The Glastonbury Holy Thorn Tree

The Brooding Presence of The Glastonbury Thorn on Wearyall Hill
I was saddened to read today that the legendary Glastonbury Thorn on Wearyall Hill in Glastonbury was removed by its landwowner. Unfortunately, this sacred tree was vandalised back in 2010. Up on Wearyall Hill a short while after the attack, I was lucky enough to capture this healing ceremony for the tree. The Glastonbury Thorn did eventually spring to life again and managed to produce a few new shoots but, sadly, these were again also vandalised :(

Healing Ritual For The Vandalised Glastonbury Thorn Tree

Healing Ritual For The Vandalised Glastonbury Thorn Tree

Healing Ritual For The Vandalised Glastonbury Thorn Tree

Healing Ritual For The Vandalised Glastonbury Thorn Tree
I like the images above as I think they illustrate the stark polarities that characterise the human condition. In this instance, people who go out of their way to wantonly kill something as innocent as a tree and those who cherished and actually loved the now sadly demised Glastonbury Thorn. I count myself lucky to have had the opportunity of both witnessing and recording the ceremony. Sadly, even the trunk of the tree has now been removed from the hill :(

Given this news, I thought that I would use this opportunity to post some pics I took of The Glastonbury Thorn whilst it still flourished and include a short write-up of its history:  

The Glastonbury Thorn Overlooking Glastonbury Tor
Whilst not as dramatic in shape or height as the nearby Glastonbury Tor, Wearyall Hill holds an important role in the mystical/religious history of Glastonbury. For this reason, it is often the starting place of many organised tours of the area. The prime interest Wearyall Hill held for visitors was the siting of a Glastonbury Holy Thorn near its summit. Although not the original thorn tree, which was believed to have been planted by Joseph of Arimathea, it is a direct descendant of that tree, having been grown from a cutting of the famous original.

The Dresed Protective Cage That Surrounded The Trunk
Of The Glastonbury Thorn
The history of the The Glastonbury Holy Thorn is one of Glastonbury's more charming and enduring legends. Joesph of Arimathea, Jesus' great uncle and the owner of the tomb where Jesus' body was lain after his crucifixion, is said to have brought the now famous hawthorn to Glastonbury when he visited England during hs mission to spread the word of Christianity throughout the land.

Arriving at Glastonbury, which was then a series of island hills rising from the flooded Somerset Levels, it is believed that Joseph of Arimathea climbed Wearyall Hill to plant the staff that once belonged to Jesus. As the staff was pushed into the fertile soil of Wearyall Hill, it is recorded that it magically took root and sprouted branches and leaves - becoming Glastonbury's famous Holy Thorn tree.

Glastonbury Tor, Viewed From The Glastonbury Thorn Tree

Curiously, whereas Hawthorns usually only flower once each year in the Spring, the Glastonbury Holy Thorn flowers twice yearly - it's blossoms coinciding with Christianity's greatest festivals - Christmas and Easter. This was believed by many to be symbolic of the its original owner's birth and resurrection. This 'magical' characteristic of The Glastonbury Holy Thorn sealed the tree trees fame.

Many people believed that The Glastonbury Thorn seemed to have held both a memory of it's native origins (in Palestine, Hawthorns flower in December) whilst also adopting the British flowering time each Spring).

Glastonbury Tor, Viewed From The Glastonbury Thorn Tree

The flowers of the Glastonbury Thorn's Christmas blooms became so prized, in fact,  that it's petals were sent all over the world. Cuttings from the Glastonbury Thorn were also sent to the Queen for display on her dinner table each Christmas - a tradition started by James Montague, Bishop of Bath and Wells during the reign of James I when he sent a cutting of the Holy Thorn to Queen Anne.

In an act to dispel the religious superstition surrounding the Glastonbury Thorn, which by the Middle Ages was already attracting pilgrims from around the world, Puritan Roundhead soldiers from the Cromwellian army cut down the tree. Fortunately, cuttings from the Thorn Tree had already been gathered and one of its direct descendants was re-planted on the hill. Unfortunately, this too has now been destroyed :(

The Glastonbury Holy Thorn on Wearyall Hill

Luckily, other cuttings of The Glastonbury Holy Thorn exist and can be viewed at several locations around Glastonbury. It is still, however, a sad loss seeing its prime specimen on Wearyall Hill exists no more.