For the second time in a month pagans have been enraged by what they see as defacement of one of their sacred sites. Some have pledged to perform "rain magic" (as if that’s been necessary this summer) to wash away an image of Homer Simpson that has been painted next to the Cerne Abbas giant.
Painted in water-based biodegradable paint the image of Homer Simpson holding aloft a sacred doughnut is intended to promote the release of the new Simpsons film. Ann Bryn-Evans, joint Wessex district manager for The Pagan Federation, said: "We'll be doing some rain magic to bring the rain and wash it away. I'm amazed they got permission to do something so ridiculous. It's an area of scientific interest."
Pagans have co-opted the Cerne Abbas giant as a sacred site when in all probability it is not of great antiquity and has no pagan connection at all. Although some theories date the giant to the roman era (relating either to a fertility cult or intended as a representation of the emperor Commodus who reigned from 180-193 and who usually portrayed himself as Hercules) the prevailing theory is that it dates back to the time of the Commonwealth (see this post from last July).
The generally accepted theory is that the Giant was made by servants of the local Lord of the Manor, Denzil Holles as a parody of Oliver Cromwell. While Holles was a leading Parliamentary figure during the Civil War – he was one of the five MPs Charles I attempted to arrest in 1642 - he hated Cromwell with a passion. Cromwell was also sometimes referred to as "England's Hercules" by his enemies. The theory is given further weight by the fact that the very first reference to the giant dates back to just 1694 where the local churchwarden’s accounts show a payment of 3 shillings was made towards the re-cutting of the giant. In addition, John Hutchins wrote in 1751 in his Guide to Dorset that the carving had only been done the previous century.
While the true date my never be resolved it does seem that pagans have no more call on the giant than anyone else. They might as well have co-opted Westminster Abbey as a sacred site. Personally I’m not bothered by the image of Homer Simpson. It does not harm to the site and it will be gone in a few weeks anyway, rain spell or none.