The Cerne Giant’s best view other than from an aircraft. Photo Nilfanion
What is The Cerne Giant?
The Cerne Giant is a rampant, naked 60 metre male carved into the chalk hillsidenear Cerne Abbas, an old village about 8 miles (13kms) north of Dorchester, in Dorset, England.
The photo shows as much of the giant as you will currently see unless you rent air transport; the carving becomes a lot more indistinct from close up. For scale you can see a couple of hikers at the top of the hill on the left.
Why was the Cerne Giant created?
1) He was cut out 4, 000 years ago in honour of a Celtic fertility god, Cernunnos. Above his head is a maypole mound that was central to pagan May Day festivities until 1635, when the church decided that the wild, all-night, get nekkid scenes that were enjoyed by locals in the adjacent woods should be discouraged.
Legend has it that barren couples who wish for children should copulate on the giant genitalia – preferably after dark in case passing sheep lose their appetites.
2) He was carved 1, 500 years ago in honour of the Roman god Hercules.
3) He appeared a mere 350 years ago and is a caricature of Oliver Cromwell, a brilliant and influential though brutal leader (1599-1658) who gained enormous power during the English Civil Wars, espoused religious freedom and was offered the king’s crown – but refused.
The reason that the giant’s origin is unclear is firstly that the only elements remaining in the area are grass and chalk which have been around for months or millenia, so carbon dating is not an option, and secondly the earliest written record of the giant that survives was from the 18th century.
Dorchester is the nearest town, 8 miles (13kms) south, and Maiden Castle a huge though simple iron age fort is one mile beyond that.