Dorset’s Cerne Abbas Giant and Fertility Legends

The Cerne Abbas Giant is a quirky figure carved out on Trendle Hill in Dorset, UK. Some 180 feet tall, the naked “Giant” holds a club aloft in his right hand. How he came to be resting on this hillside is a local mystery.

Cerne Abbas is a tourist village with many attractions, including the river, streets lined with stone houses and the Cerne Abbey. The church of St Mary is of 13th century origin but was largely rebuilt in the 15th and early 16th centuries and partly reconstructed in the 17th century. Features of interest include the 17th century pulpit and the great east window, which probably came from the abbey. In 2008, Cerne Abbas was voted Britain’s “Most Desirable Village.”

The most famous attraction is the Cerne Abbas Giant,  a 55 metre (180 ft) naked figure carved into the chalk hillside. The giant, owned by the National Trust, is thought by many to be an Iron Age fertility symbol but, as it is unlikely that the monks of Cerne Abbey would have tolerated such a figure, and with no records before the 17th century, this cannot be confirmed. Many scholars now think that it was created in the mid-17th century, although there is evidence of Iron Age settlement on the downs nearby.

One legend associated with the Giant is he represents a real-life giant who terrorized Cerne by killing livestock and even children. Reportedly, one day as the giant lay sleeping on the hillside, the villagers killed him. Afterwards, they cut out his outline in the chalk downlands.

Historians have claimed that the Giant is Cernunnos or Hercules or Gogmagog. However, as the Giant predates Roman occupation of England, the figure is likely a Celtic Fertility God.

Legend says that if a woman sat on the figure’s penis that it would cure her infertility. Other versions of the tale say the woman must spend a night laying on the figure during a new moon to cure her barrenness. Some say that the couple must have sexual intercourse while lying upon the outlined figure.

As crazy as these tales sound, in 1958, the Marquis of Bath and his wife Virginia visited the site. Having unsuccessfully tried to have a child for five years, the couple chose to lie on the Giant. Ten months later, their daughter was born. In tribute, the Marquis named the child Silvy Cerne. She is now Lady Silvy Cerne McQuiston. The Marquis even listed the “G. Cerne” as the child’s godfather on her baptismal papers. The family made an annual pilgrimage to the Giant.

Mr and Mrs Thorne of Puddletown were blessed by a white witch and performed an “active” romp upon the Giant’s form in 1998. Nine months later, Mrs Thorne delivered up a healthy boy.

Unfortunately, the National Trust, which owns the form and area surrounding it, have erected a protective fence around the site. They fear that too many such “expeditions” by desperate couples could erode away the Giant’s chalk form.

The Wessex Morris Men perform Morris dancing above the Giant every May Day at sunrise 5:28 A.M.


For an article on the fertility boom in the area, visit The Telegraph.


About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
This entry was posted in British history, gothic and paranormal, legends and myths. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dorset’s Cerne Abbas Giant and Fertility Legends

  1. Gerri Bowen says:

    That was interesting, Regina.

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