The land of the ‘stone father’

At the heart of an ancient landscape is the Dorset village of Cerne Abbas. The village grew up around a Benedictine Abbey founded there over a thousand years ago and it is still a place where folklore, myth and legend come together…and few of them agree.

The holy spring rose from where St Augustine struck the ground… or where St Edwold saw a vision, depending on which story you prefer, just as the giant on the hillside dates from the Iron Age… or is a seventeenth century political statement. The mysteries here are real… but underpinning them all is the fact that the place was undeniably seen as sacred.

The name is interesting in itself in that respect; ‘Cerne’ is believed to come from a Celtic word for ‘stone’ and ‘Abbas’ is the Medieval Latin ‘abbot’, which means ‘father’. Does the name refer to the Abbey, or did the abbey take its name from the chalk-cut Giant? If so, would that make him the ‘Stone Father’? Some have likened the image to that of Hercules, and there are traces of what could have been a lion skin draped over his arm. In Arabic, ‘abbas’ means not only ‘father’ but can be used to speak of the lion, while in French, ‘cerne’ means circle… and the imagery of the golden-maned lion as the sun is present in many cultures.

Add to the mix that Cernunnos is the name of a Celtic god of fertility, and even the name of the village itself becomes an intriguing mystery. But…if all the tales point to the ‘father’ in the landscape… where do we look to find the Mother? Perhaps we must first look for the Maiden? And what other secrets does this landscape hold?

It is at the heart of this land of wildflowers, myth and mystery that the Silent Eye will be holding its June workshop weekend. Join us this summer on our pre-solstice event for an interactive excursion into the Living Land of Dorset…

The Giant and the Sun
Cerne Abbas, Dorset
Friday 15th – Sunday 17th June 2018

The weekend is informal and open to all, no previous knowledge or experience is required. We ask only that you bring your own presence and thoughts to the moment.

Workshop costs £50 per person. Accommodation and meals are not included and bed and breakfast/hotel in Cerne Abbas should be booked separately by all attendees. Lunch and dinner are usually shared meals.

Click below to
Download our Events Booking Form – pdf

For further details or to reserve your place: rivingtide@gmail.com

26 thoughts on “The land of the ‘stone father’

  1. I’m laughing at myself because I suddenly realized that the source of the word “abbot” is the Hebrew “abba” which means father and occasionally “lord” or “master.” Usually father. How come I didn’t know that? Sometimes, I am so dumb.

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    1. Odd, isn’t it that the words for ‘mother’ and ‘father’ share so many similarities worldwide? Or perhaps not… they must be one of the first words that distinguish individuals that we came up with.

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      1. Hebrew & Arabic — and presumably whatever language they both emerged from — used both ema and abba as roots for an almost infinite number of words and place names, so I would assume you are right. There was a language (lost) that was the original. Hebrew and Arabic are very similar, though Arabic is a much bigger language (it wasn’t dead for a couple of thousand years). They sound different, but the roots are the same.

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          1. I wanted to study linguistics in college — except no New York school TAUGHT linguistics. i would have had to go to the University of Michigan. At 16. I was considered too young to go “away” to college. It had to be a New York school and none of them taught it. I love the construction of words and how some words are entire stories of civilizations.

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  2. Ah, a bit of Dorset, my home county, history. The Giant is indeed legendary, and I was once told that as he was a symbol of fertility if a woman hoping for a child climbed into his lap at midnight on the night of a full moon, she would conceive before the next.

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