The Cerne Abbas Dwarf

Cerne-Abbas-DwarfIssue 89: April 1991

DURING THE 1990 crop circle season a number of ‘circle-spotting’ flights were made over the Dorset countryside. Any feature looking half-interesting was photographed.

As photographs of a circle near Cerne Abbas were examined, unusual markings in a scrubland glade on a hill due West of the Cerne Abbas Giant were noticed, and when the site was investigated on foot It gradually became clear that the outline of a figure similar to but smaller than the Giant had been carved in the chalk.

Although the carving is much eroded and in part destroyed, archaeologists and historians were able to map the figure in secret as it is hidden by trees from the A352 Sherborne to Dorchester road and the layby where sightseers park to view the giant.

What has emerged is a figure which some will view as a counterpart to the Giant but others will argue adds further mystery to an established controversy.

Who is the Cerne Abbas Giant? He is 180ft high from head to toe and he carries a 120ft club. Most historians believe he dates from Roman or pre-Roman Britain, and the ‘official’ dating on the observation point sign on the A352 is even more specific, stating ‘probably BC100-200AD’.

And pressed to put a name to him, most historians would claim that he represents one of the oldest heroes in Greek mythology and the most illustrious of all, the demi-god and personification of virility, Hercules.

There are other interpretations, however. UFOlogists point to the round head and claim it is the helmet of a spacesuit. But the style of the head is characteristically Celtic and a tenable alternative is that the Giant is the Celtic god of healing and fertility, Ceronnus. Cernonnus – Cerne?

The newly discovered figure is much smaller, 65ft from head to toe, and by its pose cannot be carrying a club. A spear, perhaps, or a sling. Speculation on the identity of this figure will intensify now that its existence is made public, and three theories have already surfaced.

First, he is King Diomedes, who specialised in feeding strangers to his mares and who faught (with a spear?) Hercules in round 9 of the latter’s 12 heroic ‘labours’. Second, the Giant is the Biblical Goliath and the smaller figure is David in the act of launching his slighshot.

Third, he is a dwarf, a super natural being in Germanic mythology and regarded as a powerful healer by the Celts. Dwarf and giant are connected in English Literary history, as in ‘As a dweft syttynge on a geauntis nekke’ (1387), leading to the proverb ‘A dwarf on a giant’s shoulders sees the further of the two.’

If the figure is a dwarf, the ‘look-out’ of the proverb, an historical connection can be made with the monks of Cerne Abbey. In the Middle Ages the monks owned Brownsea Island and its sole inhabitant was a hermit who nightly lit a beacon to guide the ships into safe haven.

This exclusive report was compiled with the co-operation of the Society of Celtic Archaeological Metaphysica.