interpretation of the Stork differs quite a bit from the traditional one, at least in parts, and definitely regarding where I put my focus. Derived from stork being birds of passage, the Stork’s main meanings for me are transitions/transformations, long (and ongoing) processes, repetitions/recurrences, inner nature/inevitability, and deep yearning. With many of these, separating whether we experience them as positive or negative, whether they are productive or unproductive, is difficult, because they are so complex and can sometimes be both at the same time. Also, they are often inevitable. And with inevitable things: how exactly are they productive or unproductive, positive or negative? They simply are what they are. So I’ll diverge a bit from my usual format of contrasting juxtaposition (“good vs. bad”) here. Instead, I’ll discuss the ambivalences of each aforementioned main meaning, separately.
As far as transformations and transitions are concerned, these are obviously productive if the transformation is in a healthy direction, if the transition we go through is a transition toward something that makes us happier, healthier. That said, even transformations into something good, even transitions toward something healthy, don’t necessarily also feel good, at least not throughout the whole process. Transformations and transitions can be exhausting, sometimes scary, and have side-effects that are unpleasant (e.g. opposition from others). This doesn’t make them unproductive – but it might make us experience them as something deeply ambivalent. And some transformations/transitions are toward something we do not welcome, or even toward something that is destructive, but they are often nevertheless necessary, inevitable. One example would be every individual’s slow transformation from a young person into an old person. Since old age also means declining strength and health (and eventually, death) it could be argued that this transformation is unproductive. On the other hand, it is still an integral part of life. And going through it means that we are actually still living! So, looking at it from that perspective, it is still a good thing!
Long (and ongoing) processes, just as transformations, may be difficult to categorise as productive or unproductive, positive or negative, exactly because they are long and still ongoing. It is just so common and normal that some phases of a long process are productive, while other phases aren’t (e.g. we’ll get stuck, or move into a destructive direction for a while). Some phases of a long process we’ll very likely experience as positive – we’ll feel energised, confident, creative – while it’s entirely normal that other phases feel quite negative – they’ll exhaust us, or we’ll feel lost or afraid.
Of course, if the unproductive or negatively experienced phases outweigh the productive and positive ones, this points towards the process being destructive on the whole. It’s just that if the process is still ongoing there is still always the possibility that we’ll turn things around, and that in the end the process will turn out to have been necessary and very productive. It’s difficult to know until the end is reached.
Of all the main meanings of the Stork, repetitions/recurrences I find easiest to categorise as productive or unproductive. If the Stork represents the return of someone who once left, this is likely to be productive if the person’s leaving was for healthy and comprehensible reasons, and we’ll experience it as positive if we are willing to welcome them back in our life. It will be unproductive if the person who returns brings something unhealthy with them, and we’ll experience someone’s return as something negative if we don’t want to welcome them back into our life.
The recurrence of a certain feeling or experience can be productive if this feeling or experience is healthy, or if it at least teaches us something new this time around. It is likely to be very, very unproductive if not just the feeling or experience recurs, but if we also react to it exactly the same way once more; if we don’t learn anything new from it.
From a slightly different perspective: Interpreted as negative advice, the Stork asks us to interrupt a vicious cycle. Interpreted as positive advice, it suggests to try something again because this time around it might work.
If the Stork in our reading represents natural cycles, though, this again brings us into very ambivalent territory. For some natural cycles can be very unpleasant, and (at least parts of them) can feel very negative, it’s true. But they are still part of nature and thus inevitable, necessary. And as such, in my view the word “unproductive” just doesn’t apply.
This brings us to another main meaning of the Stork, inner nature / inevitability. I mentioned just above that I feel that something which is inevitable, which is necessary because it’s part of nature, can’t really be said to be productive or unproductive – it just is what it is. But if inevitability / inner nature is what the Stork represents in a reading, I view this as a mostly productive thing. For recognising that something is inevitable, is part of the inner nature of something or someone, can help us accept things as they are and stop fighting fights that are impossible to win. It can help us to instead go with the flow and make the best of things as they are. However, just assuming inevitability without good cause is probably a bad thing, and wrongly assuming inevitability is almost definitely going to be destructive. So if the Stork in our reading represents the automatic judgement that “Things are as they are, I can’t change them!” it represents something very unhealthy.
As for the last main meaning of the Stork, deep yearning, I should probably first explain what I mean by that expression. Deep yearnings we have for those things which we need in order to thrive. A simple example is that as human beings, we are social animals. In order to thrive, we need lasting, meaningful relationships with other people of our species. If we don’t have them, we won’t thrive – and we’ll feel a very deep yearning for that which we are missing. Another example is that if by nature you are an introvert, having too much prolonged company is exhaustive, goes against your introverted nature. You will yearn for regular and long enough phases of solitude – and if you can get them, you will truly thrive.
So: deep yearnings we have for that which, by our inner nature (as physical beings, mammals, humans, individuals with specific and fixed personality traits), we need to thrive. So our deepest yearnings are not something we should try to suppress or act against. They are there because we are what we are, and they tell us what we truly need. So following their lead is an inherently productive thing! However, one difficulty lies in differentiating between true yearnings and mere temporary cravings. The latter could well be for something that would be unhealthy for us.