Key to the Sacred Pattern

09 December 2010

Glastonbury Thorn Tree Vandalized

Reports are coming in from England that the Holy Thorn Tree was vandalized sometime during the night of 8-9 Dec 2010.  The once vibrant tree was reduced to a man sized stump.  Avon and Summerset police have launched an investigation into the crime, but have no leads or motives as of yet. 

The Holy Thorn or Glastonbury Thorn Tree has long attracted thousands of pilgrims each Christmas season.  Legend holds that the original common Hawthorn tree was planted by Joseph of Arimathea.  Joseph is said to have fled Palestine with the Holy Grail after the death of Jesus.  Joseph relocated to southern England where he may have had interests in tin mining.  On a hill outside of Glastonbury, a travel weary Joseph stuck his walking stick into the ground while taking a rest.  The staff immediately took root and blossomed into a thorn tree that stood for over a thousand years.

The longevity of the original Glastonbury Thorn was not its only miraculous property.  The tree bloomed twice a year.  Hawthorn trees usually bloom in the spring, but the Glastonbury Thorn would bloom in the wintertime around Christmas.  As early as the 1500's, there were reports of the tree blooming on the pre-Gregorian calendar celebration of Christmas on January 5th

The story of the Glastonbury Thorn then takes a turn reminiscent of last night's events.  The original Glastonbury Thorn tree was chopped down.  Legend and history account two ways this might have happened.  One is that a Puritan cut the tree down because the tree incited thoughts of magic and superstition.  For the Puritan's trouble, as the tree fell a splinter pieced his eyes and blinded him.  Another version of the felling of the original thorn tree was that one of Oliver Cromwell's soldiers cut the tree down in 1653.

A number of cuttings from the original tree were replanted by Glastonbury residents.  Along with a public site for the replanted tree, a number of secret locations were chosen by residents for replanting.  The second Glastonbury Thorn did flourish and reports from 1752 indicate it still bloomed at Christmas time.  That year, after the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, the tree bloomed on December 24th.  Over the years there have been a number of accounts of the tree blooming during the Christmas season, if not on Christmas Eve or Day itself.  That particular tree died of natural causes in 1991 and was replanted using cuttings the year after.  The tree that was vandalized last night could be said to have been the grandson/daughter of Joseph's tree.

Over the years, the Glastonbury Thorn has attracted thousands of pilgrims.  One of which was author John Steinbeck.  In a letter to Thomas Mallory scholar Eugene Vinaver, Steinbeck mentions that he sent a cutting of the thorn tree to Vinaver.  In 1901 another cutting of the Glastonbury Thorn was sent to the Bishop of Washington to be planted at the National Cathedral.   That tree is also said to bloom at Christmas time as well.

Another long standing tradition surrounding the Glastonbury Thorn is that a small branch of the thorn tree is sent to England's reigning monarch.  It was after such a ceremony last night that the Holy Thorn tree was vandalized.  Whatever the statement the vandals wished to make by their actions were tied to the timing of the attack.

1 comment:

Timothy Avers said...

Something to do with the coming royal nuptials, perhaps?