The enigmatic song “Mary on a Cross” by the Swedish rock band Ghost has been the subject of much debate and interpretation since its release in 2019. The song, part of the band’s EP “Seven Inches of Satanic Panic,” has captivated audiences with its cryptic lyrics and haunting melody.
But what does it all mean? Is it a song about drugs, love, or something more blasphemous? In this blog post, we’ll talk about the various interpretations of the song, drawing from scholarly analyses and fan theories alike.
For those seeking solace during challenging times, exploring the power of poignant words can offer a cathartic release, much like the sad quotes we’ve compiled.”
The Genesis of “Mary on a Cross”
Ghost is known for its theatricality and elaborate backstories. According to the band’s own mythology, “Mary on a Cross” dates back to 1969. It was part of an early version of Ghost that dabbled in the psychedelic waves of the late ’60s. This version of the band was fronted by a character known as Papa Nihil.
The Real Story
Contrary to the band’s fictional narrative, the song was actually written and recorded after their 2018 album, “Prequelle.” It was released in 2019 as part of the single “Seven Inches Of Satanic Panic” alongside another track, “Kiss The Go-Goat.”
The song was a collaboration with Swedish songwriting/production duo Salem Al Fakir and Vincent Pontare, also known as Vargas & Lagola. They have previously worked with big names like Madonna and Katy Perry.
The Lyrics: A Closer Look
- The chorus often carries the core meaning of a song.
- In “Mary on a Cross,” the singer addresses someone, possibly a lover, and announces that they “go down” like “Holy Mary.”
- The phrase “Mary on a Cross” contrasts with “bloody Mary,” leaving room for multiple interpretations.
- The verses contain numerous references to riding “high,” possibly alluding to drug use.
- The singer mentions having “the blues,” which could corroborate the drug interpretation.
- However, the lyrics also invite a different theory: that this song is about love or sex.
- The words “on a cross” could refer to crucifixion or an X-shaped cross.
- The song may also refer to Mary Magdalene, adding another layer of complexity.
- The suggestive phrase “go down” and other ambiguous terms leave room for sexual undertones.
The Drug Theory
One interpretation posits that the song is about drugs, specifically marijuana. The phrase “Mary on a” could be a pun on “marijuana,” and the reference to “bloody Mary” could signify that marijuana has a stronger effect on the singer than alcohol.
This theory gains further support from the verses, which mention riding “high” and having “the blues,” possibly indicating mood regulation through drug use.
The Love and Sex Theory
Another interpretation suggests that the song is about love but with a sexual undertone. The phrase “go down” in the chorus, and the references to running away with the woman addressed in the song could imply a sexual relationship.
The song could also be seen as a love song, albeit one with distinctly sexual undertones, especially when we reach the chorus.
The Blasphemous Undertones
The song also treads on blasphemous grounds, especially if one considers the references to “Holy Mary” and Mary Magdalene. The early Church labeled Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, and the song seems to play with this notion in a shocking manner.
The song’s blasphemous undertones add another layer of complexity, making it a subject of endless debate and interpretation.
The Author’s Silence
Tobias Forge, the man behind Ghost, has not offered any official statement about the song’s meaning. This silence allows the song to speak for itself, inviting various interpretations.
It aligns with Roland Barthes’ idea that the meaning of a text lies “not in its origin but in its destination,” allowing for a rich tapestry of interpretations.
The Viral Phenomenon
The song gained immense popularity when a TikTok user uploaded a slowed-down version of it. This led to over 300,000 TikTok videos featuring the song and propelled the band into the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The Billboard Impact
For the first time, Ghost made it to the US Billboard Hot 100, marking a significant milestone for the band.
The Streaming Numbers
As of now, the song has garnered more than 210 million streams on Spotify, making it the band’s most listened-to song.
I’m not bothered about Mary on a Cross being used on Tik Tok but I AM afraid of the inevitable day I hear a 12 year old singing it in public
— crusty bus station (@basementeyes) August 16, 2022
- The TikTok revelation has left fans shocked, with some feeling “betrayed.”
- The song, initially thought to be “enchanting and beautiful,” now carries a different weight.
- This interpretation challenges the previous theories and adds a layer of controversy to the song.
The Question of Authenticity
- The TikTok interpretation is just one among many, but it has garnered significant attention.
- It raises questions about how far interpretations can go and what the “true” meaning of a song is.
- The explicit interpretation also brings into focus the role of social media in shaping public opinion about art.
- A TikTok user, @pixie.0_0.girl, suggests that the song is not about love or religion but rather about a sexual act.
- The line “You go down just like Holy Mary” is interpreted to refer to Mary kneeling in front of Jesus during his crucifixion but with a sexual connotation.
- According to the TikToker, the song is about the lead singer’s girlfriend performing a specific sexual act.
General Interpretation of the Lyrics
It could be said that the depiction of Mary is generally more aligned with Catholic tradition than with Christianity as a whole. When it comes to the actual utilization of the central metaphor in the chorus, it serves as a veiled reference to, put most straightforwardly, sexual intimacy.
Indeed, invoking the Virgin Mary’s name in this sexual context could be viewed as rather bold, even by contemporary norms. So, one could contend that we’re exploring the contours of a love song here. Or, to be more precise, some might assert that it’s a song about sexual relations.
Yet, the verses themselves don’t directly engage with the theme of love or romance. Instead, they delve into the career arc of the band Ghost.
In the opening verse, the lead singer lays bare the dichotomy of the band’s journey, highlighting both their triumphs and the hardships they’ve endured along the way.
They persevered, grinding it out even during stretches marred by emotional lows. Indeed, depression emerges as a key emotional undertone in the verses. The narrative in the second verse pivots to describe a transformative period for the band.
Ghost had previously been more inclined to “play it safe” or “stick to the script,” so to speak. However, a shift occurred. They eventually realized that conforming wasn’t serving them well, at least in terms of their professional aspirations. Since embracing this new mindset, it seems as if their earlier mentioned “woes” have lessened.
As is evident, none of this directly pertains to Mary, crosses, or religious themes. These elements are introduced only in the chorus, complete with their religious (or perhaps blasphemous) lexicon. Each verse wraps up with the vocalist assuring an unidentified recipient that he has no intention of ‘letting them go,’ which, yes, does ring of romantic undertones.
Yet, to reemphasize, the verses themselves aren’t couched in the language of love. Therefore, the focus here is on the closing line that seamlessly transitions into a chorus that is explicitly sexual in its undertones. Here, the vocalist appears to be making oblique references not just to a specific form of sexual intimacy but to the act of sex itself.
He speaks of ‘tickling’ the intended recipient “from the inside.” Additionally, some have suggested that the line “Mary on a cross” could also be a nod to cannabis, adding yet another layer of interpretation.
When all is said and done, the song might predominantly be an ode to cannabis. That is to say, the subject being referred to could very well be marijuana.
The singer seems to imply that the stress and limitations the group initially faced were alleviated by indulging in this particular herb. To sum it up, it’s safe to say that this tune is definitely not centered on either the Virgin Mary or the Christian symbol of the cross.
“Mary on a Cross” has become more than just a song; it’s a cultural phenomenon that has sparked conversations, debates, and even controversies. The song’s success has put Ghost in front of millions of new listeners, significantly boosting their profile.
Whether you love it or hate it, “Mary on a Cross” has made an indelible impact on the music scene and continues to be a topic of discussion, proving the power of art to provoke thought and stir emotions.