The Real Meaning Behind Ghost's Mary On A Cross

The song "Mary on a Cross" was released on Swedish rock band Ghost's 2019 album "Seven Inches of Satanic Panic," but it didn't start to become mainstream until a little later. In 2022, a slowed-down version of the song blew up on TikTok, with fans making heaps of edits from their favorite shows using the song in the background. At first glance, you may think the song is about Jesus' mother Mary. However, far from being a religious song, the song's chorus uses religion in an entirely different way to seemingly make a reference to a sexual act. 

The lyrics of the chorus, which read, "You go down just like Holy Mary, Mary on a, Mary on a cross," can definitely be seen as an allusion to oral sex. If you know anything about Ghost, the "real meaning" of the song probably isn't all that surprising. Frontman Tobias Forge is essentially a self-proclaimed modern Satanist, which suddenly makes the innuendo within the lyrics not-so-shocking after all (via The Independent).

The song can be interpreted in many ways

Still, Tobias Forge has actually spoken about the song, and it seems it has been somewhat misinterpreted. In a conversation with Mastodon's Brann Dailor (via YouTube), Forge described how his child's friend heard that the lyrics of "Mary on a Cross" were "perverse," prompting Forge to go into more detail regarding how the lyrics aren't what they appear to be on the surface. "There are a few, there are multiple layers of the lyrics — it might be important for people to understand that," Forge explained. "The chorus is written very tongue-in-cheek, of course. 'Go down' doesn't necessarily mean as in a 69 sense of the word. It can also mean 'go down' as in 'go down in history, your own ascent.'" 

Forge went on to say that the song refers to people whose intentions have been misunderstood, like Mary Magdalene. Despite this, as mentioned in the above conversation, the song has received a decent amount of backlash from those who believe the lyrics are offensive. Forge addressed this issue again on an episode of Cutter's RockCast, saying, "Of course, that is the backside of it, people hearing it and finding it, like, deeply offensive and this that or the other, just because they didn't have the brain capacity to sort of realize what it is about."

The band's lore gives extra context to the song

The "multiple layers of lyrics" Tobias Forge spoke about with Brann Dailor may have been a reference to the ongoing lore Ghost have within their music. For the uninitiated, TikToker @darkcodedarti posted a video explaining the lore behind "Mary on a Cross." Within the lore, there are two characters called Papa Nihil, an alter-ego of Forge, and Sister Imperator who is described as "the head of the Satanic clergy of Ghost," by Planet Radio, and who is also a former lover of Papa Nihil. According to @darkcodedarti's theory, the fictional couple got together following another music video titled "Dance Macabre," and the song was born from that reunion. 

As Forge hasn't technically come out and shared the meaning of the song, keeping things purposefully vague by mentioning more than one potential interpretation, it's likely he wants to keep the air of mystery surrounding the song. Nevertheless, it's clear that the Ghost frontman doesn't feel the need to be tolerant regarding those who are angry at the lyrics — which, considering that he happily aligned himself with modern Satanism, definitely isn't surprising.