Cerne Abbas Giant

jefflovestone

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Pietro_Mercurios said:
But, isn't, "hearsay", what oral tradition is all about? ;)
For some reason the board logged me whilst I was replying. :evil:

Puns or literal readings aside, no I wouldn't. ;)

I'm not sure why folklore should be based on oral traditions and exist in this nebulous state as to 'authenticity'. Granted, oral traditions in a pre-literate society are a different thing entirely - I'd have thought that there might be an argument for the improved accuracy of oral-traditions in pre-literate society as well.

However, I find it weird that if a folk tradition is so important or ingrained to a particular region or demographic in a (semi) literate society that, if true, particularly from the middle-ages onwards, that there's not tangible evidence to back them up in artworks, written stories or even gazetteers. Obviously, that's not to say that documentary evidence like this, once recorded, will always survive.

I appreciate arguments that folk traditions and beliefs aren't always deemed important enough to warrant documentation but where that gets a little inconsistent is the amount of times it does. Fairy beliefs, for example are fairly well-documented (appearances in church registers as cause of death, 'fairy/pixie' holes in the sides of brick barns in Cheshire &c). The likes of the woodwose appear in illuminated manuscripts and misericords, foliate heads appearing in many churches. In fact, with the last two examples, it's possibly indicative of folk beliefs existing as tangible evidence long after an 'oral tradition'.
 

jefflovestone

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Jerry_B said:
It doesn't have to be a mystery, that's the point. If someones does the research finds out that 'x' bit of folkore stems from a definite point in time (or the most likely point in time) then that in itself expands our knowledge. It also allows us to put a tick in the relevant box - 'recent'/'old'/'ancient'. IMHO it makes to seperate folklore into the period from which it stems, as it gives us a clearer pictire of history and of folkloric history.
I agree, it doesn't have to be a mystery and surely folk traditions weren't meant to be a mystery unless someone is trying to tie them into some pagan mystery school.

I'd have thought that having some historical peg to hang these off actually makes them more useful to everyone, not just pedants, debunkers and historians. Knowing that a folk tradition started in the 18C. as opposed to some vague distant past doesn't necessarily make it less valuable to society/culture, particularly if there's still some vestige of that tradition being played out now.

It's not a case of just being able to say 'that's not as old as it looks' as, if a more accurate time period can be applied it maybe possible that it ties into a cultural import or another event that actually gives it some lineage that goes back further it immediately appears.
 

Jerry_B

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jefflovestone said:
I'd have thought that having some historical peg to hang these off actually makes them more useful to everyone, not just pedants, debunkers and historians. Knowing that a folk tradition started in the 18C. as opposed to some vague distant past doesn't necessarily make it less valuable to society/culture, particularly if there's still some vestige of that tradition being played out now.
Of course. But problems arise when certain parties try to claim that something is older than it may actually be, and also seek to justify their own outlook from that. To me, that sort of thing is detrimental to our understanding of history. It tends to be one of the things that some decry christianity for doing, but at the same time other parties also do the same thing.

IMHO, it always pays to try and get to the root of the story behind something. It doesn't pay to be vague at the behest of romantic notions.
 

rynner2

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Wet weather turns Cerne Abbas chalk giant into the invisible man
By Luke Salkeld
Last updated at 8:17 PM on 19th June 2008

He has been standing in an undeniably prominent position for hundreds of years.

But the famous Cerne Abbas giant appears to be fading from view as his modesty - and everything else besides - is covered by grass.

The damp spring has led to the ancient chalk figure being swamped by fast growing vegetation.

And thanks to a decline in sheep farming in the surrounding area, the flock that traditionally graze on the site have been unavailable to provide the giant figure with its annual trim.

Traditionally the National Trust introduces local animals to the area near the Dorset village of Cerne Abbas during the spring and summer months to keep the grass down.

Environmentalists are now calling on the National Trust to find replacement sheep for the hillside or have it cut back by human hands.

Rodney Legg, chairman of the Open Spaces Society, said: 'Visitors turning up have been disappointed because they can't really see it.

'We have had a very wet start to the summer and the grass and weeds have grown vigorously.

'This year the giant has gone from being a white icon, through a green man stage, into the invisible man.

'We need more sheep on the site or it needs the village to take him into their care by trimming the grass, weeding the trenches and whitewashing them.'

It is unclear exactly when the 180ft club-wielding giant was scratched into the hillside at Cerne Abbas, near Dorchester, but the first documented mention was in 1694.

Its original purpose is also unclear but traditionally it has been viewed as a fertility symbol.

The problem of the disappearing giant was triggered after the area endured double the average rainfall for the month of May.

A spokeswoman for the Met Office said this spring had been 'considerably wet', with 3.7ins of rain falling in May compared to the average of less than 2ins.

Helen Mann, the National Trust's west Dorset property manager, explained that the giant's hillside position make it too precarious to mow.

She said: 'We are aware the giant is not at his best right now.

'Being on such a steep incline, he's not in a position where we can safely mow or strim.

'In the past we have relied on sheep to keep him shawn [sic!] but haven't been able to borrow any since last September for one reason or another.

'We are, however, expecting to have him re-chalked this September, which we hope will help him stand out once more.' ;)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... e-man.html
 

rynner2

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Cerne Abbas Giant: is he older than we thought?
Jack Malvern

Standing proudly on a hillside in West Dorset, the chalk outline of the Cerne Abbas Giant has perplexed visitors for centuries.

To the frustration of archaeologists there is no written record of the anatomically detailed chalk figure before the late 17th century, but clues that the giant was created earlier than that have emerged in the form of suggestive earthworks built nearby.

Rob Wilson-North, historic environment manager for the Exmoor National Park Authority, believes that the giant may date from the late 16th or early 17th century after he discovered a pair of man-made earth mounds and a long gulley protruding from them.

In a letter to Current Archaeology magazine Mr Wilson-North explained that he was left in no doubt about the meaning of the earthworks, which lie in an abandoned garden a few hundred metres from the giant.

“An element of the garden is a pair of round water parterres with a straight watercarrying feature emerging from between them. The similarity on plan of these garden features with the giant’s best-known attributes is quite extraordinary,” he wrote. ;)

He told The Times that when he drew the outline of his find, he became convinced that the garden designer was paying homage to the giant. “When you look at the plan it’s incontrovertible,” he said. “Coming off one end of the canal is a big cascade. I’d hesitate to say that water was running out of it, but it could have been. It makes you ask, how would you explain it to ladies who would wander around?” :shock:

The gardens were built when the Abbey of Cernes was transformed into a country mansion in the mid-16th century after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. One resident who may have been responsible for the gardens was Denzil Holles, a characterful MP who fought for the Parliamentarians but was a Royalist at heart and who occupied the house from 1642-66.

The Rev John Hutchins, a local historian writing in 1774, claimed that he was told that the giant was “a modern thing” cut by Lord Holles.

The National Trust, which owns the field where the giant is carved, suggests that the figure could be Roman or Celtic in origin, but observes that it may be a 17th-century joke at the expense of Oliver Cromwell, whom Holles held in contempt.

Mr Wilson-North does not believe that Holles necessarily created the giant, but the water feature in his garden suggests that he was aware of it.

The giant himself has never been brighter. His outline has been refreshed every 25 years since he was covered up during the Second World War, when it was feared that the Luftwaffe would use him for navigation.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/u ... 919244.ece
 

rynner2

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Cerne Abbas Giant 'inspires' fertility boom
A giant chalk man carved into a west country hillside is living up to its legendary status as a figure of fertility by producing a baby boom in the surrounding area.
By Richard Alleyne
Published: 7:03PM BST 26 Jul 2010

Since Victorian times, the 180ft Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset has been said to cure childlessness and bless women with improved fertility.

Now the women in the surrounding towns and villages have the highest birth rates in the country.

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that the women of North Dorset have on average three children each – nearly double the national average and nearly three times as much as the city dwellers of Westminster.

In the past locals would erect a maypole on the earthwork, around which childless couples would dance to promote fertility.

According to folklore, a woman who sleeps on the figure will be "blessed with fecundity", and infertility may be cured through having sex on top of the figure, especially the phallus.

Standing erect for locals to see the giant could be having an inspirational effect on couples in the area said locals.

Katie Raine, a nursery manager, said the increasing number of small clients at the Archway Nursery in Pimperne – which is in sight of the Giant – were living proof of the findings.

“We can take 73 children in any one day and we’re absolutely chock-a-block," she said.

"We have a baby unit for five infants, and that’s booked until next year, so there’s definitely a baby boom on."

The findings – from a survey of 10,000 North Dorset women aged between 15 and 44 – placed the district at the top of the charts, leaving the London borough of Westminster at the bottom, with just 1.16 children per woman.

Birth rates had been rising steadily since the millennium, reaching 1.97 per woman in 2008, from a low of 1.65 in 2000.

North Dorset’s survey-topping fertility rate beats the highest recorded national average, when figures recorded in 1964 revealed women were likely to produce 2.93 children in a lifetime.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/ ... -boom.html
 

Carljr

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The Cerne Abbas Giant is world famous; But what about the mound on the top of the hill?! Look at the "Google Earth" image of the giant, and you will observe a square hill above him! Does anyone have any information on this aspect of the site? Has there been any archaeological research on this mound formation?

 

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It's called Trendle Hill and it's an Iron Age hill fort IIRC. I visited it about 15 years ago.
 

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Zilch5 said:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trundle_%28hill_fort%29
Wrong hill, wrong county!

Trendle Hill is briefly mentioned here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trendle_Hill
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.
 

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As TMS said, in all probability it isn't even slightly Roman. Cromwell was satirised as "England's Hercules", and the Giant is cut within what was at the time a staunchly Royalist area - whether or not this is the origin of the Giant is not clear, however.
I've wondered if the figure was cut in the 1660's, as a celebration of - and bawdy joke about - the recent return of Charles II to Britain. There are certainly no references found so far that are earlier. Maybe it was villagers happy to see the back of Cromwell's dour no-fun Commonwealth? Indulging in a bit of restoration faux-paganry perhaps!

There are slight associations with Charles Stuart and the are of south west Dorset - He was smuggled through this area on his escape after the batthe of Worcester and stayed in Bridport briefly before scarpering to France.

If you fancy reading a scandalous ode about Charles I can recommend A Satyre on Charles II http://www.ealasaid.com/fan/rochester/charles.html
 

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Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. To me the style of the giant is indicative of something much older. It could be a conscious copy of an older style, I suppose. But where would the locals have got the idea from?
 

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It would make a fun motive for a beach towel.
 

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There are / were multiple similarly-created hill figures in the surrounding region.
I didn't know that. I thought it was very much a one-off in style
 

EnolaGaia

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I didn't know that. I thought it was very much a one-off in style
Just to be clear ... I didn't mean there were other giant human figures in the region. I only meant there were other large hill figures produced using the same sort of method (exposing or adding light colored rock such as chalk).
 

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Any of the hill figures in southern England that date back at least as far as the Giant's estimated 17th century origin.
Ah. Thought you meant rather more local to cerne abbas than 'south England'.
 

EnolaGaia

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Cochise asked: "... But where would the locals have got the idea from?"

Even centuries ago knowledge of such figures and how they were constructed could have disseminated throughout the region.
 

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Cochise asked: "... But where would the locals have got the idea from?"

Even centuries ago knowledge of such figures and how they were constructed could have disseminated throughout the region.
I got excited that there were similar figures close to the coalhouse
 

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Cochise asked: "... But where would the locals have got the idea from?"

Even centuries ago knowledge of such figures and how they were constructed could have disseminated throughout the region.
I think I made an ambiguous statement. I wasn't referring to the technique, I meant the style of the figure which looks archaic - I'd have expected a 17th century figure to be more humanistic, if that's the right word. Art is not one of my strong points.
 

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Volunteers restore Cerne Abbas giant to former glory

The scene could hardly have been more quintessentially English. As buzzards circled above and butterflies darted across the flower-dotted slopes, dozens of volunteers were digging and scraping at a huge figure carved into the steep hillside.

The Cerne Abbas giant has loomed large above this Dorset valley for centuries, but 11 years after he was last spruced up, he and his impressive nether region were beginning to look a little faded.

So on Wednesday an intrepid bunch of National Trust rangers, volunteers and archaeology experts clambered up the hill to help restore him to his former glory.

Sheep do the donkey work most of the time, chomping away at the grass to keep the giant visible, but for centuries every decade or so humans, fuelled by tea and cake, re-edge the figure, dig out the faded chalk and replace it.

The whole process is done by hand with picks, shovels, brushes, tampers and some lung-bursting scrambles. It took 60 people nine days to finish the job in 2008 and about 20 tonnes of chalk will be used this time to make the giant visible for miles around again.

Martin Papworth, a National Trust archaeologist, produced a copy of the first image of the figure, dated 1763, in which the appendage is not as large. “In the 1950s and 60s contractors maintained the figure,” said Papworth. He suggested that a gang of them might have thought it would be a lark to make him more impressive.
 

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The changing size of the member:

I think that in some early pictures there is a navel as well as ribs and nipples. It would be fairly easy for a not-that-committed workforce to add the navel into the length of the member and..... Voila! :D
 

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The changing size of the member:

I think that in some early pictures there is a navel as well as ribs and nipples. It would be fairly easy for a not-that-committed workforce to add the navel into the length of the member and..... Voila! :D
I thought this was well known? I know I read about it years ago.
 

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I thought this was well known? I know I read about it years ago.
same here! That's why I was hesitant... one of those things I know but have no way of giving supporting evidence :)
 
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