Cerne Abbas giant

Cerne Abbas giant

The Cerne Abbas giant, also referred to as the Rude Man or the Rude Giant, is a hill figure of a giant naked man on a hillside near the village of Cerne Abbas, to the north of Dorchester, in Dorset, England. The convert|180|ft|abbr=on high, convert|167|ft|abbr=on wide [ Cerne Abbas Giant at Sacred Destinations] ] figure is carved into the side of a steep hill, and is best viewed from the opposite side of the valley or from the air. The carving is formed by a trench convert|12|in|cm|abbr=on wide, and about the same depth, which has been cut through grass and earth into the underlying chalk. In his right hand the giant holds a knobbed club convert|120|ft|abbr=on in length.


Like several other chalk figures carved into the English countryside, the Cerne Abbas giant is often thought of as an ancient creation. However, like many of the other figures, its history cannot be traced back further than the late 17th century, making an origin during the Celtic,
Roman or even Early Medieval periods difficult to prove. Above and to the right of the Giant's head is an earthwork known as the "Trendle", or "Frying Pan". Medieval writings refer to this location as "Trendle Hill", but make no mention of the giant, leading to the conclusion that it was probably only carved about 400 years ago. In contrast, the Uffington White Horse — an unquestionably prehistoric hill figure on the Berkshire Downs — was noticed and recorded by medieval authors.

The earliest written reference to the Giant was made in 1694, in a record for payment in the Cerne Abbas churchwarden's accounts of three shillings toward the re-cutting of the giant. The first survey of the giant was published in "Gentleman's Magazine" in 1764,cite book |title=Hidden History: Lost Civilizations, Secret Knowledge, and Ancient Mysteries |last=Haughton |first=Brian |year=2007 |publisher=New Page Books |location=Franklin Lakes, NJ |isbn=1564148971 |pages=p. 136 ] cite news |first=Richard |last=Lewis |title=Celebrating May Day the Pagan Way |url= |work= |publisher="The Observer" |date=Sunday May 1, 2005 |accessdate=2008-06-20 ] and in 1774, John Hutchins wrote in his book "The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset" that the carving had only been done the previous century.cite book |last=Hutchins |first=John |others=Robert Douch (Contributor) |title=The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset |origdate= |origyear=1742 |origmonth= |url= |format= |accessdate= |accessyear= |accessmonth= |edition= |series= |volume= |date= |year=1973 |month= |publisher=Rowman & Littlefield Publishers |location=Oxford |language= |isbn=0874713366 |oclc= |doi= |id= |pages= |chapter= |chapterurl= |quote= ]

Some believe that the giant was carved during the English Civil War by servants of the Lord of the Manor, Denzil Holles, and was intended as a parody of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell was sometimes mockingly referred to as "England's Hercules" by his enemies. The Hercules connection is strengthened by the recent discovery of an obliterated line perhaps representing an animal skin (see below). The suggestion that the figure is Hercules was first made in 1764 by William Stukeley. [The modern antiquarian,Julian Cope, Thorsons 1998]

Local folklore states that a Danish giant who was leading an invasion of the coast was beheaded by the people of Cerne Abbas while he slept on the hillside. [cite book |title=The Social Circulation of the Past: English Historical Culture 1500-1730 |last=Woolf |first=Daniel R. |year=2003 |publisher=Oxford University Press |location= |isbn=0199257787 |pages=p. 348, footnote 178 ] The chalk line represents the location of his body.

Nineteenth century sources describe the giant as having "between his legs are three rude letters, scarcely legible, and over them in modern figures, 748", ("rude" meaning "roughly cut") [cite book |title=The London Encyclopaedia: Or, Universal Dictionary of Science, Art, Literature, and Practical Mechanics, Comprising a Popular View of the Present State of Knowledge. Illustrated by Numerous Engravings, a General Atlas, and Appropriate Diagrams |last=Curtis|first=Thomas (ed.)|year=1829|publisher=T. Tegg|location= |isbn=|pages=768|url=,M1] [cite book |title=The Beauties of England and Wales, Or, Delineations, Topographical, Historical, and Descriptive, of Each County |last=Britton|first=John, et al|year=1803|publisher=Thomas Maiden, for Vernor and Hood|location= |isbn=|pages=|url=,M1] and being the representation of Cenric, the son of Cuthred, King of Wessex.

In 1920, the giant and the convert|1|acre|m2|abbr=on on which he sits was acquired by the National Trust and is listed as a Scheduled Monument. [ [ National Trust carries out first ever Giant survey] ] During World War II the giant was disguised in order to prevent his use as a landmark for enemy aircraft. [ Cerne Abbas Giant] ]

According to the National Trust, the grass is kept trimmed on a regular basis and the giant is re-chalked every 25 years. Traditionally, the National Trust has relied on sheep from surrounding farms to graze grass at the site. [cite news |first=Lucy |last=Cockcroft |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Cerne Abbas giant in danger of disappearing |url= |work= |publisher="The Daily Telegraph" |date=June 19, 2008 |accessdate=2008-06-20 ] However, in 2008 a lack of sheep, coupled with a wet spring causing extra plant growth, forced a re-chalking of the giant, [cite news |first= |last=BBC |authorlink=BBC |coauthors= |title= Sheep shortage hits Giant's look |url= |work= |publisher="BBC" |date=June 20, 2008 |accessdate=2008-06-20 ] with 17 tonnes of new chalk being poured in and tamped down by hand. [cite news|url=|title=Volunteers restore historic giant of Cerne Abbas to his former glory|last=Morris|first=Steven|date=2008-09-16|work=The Guardian|publisher=Guardian Newspapers|accessdate=2008-09-17]


Very much a phallic symbol on account of the figure's distinct erect penis and testicles, for hundreds of years it was local custom to erect a maypole upon the earthwork about which childless couples would dance to promote fertility, and even today childless couples are known to visit the site in order to copulate in the hope that they might conceive a child.

In 2008, a group of archaeologists using special equipment found that part of the carving had been allowed to be obliterated. [cite web |url= |title=Cerne Abbas Giant & Cerne Abbas, Dorset |accessdate=2008-06-20 |publisher=Weymouth & Portland Borough Council |date= ] According to these findings, the free arm should have held a depiction of an animal's skin, giving credence to the theory that the giant was a depiction of a hunter, or alternatively, Heracles with the skin of the Nemean lion over his arm. It has also been suggested that his large erection is, in fact, the result of merging a circle representing his navel with a smaller penis during a Victorian re-cut. [Grinsel, Leslie "The Cern Abbas Giant 1764-1980", "Antiquity," Vol 54 No 210, March 1980, pp. 29-33 (2001 ed, p.73)]

Publicity stunts

In modern times the Giant has been used for several publicity stunts and as an advertisement for "...condoms, jeans and bicycles." A low-key example was the sponsorship of the 1983 scouring by the brewers Heineken. As a publicity stunt for the opening of "The Simpsons Movie" on the 16 July 2007, a giant Homer Simpson brandishing a doughnut was outlined in water-based biodegradable paint to the left of the Cerne Abbas giant. This act angered local neopagans, who pledged to perform rain magic to wash the figure away.cite news|title=Pagans have a cow over Homer|publisher=The SunOnline|date=2007-07-16|url=,,2-2007320865,00.html] cite news|title=Wish for rain to wash away Homer|publisher=BBCNews|date=2007-07-16|url=] The Pagan Federation subsequently distanced themselves from a misquote by an unnamed tabloid concerning the supposed rain dance, whilst at the same time confirming that they could not condone such commercial usage.cite news|title=Cerne Abbas Clarification|publisher=Pagan Federation|date=2007-07-19|url=]

In August 2007 a report in the Dorset Echo said that a man claiming to be the "Purple Phantom" had painted the Cerne Abbas Giant penis purple. It was reported that the man was from Fathers 4 Justice but the group said that they did not know who it was. [ [ Giant daubed by 'vigilante'] ]


ee also

*Long Man of Wilmington

External links

* [ Cerne Abbas Giant at the National Trust]
* [ Cerne Abbas village website]
* [ Cerne Abbas giant at Mysterious Britain]
* [ Pictures of Cerne Abbas Giant]
* [,-95.677068&sspn=103.719597,106.875&ie=UTF8&ll=50.813668,-2.474796&spn=0.001391,0.004227&t=k&z=19&om=1 Aerial view from Google Maps]

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