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The Cerne Abbas Giant and his massive club
The Cerne Abbas Giant and his massive club
The Cerne Abbas Giant and his massive club

Cover your eyes, readers of a nervous disposition, for the images you are about to witness are not only graphic, and of a sexual nature, but also, like, really, really old.

The Cerne Abbas giant is a historical puzzle, carved into the hillside near the village of Cerne Abbas in Dorset. As you can see, the 180ft drawing depicts a bald and very naked man brandishing a club. There’s some evidence to suggest he used to also be holding a cloak in his other hand, and that he was standing over a disembodied head, but no one is really sure what he was originally intended to represent.

While popular myth suggests he’s an ancient creation, depicting either a Saxon god or Hercules, he’s unremarked upon by any literature before the 17th century, and there is even some speculation that his round head is intended as a satirical depiction of Oliver Cromwell—which would make the disembodied head Charles I.

His groinal area has become the topic of fertility rites over the years, and he’s been claimed as a popular pagan or pre-christian symbol, on a par with Stonehenge.

Oh, and it’s also thought that the generous length of his member may be the result of over-zealous restoration work that has accidentally incorporated a circle that was originally intended to represent his navel.

And of course, a figure this potent, with no clear theological background, captures the imagination. So as well as being a focal point for all manner of ritualistic behaviour, he’s been the target of numerous spoofs and marketing stunts over the years.

Some work better than others. An attempt to cover his modesty with a massive pair of jeans, for example, merely served to highlight that waistbands aren’t really high enough to cover everything (unless you are Simon Cowell).

Here are five other examples:

The Movember Man

Last week, to help raise awareness and support for the November campaign to deliberately befoul the innocent fizzogs of clean-shaven men with the pox of facial hair (and thereby raise money for prostate and testicular cancer charities), the giant grew a big (36ft by 9ft) handlebar moustache made out of grass.

It was only there for one day, but it did provoke a spokesperson from British Seed Houses, which grew the whiskers, to tell BBC News they thought it gave him a “rakish” appearance, and they should know, they’re gardeners.

The Olympian Giant


In 2012, pupils from local schools scaled the giant dressed in red and yellow clothing to turn his club into an Olympic torch, just in time to coincide with the actual torch passing through the local area.

Head Heritage

Head Heritage records

Julian Cope is one of Britain’s greatest (and most talented) hobbyists. A full time rock star with a sideline in writing wonderful books about neolithic sites and the music of 1979s Germany and Japan (and pretty much everywhere else, truth be told). He also has his own manufacturing base, creating records and poems and books and all sorts. It’s called Head Heritage and the logo is the Cerne Abbas giant waving a double-necked guitar: tradition and progressive thought at the same time, yeah?

The Simpsons

Homer Simpson and the Cerne Abbas giant

In 2007, to promote The Simpsons Movie, a giant Homer Simpson was created out of biodegradable paint, temptingly brandishing an outsized doughnut in his underpants.

This witty bit of promotion also provoked the single greatest sentence on all of Wikipedia: “This act angered local neopagans, who pledged to perform rain magic to wash the figure away.”

Grayson Perry’s Bike Leathers

(pic: Chris Scott)
(pic: Chris Scott)

A more tangential tribute to the giant comes from British artist Grayson Perry, who created a set of not-remotely-disturbing motorbike leathers inspired by the big man.

He told the Telegraph: “I used to wear them to art openings so I could go there on the bike but still feel dressed up.

… Motorbikes aren’t manly. Look at mine. If a bloke has to prove his machismo with a motorbike, then he isn’t very macho.”

But a big black leather phallus with a zip down the middle? That’s different.

See more:
Five British Things You Must Do on May Day
Is Stonehenge A Musical Infographic?
WATCH: What Julian Cope Did Next…
Five Great British Rock Memoirs

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By Fraser McAlpine