Cerne Abbas Giant

Jerry_B

Antediluvian
Joined
Apr 15, 2002
Messages
8,056
Likes
40
Points
129
#31
_TMS_ said:
All of the temples (so far found of course) dating from the Roman occupation of Britain are Mithraic (from the Temple of Mithras in old London town, all the way up to Hadrian's wall)[...]
I'd question that assertion - there are several temples from that period for which we have no definite dedication, or the dedication is derived from archaeological evidence. For example, not far from Cerne Abbas (across the border in Somerset) there's what's thought to be a temple dedicated to Mars. There are other temple sites across the UK of Romano-British date that are also possibly dedicated to gods other than Mithras.
 

stu neville

Commissioner.
Staff member
Joined
Mar 9, 2002
Messages
11,376
Likes
4,028
Points
234
#32
Should have noticed that! The temple adjoining the Roman Baths in, erm Bath was devoted to Sulis Minerva. There was a temple devted to the Emperor Claudius at Colchester (Emperors were worshipped as divine by that time), St Pauls Cathedral was built on the site of a temple dedicated to the goddess Diana*, and one in the name of Apollo was where Westminster is now sited. So no, they were by no means all Mithraic.

*as opposed to the queen of bleedin hearts Diana, whose temple is at the HQ of Express group newspapers
 

rynner2

Great Old One
Joined
Aug 7, 2001
Messages
55,249
Likes
8,944
Points
284
#33
Well, I wouldn't have started this thread if I'd known it would lead to such controversy!

I expected a few fusty antequinarianisms (is that a word?) leavened with a few jokes, and maybe a dollop of archaeology thrown in.

Just goes to show, there's nowt so queer as folk! 8)
 

tilly50

Ephemeral Spectre
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
313
Likes
24
Points
34
#34
Somehow I find it difficult to but into the idea that the giant is a Royalist gibe against Cromwell.

To begin with the outline is crude (I don't mean in the "porn" sense!) the design is simplistic, there are examples of turf cut figures that are much more sophisticated in style that are earlier than the civil war period.

Also, if it is depicting Cromwell, why has the animal skin/cloak that leads to it being unambiguously a figure of hercules been allowed to disappear?
I would have thought that if the figure was one that derided the much hated Cromwell it would have been scoured with much more vigour and accuracy once the monarchy was re-established and maybe it would have become a centre for an annual ceremony marking the event. If the Boscabel Oak has become so entrenched in our civil war folklore, why not the Cerne Abbas giant?
 

rynner2

Great Old One
Joined
Aug 7, 2001
Messages
55,249
Likes
8,944
Points
284
#35
tilly50 said:
Somehow I find it difficult to but into the idea that the giant is a Royalist gibe against Cromwell.
This part of the country (Cornwall) was also staunchly loyalist during the Civil War, But I know of no ruderies perpetuated about the Cromwellians.

I suppose it's possible that the C.A. Giant might be pretty old, but that the 'pornographic' genitalia were added at a later date, either as pure graffiti, or to make some (now) obscure political point.
 

Jerry_B

Antediluvian
Joined
Apr 15, 2002
Messages
8,056
Likes
40
Points
129
#36
tilly50 said:
I would have thought that if the figure was one that derided the much hated Cromwell it would have been scoured with much more vigour and accuracy once the monarchy was re-established and maybe it would have become a centre for an annual ceremony marking the event. If the Boscabel Oak has become so entrenched in our civil war folklore, why not the Cerne Abbas giant?
It's not unusual for hill figures to be neglected over the years, whatever their original point may have been. And whilst it may seem an odd depiction, especially as a sort of political cartoon, mention of the giant only dates from a relatively recent time (as has been pointed out in this thread).
 

Twin_Star

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Jul 23, 2003
Messages
812
Likes
9
Points
49
#37
Jerry_B said:
_TMS_ said:
All of the temples (so far found of course) dating from the Roman occupation of Britain are Mithraic (from the Temple of Mithras in old London town, all the way up to Hadrian's wall)[...]
I'd question that assertion - there are several temples from that period for which we have no definite dedication, or the dedication is derived from archaeological evidence. For example, not far from Cerne Abbas (across the border in Somerset) there's what's thought to be a temple dedicated to Mars. There are other temple sites across the UK of Romano-British date that are also possibly dedicated to gods other than Mithras.
I knew i'd be picked up on that statement, well done jerry!

Of course, other relics of divinity are also found in these temples. In London f'rinstance - statues of Minerva, Mercury, Baccus, Boreas, Zephyros, Serapis and my old friend Sol Invictus were excavated, both within and without the temple walls, but the Romans had dozens, if not hundreds of gods in play during their hundreds of years of existence. I guess i should have said, wherever Roman soldiers were posted - and that is pretty much everywhere, Mithras was always strongly represented. Which i admit is different from my rather over-assertive comment earlier. :D

http://www.coventina.net/img/mithras.jpg - picture of a well preserved Mithras temple near Carrawburgh.

Anyway, i was about to move on and say at least no-one's messing with the long man of sussex and just uncovered this:

http://www.sussexexpress.co.uk/news?articleid=3014480

What's the world coming to! ;)

Edit - and hot off the press: http://www.sussexexpress.co.uk/news?articleid=3038817 - edit.

the online petition - first one ive signed up to has 650+ signatures. c'mon Forts! sign up and say NO to pagans being ridiculed, and 'challenged' (as Trinny & Suzanne had it), say NO to 100+ twats stomping all over an area of land that is usually off-limits. We've got until the 6th September! Sign and get us onto the BBC news :lol:
 

Jerry_B

Antediluvian
Joined
Apr 15, 2002
Messages
8,056
Likes
40
Points
129
#38
_TMS_ said:
I guess i should have said, wherever Roman soldiers were posted - and that is pretty much everywhere, Mithras was always strongly represented. Which i admit is different from my rather over-assertive comment earlier. :D
And Mithraeums tend to have a certain layout, compared to the 'standard' Romano-Britsh model (i.e. square) ;)

the online petition - first one ive signed up to has 650+ signatures. c'mon Forts! sign up and say NO to pagans being ridiculed, and 'challenged' (as Trinny & Suzanne had it), say NO to 100+ twats stomping all over an area of land that is usually off-limits. We've got until the 6th September! Sign and get us onto the BBC news :lol:
If the site has been damaged then it's bad that such things were allowed to happen. That said, the Long Man has been dated to some time in the 16th or 17th century, so the pagan interest in it as an 'ancient' site is a bit wide of the mark...
 

stu neville

Commissioner.
Staff member
Joined
Mar 9, 2002
Messages
11,376
Likes
4,028
Points
234
#39
tilly50 said:
Somehow I find it difficult to but into the idea that the giant is a Royalist gibe against Cromwell.
Nor do I believe it, necessarily - it's only a theory that's been posited. What is compelling is that the outline, with draped skin, depicts Hercules (though again I'd add the caveat that doesn't mean to say that it definitely depicts Hercules.) As I said on the first page, the only things anyone can say for sure about the Cerne Giant are that he's there now, and that he has been there for at least 300 years. Pretty much everything else is conjecture.
 

rynner2

Great Old One
Joined
Aug 7, 2001
Messages
55,249
Likes
8,944
Points
284
#40
It's Punorama results time again.

We gave you a story in the news and you came up with a brilliant punning headline - or tried to.

This week was the tale of a 180ft drawing of Homer Simpson that's appeared on a Dorset hillside, next to the 17th Century fertility symbol Cerne Abbas. Unlike the symbol, Homer preserves his dignity with a pair of Y-fronts.

The drawing is to promote a movie about the cartoon family, out later this month. But it had angered pagans who say it's disrespectful.

How'd you do? We always knew it was going to be a good week if Homer Simpson was involved in some way.

To kick off there was Homer Phobic from Toffeeman and F Tippecks and Homerphobia from Nick McDonnell.

The inspired Doh-set was the offering from Muhammad Isa, Charles in the USA and Robin in Edinburgh.

Honourable mention to Tim Knott for Pagans Donut like it, Rebecca Plumb for Much a d'oh about nothing, Helene Parry for Idle worship and Katy for Pagans have no sense of Homer.

But we had a firm favourite this week, however it does leave us feeling slightly unclean. Homer-Erotic was sent in by Adam, Carrie and Paul Clare. Not sure whether to thank you or not.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/magazinemonitor/punorama/
 
Joined
Mar 17, 2006
Messages
7
Likes
0
Points
17
#41
tilly50 said:
Somehow I find it difficult to but into the idea that the giant is a Royalist gibe against Cromwell.

To begin with the outline is crude (I don't mean in the "porn" sense!) the design is simplistic, there are examples of turf cut figures that are much more sophisticated in style that are earlier than the civil war period.

Also, if it is depicting Cromwell, why has the animal skin/cloak that leads to it being unambiguously a figure of hercules been allowed to disappear?
I would have thought that if the figure was one that derided the much hated Cromwell it would have been scoured with much more vigour and accuracy once the monarchy was re-established and maybe it would have become a centre for an annual ceremony marking the event. If the Boscabel Oak has become so entrenched in our civil war folklore, why not the Cerne Abbas giant?
In my reasoning, the fact that the figure is crudely made, is perhaps evidence of it being a caricature.
If you're going to depict someone you revile as hercules, obviously one doesn't make him look heroically handsome.
You make him farcical instead.
This sort of thing can backfire though.
Margaret Thatcher was ridiculed as both the 'Ironlady' and as Britannica and it only ended up strengthening her image.

The lion skin isn't the only part to disappear. The giant was surveyed in 1764 (no lion skin at this date) and he had a chin and a large navel that are no longer present.
The penis was also smaller back then, but was still erect and stopped short of the navel.
As the top of the navel was exactly where the top of the penis is now, others have understandably reasoned that a mistake was made when recutting it from an overgrown period.
But maybe it was deliberate.
After the giant's original intention was lost, the locals might well have wanted to enhance his member.
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
12,026
Likes
146
Points
114
#42
I think a bit more attention should be paid to the folklore traditions and tales connected to the image.
http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/majorsites/cerne_abbass.html

...

Folklore
According to one tradition, recorded from a farm labourer in the Gentleman's Magazine, the figure is the representation of a Danish giant who had led an invasion of England from the coast. He had fallen asleep on the side of the hill, and the local villagers had taken advantage of his slumber and cut off his head. They had then drawn around his prone body in the manner of a gigantic police chalk line, to show where he met his doom. However, the chalk figure sometimes rose from the dead on dark nights, to quench his thirst in the local stream, a habit also common to certain standing stones.

...
Now, see, there's something going on in there. Some of it may be generic, but, the bit about the beheaded Danish giant, quenching his thirst in "the local stream", that's quite interesting. These sort of stories really could pre-date a bit of crude 17th century caricature, looking back to times of ancient invasions, and ancient rites, perhaps connected with head hunting and stream worship. Or, the death of an invading warrior chief, with connections to the Roman Hercules.

Perhaps it is a commemoration of a late iron Age ambush and the massacre of seafaring invaders?
 

Jerry_B

Antediluvian
Joined
Apr 15, 2002
Messages
8,056
Likes
40
Points
129
#43
Implied age from folklore may not be of any use in terms of it's actual age. If people in more modern times can assume it's old, that could also have been the case in the more recent past. And folklore about giants is pretty thick on the ground in south-west England. So the farm labourer may have been borrowing from various elements, despite the possibility that he wasn't aware that the giant could've been created in recent history. One could therefore say that efforts to dress up things as being older than they actually are (for whatever reasons) aren't limited to more modern times.
 
Joined
Mar 17, 2006
Messages
7
Likes
0
Points
17
#44
I notice a lot of the legends involving chalk figures place them in the dark ages.
Anything old but undocumented, tends to get moved forward or backwards to this period.
King Arthur and Alfred the Great have all been claimed as the creators of chalk horses.
Even when things are well recorded, the general public will tend to increase their age.
I saw this doco on tv and this art critic was asking people on the street how old they thought Towerbridge was.
Half of them thought it was hundreds of years old.
When in fact it was built somewhere around 1900.

If the Cerne giant is as recent as the 17th century, the stories of local paganistic fertility practices are, to me at least, more interesting, because they must have sprung up spontaneously in relatively modern times.

I'm somewhat excludeing the even more recent wiccans and 'druids' from this. Not that their beliefs are without other interest. But I don't place much faith in many of their statements on british landmarks.
Their interaction of which, doesn't often seem in my eyes to be truly in symphony with the inherent nature of the sites.
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
12,026
Likes
146
Points
114
#45
Jerry_B said:
Implied age from folklore may not be of any use in terms of it's actual age. If people in more modern times can assume it's old, that could also have been the case in the more recent past. And folklore about giants is pretty thick on the ground in south-west England. So the farm labourer may have been borrowing from various elements, despite the possibility that he wasn't aware that the giant could've been created in recent history. One could therefore say that efforts to dress up things as being older than they actually are (for whatever reasons) aren't limited to more modern times.
Perhaps, Folklore's a bit like ancient hedgerow, the more variety, the older it may be? It's the interesting vernacular touches that places folklore in a landscape. It would probably be interesting to know how the 'farm labourer' came by the story, how it was passed it to him, when and by whom. Why assume he just made it up on the spur of the moment, albeit from pre existing folk nuggets?

Why doesn't the folklore tradition mention a Cavaliers and Roundheads connection? Why is the giant such an accurate representation of the Classical Hercules, right down what appears to be an obscured patch, where his lion skin used to be.

And, how long has there been a maypole dancing area?

Just because things aren't written down, it doesn't mean they didn't happen.
 

Jerry_B

Antediluvian
Joined
Apr 15, 2002
Messages
8,056
Likes
40
Points
129
#46
I wasn't assuming he was inventing the whole story on the spot. My point was that various stories can arise as local folklore and not necessarily be based in anything ancient. And a local doesn't necessarily have a comprehensive knowledge of the area in which they live.
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
12,026
Likes
146
Points
114
#47
Jerry_B said:
I wasn't assuming he was inventing the whole story on the spot. ...
Well, you certainly gave that impression.
Jerry_B said:
http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=30243&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=30

... So the farm labourer may have been borrowing from various elements, ...
Suffice it to say, a great deal seems to depend on the assumptions made about the provenance of the folklore.

I'd like to know more about the folklore surrounding the giant and also about folklore from the area, that might relate.
 

Jerry_B

Antediluvian
Joined
Apr 15, 2002
Messages
8,056
Likes
40
Points
129
#48
Well, that may be just your interpretation of what I said about what he said ;)

As for the folklore about the giant, the tale recounted by the farm labourer is the main story. Apparently the giant had been stealing and eating livestock. The folklore about the giant being Hercules-like figure seems to have sprung from the imagination of William Stukeley. He claimed that the figure was cut in honour of Eli the father of Caswallan after he had forced the Belgae out of the west. The story about the giant being fairly young is derived from accounts of the local churchwardens, noting that the cost of having the figure recut in 1694. The steward of the manor put the date of his first being cut as some time between 1654 and 1662. The giant may have also had a date cut in the open area between between his legs. He was recut at several other times, but by 1908 was almost overgrown.
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
12,026
Likes
146
Points
114
#49
Jerry_B said:
... The steward of the manor put the date of his first being cut as some time between 1654 and 1662. The giant may have also had a date cut in the open area between between his legs. He was recut at several other times, but by 1908 was almost overgrown.
Do you have references for any of this?
 

Jerry_B

Antediluvian
Joined
Apr 15, 2002
Messages
8,056
Likes
40
Points
129
#50
As I may have mentioned before, 3rd Stone magazine had a very good article on the giant back in late 1996. That contains the information I've given. It cites the 1774 edition of The History and Antiquities of Dorset as the source for the steward's opinion.

Another thing I forgot to mention was that villagers told one researcher in 1813 that the giant was cut after the dissolution of the nearby monastery, and that it was a lampoon of the abbot (who apparently had a licentious lifestyle).
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
12,026
Likes
146
Points
114
#51
Jerry_B said:
...

Another thing I forgot to mention was that villagers told one researcher in 1813 that the giant was cut after the dissolution of the nearby monastery, and that it was a lampoon of the abbot (who apparently had a licentious lifestyle).
Which would push the origin of the Giant back by about a hundred years, at least. If a story told by 'villagers' were any more believable than one told by a 'farm labourer'.
 
Joined
Mar 17, 2006
Messages
7
Likes
0
Points
17
#52
Jerry_B said:
Another thing I forgot to mention was that villagers told one researcher in 1813 that the giant was cut after the dissolution of the nearby monastery, and that it was a lampoon of the abbot (who apparently had a licentious lifestyle).
The Reverend John Hutchings was told the same thing, and noted it in a letter to the Bishop of Exeter in 1751.
He dated it to 1539.
The only problem with this is that it wasn't mentioned in the Dorset guide of 1617.
UNLESS, maybe, it was quite overgrown in 1617, and wasn't considered worthy of note?
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
12,026
Likes
146
Points
114
#53
DarkTraveller said:
Jerry_B said:
Another thing I forgot to mention was that villagers told one researcher in 1813 that the giant was cut after the dissolution of the nearby monastery, and that it was a lampoon of the abbot (who apparently had a licentious lifestyle).
The Reverend John Hutchings was told the same thing, and noted it in a letter to the Bishop of Exeter in 1751.
He dated it to 1539.
The only problem with this is that it wasn't mentioned in the Dorset guide of 1617.
UNLESS, maybe, it was quite overgrown in 1617, and wasn't considered worthy of note?
Which begs the question, why wasn't any association with Cromwell remembered by the locals, only a hundred, or so, years after the Civil War and the Commonwealth?
 
Joined
Mar 17, 2006
Messages
7
Likes
0
Points
17
#54
Yes it does seem as though they had rather short memories.

If it's not Cromwell as Hercules, his left arm looks a little odd to be held out like that without holding anything.
I wonder if something else was once there?

.
 

Jerry_B

Antediluvian
Joined
Apr 15, 2002
Messages
8,056
Likes
40
Points
129
#55
There's probably a thesis there WRT the dynamics of memory in rural areas before X date ;) Also, the giant isn't mentioned in various surveys (but the earthwork above him is) that date from the earlier part of the 17th C.

That said, it does seem that ideas about the giant being something to do with 'pagan' mores is something of more recent idea, stemming perhaps from the minds of Hutchins and Stukeley for the most part. Perhaps this was also rounded out with the revamping alot of folklore received in the Victorian era.
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
12,026
Likes
146
Points
114
#56
Jerry_B said:
There's probably a thesis there WRT the dynamics of memory in rural areas before X date ;) Also, the giant isn't mentioned in various surveys (but the earthwork above him is) that date from the earlier part of the 17th C.

That said, it does seem that ideas about the giant being something to do with 'pagan' mores is something of more recent idea, stemming perhaps from the minds of Hutchins and Stukeley for the most part. Perhaps this was also rounded out with the revamping alot of folklore received in the Victorian era.
You might find that any 'thesis' could just as well work in favour of the long term tenacity of certain folk memories, rather than the opposite.

There is the 'farm labourer' and his tale of giants, when it comes to 'pagan' folk beliefs.

It's the lack of historicity in the folklore that might be significant, in this case. Tales of wicked abbots and thieving giants, but none of Britain's first Parliamentary dictator. Perhaps, it's the link with history and Cromwell, that is just today's current fashion?
 

Jerry_B

Antediluvian
Joined
Apr 15, 2002
Messages
8,056
Likes
40
Points
129
#57
But then again, there's no mention of the giant, in terms of being a landmark, before a certain point in time. That could be said to be an indicator of it not being ancient.
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
12,026
Likes
146
Points
114
#58
Jerry_B said:
But then again, there's no mention of the giant, in terms of being a landmark, before a certain point in time. That could be said to be an indicator of it not being ancient.
Only, if you disregard the folklore.
 

Jerry_B

Antediluvian
Joined
Apr 15, 2002
Messages
8,056
Likes
40
Points
129
#59
But surely the folklore only works if you believe that a giant was actually roaming the area way back when? The other more mundane folklore doesn't put the giant's age back all that far.

I guess another test would be to compare the Cerne Abbas folklore about the figure with that of the Long Man, as we now have a date in terms of the period in which the Long Man was created. If it seems that there is rather florid folklore about the Long Man, that suggests that some think he's older than he actually is. The only folklore I know of about the Long Man is that the figure is supposed to represent where one giant died whilst fighting with another. Whilst this may sound like something 'ancient', because we know that the Long Man isn't all that old, it shows that rather tall tales get spun about such things.
 

peterbernard2O9

Junior Acolyte
Joined
Oct 13, 2005
Messages
37
Likes
0
Points
22
#60
I just want to say

Monty Python mocked Americans for starting off by saying, "I just want to say," and "Lemme tell ya something," but I just want to say that the Jerry_B guy is unaware of how deeply prejudiced he is against non-Christians and in favor of Christians, as though their mythology somehow made more sense than any other. Also, I want to continue by saying the other dude, the Pietro whatever guy, makes good arguments that are then twisted around by Mister "Christianity is the One True Religion But I'll Act Like I'm Not Really Saying That By Being a Smartass" Jerry_B fellow. Cheers to Pietro, shame on the other guy. Religious intolerance is equally as indefensible as racial or sexual bigotry. Mocking other people's religion does not make you appear intelligent except to other bigots. Okay, I'm done with this soap box if anyone needs it.
 
Top