Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Holy Thorn vandalised

On 10 December 2010 newspapers reported that the Holy Thorn that grows on Wearyall Hill, just outside Glastonbury, had been badly damaged by an unknown attacker.
Glastonbury’s Holy Thorn is a variety of the common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) which flowers twice each year, once at the usual time, in late spring, and again at Christmas time[1]. According to legend St Joseph of Arimathaea rested on Wearyall Hall, and when he awoke found that the dry staff which he had stuck in the ground had produced blossoms. This miracle persuaded him to settle in Glastonbury and build the first church to be established in the British Isles. Thus, although there are Thorn trees scattered around the town, the one on Wearyall, marking the site of the original Thorn has special significance:
The Wearyall thorn is the most famous and visually prominent of them all, but yesterday the town woke up to find it had all but vanished and just as six foot high stump remained.
Although both the identity of the attacker and the motive for the attack are unknown, the report in the Daily Mirror records that earlier in the week ‘tree custodian and landowner Edward James, 70, was arrested after the currency exchange firm he was a director of collapsed’ and hints that the tree may have been damaged due to ‘some sort of vendetta’.

Sources: Daily Mirror, The Times, Western Daily Press, 10 December 2010.

[1] In fact the Thorns flower throughout much of the winter, and in 2010 some of the Glastonbury trees were blossoming in late October.

For further information on Glastonbury Thorns see:
M. Bowman, The Holy Thorn Ceremony: Revival, rivalry and civil religion in Glastonbury, Folklore 117: 123-40, 2006.
A.R. Vickery, Holy Thorn of Glastonbury, St Peter Port, 1979.

See also J. Simpson, Glastonbury Thorn chopped, FLS News 63: 8-9, 2011, for speculation about why the tree was attacked.

Image: postage stamp issued by the The Post Office, 18 November 1986.

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