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 Cross you might want to read up on its meanings before you continue with this article.
The Cross could be seen as a rather ominous card with all its heavy, partly despondent meanings. But there is also something noble about this card, because while it stands for many things we find difficult or painful, it also represents things which can make us grow.
First, because it’s more obvious, let’s look at when and how the Cross’ main meanings can represent unproductive, negative, issues and goings-on.
If the Cross in a reading stands for someone’s ideology, the convictions and principles they live by, it will hint at something potentially very problematic especially if that person also leans towards absolutist thinking, towards intolerance – and if they also have difficulties with questioning authority. In such cases it is likely that the person is following an ideology uncritically, is blind to its flaws; or that the principles they adhere to are so fundamentalist and applied so strictly as to be harmful for themselves and/or others.
Often, the Cross represents a person’s life work, their calling – or fate, especially strokes of fate. The first will be destructive if the person the Cross relates to is trying to follow a calling which is unrealistic for them to fulfil – or, maybe worse, a calling that was projected onto them by others, which doesn’t truly correspond with their nature. The latter will be destructive if it appears in the form of fatalistic thinking, or, if there are no (emotional, mental, physical) means for dealing with strokes of fate productively.
Rather obviously, if the Cross represents a person’s duties or responsibilities, these will be experienced as something negative if the duties, the responsibilities, were forced on them. And having to carry them will become destructive if they are too heavy; if the person lacks the competence or the resources to keep shouldering them without getting adversely affected. In such a case the Cross stands, very negatively, for a wearing burden.
And finally, the last dimension of the Cross’ meaning, exertion and suffering, appears to be inherently negative. There seems to be little to say other than that if pain or hardship are what the Cross stands for in a concrete reading, it will hardly stand for something the querent is happy about.
However many negative implication the Cross’ meanings have, there are still quite a few positive, productive implications to be found, too.
This is perhaps most obvious with the first of the Cross’ main meanings: with a person’s ideology, convictions and principles. While those are all potentially problematic because they all carry the risk of absolutism, and of intolerance within them, they also give a person important guidelines for their acting, and they enable people to stand up not just for themselves but also for others; for a fairer, more just, society. Especially if the person the Cross relates to is not on the whole intolerant, can rationally consider other people’s views, and is able to question authority, the Cross might be advising them that adhering firmly to their own principles would be productive.
If the Cross represents a person’s life work, their calling, this can be experienced as good, and can mean something productive, if what the person considers their calling is realistic for them to fulfill, and corresponds well with their nature. If the Cross represents strokes of fate it is unlikely to represent something that is experienced as positive in itself. But the card can still be read as the very positive advice that now that a stroke of fate has happened it is in our own power to deal with that stroke of fate in a productive way.
I mentioned above that if the Cross represents a persons duties or responsibilities, these will be experienced as something negative if the duties, the responsibilities were forced on them, or if they turn out to be too heavy to carry. However, fulfilling a duty, carrying responsibilities, especially when doing it willingly, sometimes also fills people with a sense of pride, can elevate their self-esteem. In such cases, as long as their duties and responsibilities don’t exhaust the person’s own reserves, the Cross likely represents something quite healthy.
And finally, yes, exertion and suffering, are by themselves negative. Pain and hardship can, by themselves, be very destructive. However, at least in some cases, hardship or pain are what in the end forces us to grow, to develop. As with labour pains, sometimes it first takes a phase of intense agony for something new and beautiful to begin. So growth, and the birth of something new and beautiful, is a potential hidden in the Cross. However, the Cross doesn’t stand for realised growth and rebirth, only for the potential. If you draw the Cross, it won’t say that there is or will be growth or rebirth. It says that there is or will be pain. Whether there will be growth and rebirth will depend a lot on the person’s actions.