Holy tree only 58 years old.
The Holy Thorn on Wearyall Hill in Glastonbury was brutally cut back to the trunk this winter, on the same day that a piece was cut from another thorn to send to the Queen. This sad and tragic act upset locals, drew attention from all across the world, and has inspired a Hollywood movie about Joseph of Arimathea. It is said that Joseph visited this fair Isle, possibly bringing the child Jesus with him, and on his arrival he landed on Wearyall Hill and thrust his staff into the land, upon which it instantly flowered.
Every year a piece of the thorn is cut and sent to the regent of this land, this is commonly accepted and sometimes we even see the flowering branch sitting on the Royal table during the Queen’s speech to the people. On a chill morning in December a branch was cut from the Holy Thorn in St John’s Church by the oldest child in the local Infant School. That very night, the limbs were cut from the Holy Thorn on Wearyall Hill and left to fall upon the ground. On the morning of 9th December the dismemberment was discovered by locals.
News stories reported a 2000 year old tree hacked down by vandals, of course, this particular thorn is just 58 years old. Some news reporters were careful to refer to the religious roots of the tree rather than the physical roots. Indeed, local legend refers to the thorn as symbolic of the first stirrings of the Christian Church in England, and suggests that Joseph and his followers continued into Glastonbury to the site where the Abbey ruins now stand. Here, it is said, they built ‘The Mother Church’. There is evidence of an ancient holy enclave on the Abbey site.
The legends talk of the miraculous sprouting staff and many believe that the current site of the tree on Wearyall Hill is where the original once stood. It is however unlikely that a Holy Thorn was planted there over 2000 years ago. If there was a staff which instantly manifested flowers upon contact with this land, it is more likely that it was in a different spot entirely. I am told that old maps show the Thorn further down the hill closer to the Beckery site. I am yet to research this claim, but it rings true for me. Now, I am not suggesting that the legends are false. In fact, the living mythology of this story is powerful in the land.
To understand the symbolism inherent in such a miracle it is important to note that blossoming is particularly related to the feminine, we usually associate blossom, flowers and fruit to the feminine aspect of life. However, the obvious symbolism of the phallic staff being thrust into the earth brings a masculine aspect to the miracle. Feminine and masculine, embodied within a single sacred symbol, unity in the fullness of the Holy thorn.
The vibration of the cutting of the Holy Thorn is potent too. Upon hearing the news, I was reminded of the desecration of Glastonbury Abbey in 1539, and the horrific dismemberment of the then Abbot Richard Whiting and his companions. This tragic, and most likely magic, act still has a resonance that rings throughout this community. Many believe that it is partly responsible for some of the fractures and divisions between different community groups, different faiths, and male and female. Recently, there has been a call to action, one that has been answered, to redress this ancient dishonour on Glastonbury, prompting a re-membrance of Richard Whiting, and so a re-memberance of our community. A magic that ultimately brings unity to us all.
The vicar from St John’s Church in an interview, proudly told the world that ‘Spirituality is rife in Glastonbury – not just Christianity, but other spirituality too’. Interesting words, making it sound like a bit like an illness – however, it is quite true. There is an amazing and diverse spiritual community here in Glastonbury. People of all faiths, and none, came up to Wearyall Hill to mourn and grieve the loss of the Holy Thorn and the striking shape it held in the landscape. Perhaps this tragedy has called us together for a reason.
We have a chance to encourage more tolerance and acceptance within this diverse community. I sincerely feel that the tree will live and ultimately blossom again, but even if we have to grow a new tree, the growth and manifestation of a new shape in the landscape can herald a new dawn for us all. What is echoed in the land will call to our spirits and has the potential to encourage love and healing for all who feel lost or dis-membered. May the loss of the Holy Thorn call us all to re-member, and to reach out to others in a spirit of common unity throughout the world.