Fertility Hopes Projected Onto Something Decidedly More Low-Tech


Couples in Dorset are benefiting from an unexpected baby boom and some say it’s caused by a figure known as “The Rude Man.” Maternity magic! Not that we couldn’t use a little.

The 180-foot figure has stood outside the town since sometime in the late 17th century. The so-called “Rude Man” was first recorded in Victorian times, and since then, locals have ascribed it some supernatural power to promote fertility among their women. The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics reveal that there may be something to this belief. Women in the towns surrounding the Cerne Abbas Giant have an average of three children each, which is nearly double the national average. Nursery manager Katie Raine reports seeing an increasing number of wards at the Archway Nursery in Pimperne: “We can take 73 children in any one day and we’re absolutely chock-a-block,” she said. “We have a baby unit for five infants, and that’s booked until next year, so there’s definitely a baby boom on.”

Though Raine was willing to note that it’s on, she made no mention of the giant’s role in the boom. In fact, the article is suspiciously devoid of testimony from any actual believers – it’s almost as though the Telegraph was simply unable to secure a quote from a magical-leaning townsperson, leading us to question whether this whole fertility figure leads to baby boom story is just a load of crap. No matter! There is some history here:

In the past locals would erect a maypole on the earthwork, around which childless couples would dance to promote fertility.
According to folklore, a woman who sleeps on the figure will be “blessed with fecundity”, and infertility may be cured through having sex on top of the figure, especially the phallus.

How quaint.

While no one stepped up to proclaim their respect for the Rude Man, the desire to keep believing (or to keep the illusion alive that someone, somewhere, believes) in some ancient folklore strikes me as comfortingly human. Logically, most people know the stone carving has nothing to do with the recent burst of fecundity, yet we can’t quite give up the idea that objects are more than inanimate. Freud called this a particular type of hubris, an over-estimation of our own mental powers that we project outwardly. Maybe this is one way to explain the Cerne Abbas article. But maybe it is more about nostalgia than egotism. In an age of fertility clinics, IVF, cloning, and the Octomom, a working fertility symbol might come as a welcome change. Many of us don’t really understand the science behind modern medicine. Maybe the Rude Man lore provides a brief return to the known unknown; he gives us a chance to pretend, for even just a moment, that it’s not that we don’t understand, but rather that we can’t.

Cerne Abbas Giant “Inspires” Fertility Boom

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