The lovely little town of Cerne Abbas holds a secret that is easily missed.
The idyllic streets, some with intact architecture from hundreds of years ago, are a delight. Although well-visited, it feels relaxed. The local people are friendly – something we have found throughout this gentle county of Dorset, filled with villages nestling into green and flowing hillsides.
It’s the morning of day two of the Silent Eye’s June weekend, a period of reflection of the coming Summer Solstice, the longest day, the Feast of St John, the time when the ‘fullness’ of the light begins its decline.
Cerne Abbas has an ancient link to the idea of ‘fullness’. It is expressed in a well known icon of the town – the Cerne Abbas Giant. A mere ten minute walk from the main square you come to a viewing point from which this smiling mystery is revealed:
The giant’s main attribute is obvious. Proud and long, he struts his stuff with a warrior’s club in the right hand and a less certain set of objects in the left. What is he? No-one knows for sure. Even the date of his origin is disputed. An ancient tribal leader, perhaps, a figure very much like the original ‘warrior-saviour’ gods from Celtic times, such as Cernunnos, who ruled over the hidden treasures of the Underworld.
Whatever his meaning, the little town of Cerne Abbas loves him. The humour is shared, but the figure, and his link with a legendary past, has a serious connection with the psyche of this beautiful part of England, that goes far beyond the merely commercial.
Cern Abbas has another secret; one you would miss if you weren’t shown it. Beside the church is an almost hidden path that leads down to a place of great beauty and significance, and we were planning to us this for a very special ceremony.
To be continued…