17 November, 2011
The Mysterious Rude Man Of Cerne
I've stood on a few white horses but never on the Rude Man of Cerne. I've just admired him from the hillside nearby. That's the man I'm writing about today in the photo above.
His real name is The Cerne Giant - though often called the Rude Man for obvious reasons - and he stands on the hillside above the very picturesque village of Cerne Abbas in Dorset, England.
In England there are many hillside figures the most visited are the white horses, there are seven in the county of Wiltshire alone. But today this post is about the Cerne Giant because there is something of a mystery about him.
As for size, he is 180 feet (55m) from head to toe and the club that he is brandishing is 120 feet (37m) long as he appears to stride across the hillside. His outline is etched into the ground by trenches one to two feet wide. I'd suppose I'd better include all the stats, so, his phallus is 30 feet (9m) in length.
Okay, but why is he there?
He's been crafted with some skill as on each May 1st, at dawn, the sun rises directly in line with anyone observing this while standing at the base of the Giant's private parts. This, of course, suggests that he is some form of fertility symbol. Couples having difficulty in conceiving are said to make love on the Giant's phallus.
A sixteenth century writer wrote, "I have heard it reported by men of great gravity that, of an hundred maids going to the 'wood', there have scarcely the part of them returned home again as they went."
Some experts say the Giant goes back to prehistoric times, the surrounding area is full of ancient remains, camps and forts. Others will disagree and suggest he was made in 1539 and depicts a corrupt abbot of a monastery now long destroyed.
The truth seems to be that nobody knows for sure when The Cerne Giant was cut into the chalky hillside.
It's possible that he was a copy of a god, perhaps a Celtic one such as Nodens. In the same area a man ploughing his nearby fields, in the 1940s, came across a bronze handle, from circa 43AD, that depicted a similar naked man, thought to be Nodens.
But others think it may be Hercules. William Stukeley in 1764 wrote, 'the people there give the name Helis to the Giant.'
According to Wikipedia 'a 1996 study found that some features of the image have changed over time; notably, the study concluded that the figure originally held a cloak in its left arm and stood over a disembodied head.'
Hercules is often shown with a club. If this was the case the Giant would have been made after the Roman invasion of England. The Roman Emperor Commodus about, 180AD, thought himself to be a reincarnation of Hercules.
The origins of The Cerne Giant or The Rude Man remains a mystery but for passing cars and walkers it's not exactly something to go unnoticed.
The White Horses on hillsides vary in shape and size. The Uffington White Horse, in the photo below, was taken from a satellite by NASA. This particular horse is said to be about 3000 years old.