On a hill near the town of Cerne Abbas in Dorset, England, a giant figure of a naked man wielding a club lies on a hillside.
Also known as “the Rude Man” due to the nakedness of the figure and its erect penis well shown, the Cerne Abbas Giant has been long studied, but remains a partial mystery.
The figure is the result of a one-foot deep (~30cm) groove in the grassy hillside, that shows the underlying layer of white chalk. It had been initially considered a very old artifact, but there is no mention of it earlier than the 17th century, when a reference to it appeared on an entry in the Churchwardens’ accounts from Cerne Abbas’s Church.
While initially considered the representation of a saxon god, further studies have formulated different hypotheses ranging from a Celtic figure to the Roman god Hercules. Some even suggest it might be a syncretization of these two figures.
Even though there is archaeological evidence of parts of the original drawing that have been lost, the common opinion is that it dates from the mid 17th century.
The ‘Rude Man’ measures approximately 180 by 160 feet (55 by 50 meters) and its phallus is almost as big as its head: 36 feet (11 meters).
This helped the Giant’s reputation spread among the popular culture, so much so that it’s been nominated as “Britain’s most famous phallus”, and it has been said that postcards of the Rude Man were the only indecent pictures allowed to be sent through the mail.
Without any historical evidence supporting this, the folklore has associated the Giant with fertility: local couples with fertility problems would spend the night within the white chalk grooves as this has been believed to facilitate conception. It’s also believed that sleeping on the giant’s figure makes it easier for unwed women to find their better half.
Recently, the Giant has also been used for advertising and publicity stunts ranging from the promotion of the use of condoms to the launch of The Simpsons Movie.
Although the best view of the Giant is from the air, the figure can be fully appreciated from the ground from the “Giant’s View” lay-by and car park off the A352.
Homer and Giant by Tim Bunce (CC BY 2.0)
Cerne Abbas Giant by Byrion Smith (CC BY 2.0)
The Cerne Giant by martin cruze (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
DJI00224 by mark Way (CC BY-ND 2.0)
DJI00226 by mark Way (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Cerne_giant_003-3 by Christopher John SSF (CC BY 2.0)