Getting a “Rise” Out of Oliver Cromwell

 

File:Cerne Abbas Giant Renovation (8) - geograph.org.uk - 970089.jpgI usually associate puckish or somewhat risqué headlines with organs such as the Daily Mirror in the UK, and the New York Post in the United States.  Newspapers that no-one in my family would have been caught dead reading, at least in public.  (Excuse me for a moment; just clearing my Internet cache, LOL….)

So imagine my surprise this morning, when The Telegraph, one of Britain’s staid old newspaper ladies and the only one my family would read (after the servants had ironed it, of course), emblazoned the following headline across its webpage:

Rebel baron undressed the Cerne Abbas Giant to get a rise out of Oliver Cromwell.

Well, look at that. This respected former British newspaper descended into the realm of lewd Internet clickbait.

Some background:  The Cerne Abbas Giant is one of those chalk hill figures that dot the British countryside, many of whose origins and original purpose are still cloaked in mystery.  Its first recorded mention occurs at the turn of the seventeenth century, and its age has long been unknown, although it’s been generally accepted that he’s an ancient fertility symbol (for reasons which will be revealed in a moment).  However, modern science does not love a mystery, and a relatively new technique in soil and mineral dating (this particular one called “optically stimulated luminescence (hmm, there’s another joke hiding in there somewhere, methinks)),” together with 3D laser scanning (LiDar) has revealed that he’s somewhere between twelve and fourteen-hundred years old, and that he was probably decently clad when he was first etched into the Dorset hillside next to a community of devout Cerne Abbey monks.  (The abbey was founded in 987 by Æthelmær the Stout. Lord.  I do love me a nice historical rabbit-hole to get lost in.)  There’s speculation that the Giant may have been a representation of the pagan Saxon deity Helith or Heil, but the figure’s original purpose is still unknown.)

Today, though, the 180-foot high Cerne Abbas Giant (colloquially known as “The Rude Man,”) looks like this:

So perhaps you can see why he’s been associated with the idea of fertility and elemental “maleness” since Victorian times, and why he’s become something of a shrine for childless women, who’d erect(!) a maypole(!!) around which they would dance to increase their chances of conceiving.  Rituals (I’ll leave you to speculate on which sort) have been conducted on his midsection by newlywed couples, and women who sleep near him are said to be blessed with increased fertility.

Lest you scoff, I’ll just point out that, apparently, all that works.  As of July 2010, the ladies of North Dorset, with an average of three children each, had the highest reproductive rates in Britain.  Go figure.

But their faith in their hero is about to be severely tested.

The modern dating techniques indicate that the Giant’s club, and his…umm…appendage, date from much later that the rest of him–in fact, from the time of the English Civil War.

In the mid-seventeenth-century, that portion of the Dorsetshire hillside and the Cerne Abbas Giant himself, were owned by Denzil, 1st Baron Holles, a British Parliamentarian who favored treating with the King rather than armed revolt, and who over the course of the war and its aftermath, became Oliver Cromwell’s bitter foe.  During Cromwell’s protectorate, Holles was forced into exile, and there are contemporaneous accounts of the Giant being carved into the hillside at his instigation and as a protest.

Those reports are now known to be false.  But it does appear that the Giant was altered in two important ways at this time, ways which are now thought to be that protest against Cromwell, one which took the form of adding a club to indicate Cromwell’s cruelty and despotism, and the other, a phallus to mock his Puritanism.

So that’s a mystery solved.  However, the Giant’s original purpose, like that of a few of the many other chalk hill figures in Britain, remains one.

And may it ever remain so.  Some things are best left to the imagination.

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 19 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    Thanks for this. I had heard of the Giant and this bit of new information is intriguing.

    • #1
  2. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    I think you’re a saucy little thing, Mrs. She, to show us Ricochet peeps an erect penis.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I were wearing pearls I would clutch them right now.  

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She: I usually associate puckish or somewhat risqué headlines with organs such as the Daily Mirror in the UK, and the New York Post in the United States.  Newspapers that no-one in my family would have been caught dead reading, at least in public.  (Excuse me for a moment; just clearing my Internet cache, LOL….)

    “Yes Prime Minister” had a primer on UK newspapers for us unlettered Yanks.

    ”The Mirror is written for people who think they run the country, the Guardian is written for people who think they ought to run the country, the Times is written for people who actually run the country, and the Daily Mail is written for the wives of the people who run the country. The Red Star is written for people who think the country should be run by another country, and the Daily Telegraph is written for people who think it already is.”

    • #3
  4. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    I think you’re a saucy little thing, Mrs. She, to show us Ricochet peeps an erect penis.

    LOL, @kentforrester. It’s a cultural artifact. (For those of you who don’t have a ruler long enough, the Giant’s measures 36 1/2 feet.)

    The only question right now, should the folks here be kind enough to shell out a few more “likes,” is whether or not the editors will promote this post or will rather leave it flopping around on the member feed. I expect it’ll be a hard decision.

    • #4
  5. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    Thanks for this. I had heard of the Giant and this bit of new information is intriguing.

    Yes, it’s interesting.  It reminds me of a late family friend, fellow graduate student with Mr. She, and one-time student of my Dad, who got his PhD in the misty land of lost academic time when original research was still being done, and when almost none of that research existed solely to feed its author’s political agenda.  His dissertation expounded upon his theory that the border artwork and weavings of the Bayeux Tapestry (those below the larger focal sections) actually showed a countervailing, protest, narrative told from the Saxon point of view.  (In spite of what most people–who think about it–think, the tapestry was woven in England, by English craftsmen and women, and not in France, although a detailed specification as to the outlines of the main panels was provided by the Norman Court. A later article which summarizes his thesis, can be found here.

     

    • #5
  6. Marjorie Reynolds Coolidge
    Marjorie Reynolds
    @MarjorieReynolds

    I’ve been having some very strange dreams since my dad died. I was staring at your post wondering why it seemed like deja vu and then I remembered the Wicker Man dream I had last night. I was wandering around Summer Isle wondering how to get off it. I’m not sure I want to know what it means.

    • #6
  7. Jim Beck Member
    Jim Beck
    @JimBeck

    For no other reason than to play One of the Ruins Cromwell Knocked About a Bit.

    • #7
  8. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Jim Beck (View Comment):

    For no other reason than to play One of the Ruins Cromwell Knocked About a Bit:

    Oh lovely!  Haven’t heard that for years.  I think that’s the second Marie Lloyd, the daughter of the first one.

    My Dad’s side of the family loved the music hall songs, so I know more than is either sane or rational for a person of my generation.  One of Dad’s favorites was the original “Miss MAHRie Lloyd’s” rendition of “A Little of What You Fancy Does You Good.”  Makes me smile and think of him every time I hear it:

    • #8
  9. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    It’s all part of the majestic pageant of English history! 

    • #9
  10. Jim Beck Member
    Jim Beck
    @JimBeck

    Evening She,

    The first time I heard that song was on an English show called “My Music”, and Frank Muir sang it and all the other lads chimed in. If I could go back in time, it might have been to join Frank and Dennis Norden.

    • #10
  11. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Jim Beck (View Comment):

    Evening She,

    The first time I heard that song was on an English show called “My Music”, and Frank Muir sang it and all the other lads chimed in. If I could go back in time, it might have been to join Frank and Dennis Norden.

    Oh, I loved them both.  Particularly “Fwank” Muir.  We used to listen to “My Music” when we were in Nigeria, along with “My Word,” which also featured Frank and Dennis Norden.  Classic, witty, and informed, both the programs and the participants.  (My favorite female among them was probably Anne Scott-James, who could hold her own.)

    My other favorite sort of program on the “BBC World Service,” in  a land where there wasn’t much else in the way of audio entertainment, was the reading aloud of classics of English Literature, and that was my first exposure to many of them.

    Nothing more, or less, than Audible, really.  And yet we’re supposed to believe Audible is something new and revolutionary.

    I’m a member of the Mark Steyn Club, and as such, I enjoy his readings of public domain classics, probably exactly because they remind me of the halcyon (and sometimes not) days of yore.

     

    • #11
  12. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Percival (View Comment):

    She: I usually associate puckish or somewhat risqué headlines with organs such as the Daily Mirror in the UK, and the New York Post in the United States. Newspapers that no-one in my family would have been caught dead reading, at least in public. (Excuse me for a moment; just clearing my Internet cache, LOL….)

    “Yes Prime Minister” had a primer on UK newspapers for us unlettered Yanks.

    ”The Mirror is written for people who think they run the country, the Guardian is written for people who think they ought to run the country, the Times is written for people who actually run the country, and the Daily Mail is written for the wives of the people who run the country. The Red Star is written for people who think the country should be run by another country, and the Daily Telegraph is written for people who think it already is.”

    One of my favorite scenes.

    • #12
  13. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    She (View Comment):
    It reminds me of a late family friend, fellow graduate student with Mr. She, and one-time student of my Dad

    What? The Giant?

    • #13
  14. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Chuck (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):
    It reminds me of a late family friend, fellow graduate student with Mr. She, and one-time student of my Dad

    What? The Giant?

    No. It was the comment I was responding to, which got me reflecting on how the historical matters we think we understand, or the historical artifacts (such as the Giant, and the Bayeux Tapestry) we think we know, are susceptible of new understanding based on actual research, as opposed to the current madness to rewrite history solely on the explicit prejudices of the moment. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. 

    • #14
  15. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    LOL, you guys (and gals).  Thanks.

    I don’t know whether to be proud of, or horrified by, the fact that I may be the only Ricochet member–the only one still here and in good standing, anyway–to have managed to get two “d**k posts” promoted to the main feed.  (The other post is here.)

    Perhaps it’s a simply a gift, although I’d like to share the blame credit with two men in my life:

    First, my very young, very embarrassed, very good looking, fourth-year high school Latin teacher who very determinedly plowed (and in terms of the poetry I used the word advisedly) through the works of Ovid and Catullus with us, in a class of eighteen-year olds in which I was the only female.  I wonder if he ever recovered from the experience.  Thank you Mr. Williams;

    And second, the late Mr. She, who imbued me with his love of the Medievals, particularly the great Geoffrey Chaucer, and who taught me an appreciation for their direct and blunt earthiness when it came to discussing matters of the sort, from both the male and female points of view.

    I am a human being.  Nothing human is alien to me.  Publius Terentius Afer (Terence)

     

    • #15
  16. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    She (View Comment):
    I don’t know whether to be proud of, or horrified by, the fact that I may be the only Ricochet member–the only one still here and in good standing, anyway–to have managed to get two “d**k posts” promoted to the main feed.  (The other post is here.)

    You manage to handle the subject with such class.

    • #16
  17. colleenb Member
    colleenb
    @colleenb

    She (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    I think you’re a saucy little thing, Mrs. She, to show us Ricochet peeps an erect penis.

    LOL, @ kentforrester. It’s a cultural artifact. (For those of you who don’t have a ruler long enough, the Giant’s measures 36 1/2 feet.)

    The only question right now, should the folks here be kind enough to shell out a few more “likes,” is whether or not the editors will promote this post or will rather leave it flopping around on the member feed. I expect it’ll be a hard decision.

    There are so many double entendres here I think I may be seeing double pretty soon.

    • #17
  18. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    She (View Comment):

    Chuck (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):
    It reminds me of a late family friend, fellow graduate student with Mr. She, and one-time student of my Dad

    What? The Giant?

    No. It was the comment I was responding to, which got me reflecting on how the historical matters we think we understand, or the historical artifacts (such as the Giant, and the Bayeux Tapestry) we think we know, are susceptible of new understanding based on actual research, as opposed to the current madness to rewrite history solely on the explicit prejudices of the moment. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

    It seemed impossible to comment without any double entendre’

    • #18
  19. colleenb Member
    colleenb
    @colleenb

    Chuck (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Chuck (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):
    It reminds me of a late family friend, fellow graduate student with Mr. She, and one-time student of my Dad

    What? The Giant?

    No. It was the comment I was responding to, which got me reflecting on how the historical matters we think we understand, or the historical artifacts (such as the Giant, and the Bayeux Tapestry) we think we know, are susceptible of new understanding based on actual research, as opposed to the current madness to rewrite history solely on the explicit prejudices of the moment. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

    It seemed impossible to comment without any double entendre’

    Great minds think alike Chuck.

    • #19