The Holy Thorn becomes The Glastonbury Holy Thorn
The Holy Thorn that used to stand on Wearyall Hill has extended its presence to Glastonbury as a descendent of the famous thorn has been planted in the city. This Glastonbury Thorn Tree was cultivated from some damaged branches of the historic thorn which was standing on Wearyall Hill. It is said that the tree sprung from the employees of Joseph of Arimathea who had established the initial Christian communities in Britain after coming here more than 2000 years ago.
The event was organised by the Pilgrim Reception Centre, an organisation supportive of all visitors to Glastonbury. Tatomir Ion-Marius, Romanian Peace Ambassador and international peaceworker visited the organisation recently and raised awareness of the Peace Pole Project and says;”Glastonbury is a special town where the Peace Message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” is already expressed by the way in which the community supports and works alongside each another.”
Morgana felt that by placing one alongside a new Glastonbury Thorn, a strong message of Peace and Unity through Diversity will be conveyed to the town and its visitors and says; “More than 70 faiths and beliefs are upheld in Glastonbury, a greater concentration per capita than anywhere else in the world. Following the success of our event ‘Glastonbury 2012: Unity through Diversity’ where many representatives of our diverse community gathered together in celebration, Glastonbury is now being given the opportunity to send this message out into the world.
The Glastonbury Thorn is an internationally significant tree to many people and the event, which will be attended by our diverse community, offers a simple but key message showing that the branches of the Glastonbury Thorn all grow from one stem. The message of Unity through Diversity recognises that whilst we might all be different and go in our own direction, we are all part of the same source, stretching towards the same sky with our roots in the same earth.
The day started with the enchanting and timeless sounds of the harp from musician John Dalton and was followed by a ceremony in the town hall involving all the special sacred Flames in Glastonbury which had been brought together into one place on the stage, culminating with the lighting of the Glastonbury Unity Candle and lit by 9 year Jack Cleere who had travelled from London, especially for the event.
Jack has cerebral palsy and two years ago, members of the Glastonbury community joined a successful campaign to help raise £60,000 in order to send Jack for pioneering surgery in America that would allow him to walk. Director of the World Prayer Peace Society (UK), Caroline Uchima had travelled fromScotland to attend the event and spoke about the Peace Pole Project. Everyone was invited to write messages of peace which were placed inside the pole which displays the words , May Peace Prevail on Earth in eight languages and also on a Braille plate.
The Glastonbury Thorn World Tree and the Peace Pole were taken to be planted in the centre of the town, ensuring that all visitors and residents have the opportunity to see and feel their message right in the heart of the town. Celebrations continued throughout the day in the town hall with music from the Avalonian Free State Choir and Tim Hall & the Archetypes. A cake, made in the shape of Glastonbury Tor with world flags over it mimicking the Tor of the Olympic Opening Ceremony 2012, was cut and shared out.
More than 200 people were present and one local resident Robin Egan remarked, “I was reminded again today of how lucky I am to be a part of such a wonderful community as Glastonbury. The planting of the Holy Thorn Tree and the Peace Pole was a beautiful and moving ceremony”
Daniel McNicoll, Writer and Producer of Glastonbury: Isle of Light says; “We are all very grateful to Morgana and Tony for their work in preserving the original Wearyall Holy Thorn, a spiritually beautiful tree that is quite precious to our film script and to the overall story ofSomerset.”
John Turner. Vice Chairman of Visit Somerset says: “We are delighted that the Pilgrim Reception Centre and Glastonbury has come together in working so hard to reinstate with the help of Kew Gardens this incredibly important piece of Somerset history and to give it the prominence that it deserves within Glastonbury.
The eyes of the world are soon to be on Somerset, with the film development Glastonbury: Isle of Light focusing on, in particular Glastonbury and to have this important part of our counties heritage reinstated will be of huge comfort I am sure for all spiritual and religious beliefs.”
Tony Kirkham, Head Arboretum at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew says: “The Glastonbury thorn is one of our iconic trees in the British Isles, with legends relating to the arrival of Christianity and traditions of sending flowering sprigs to the Queen on Christmas day. We were extremely pleased to be able to assist with preserving the original tree at Wearyall Hill by propagating it using the damaged branches in our woody plant nursery at Kew. With the new tree planted back in Glastonbury along with several others in different locations, we hope that the Glastonbury story will continue for the monarchy and many others to enjoy”.
Glastonbury reached its peak as a centre of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages with the needs of pilgrims being met by the monks of the Benedictine Abbey. Today in the twenty-first century, there has been a huge resurgence of interest in the town as a centre for spiritual seekers. However, instead of a centre of Christian pilgrimage, Glastonbury has now fully emerged as a place that recognises and honours all faiths, beliefs and paths.
The increasing number of visitors, interested in the spiritual and healing aspects of the town, led to an awareness that a centre specialising in informing and supporting ‘pilgrim’ visitors would be of value to both visitors and the community alike.
In 2008, Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre (The PRC), an organisation supportive of all faiths and beliefs, first opened its doors. Since those early beginnings, the PRC has gone from strength to strength with its activities continuing to expand as more and more areas of need are identified. Both its unique position of supporting and welcome all beliefs and its community focussed work have meant the PRC has established itself as an essential Glastonbury organisation.
THE GLASTONBURY THORN:
Legend tells us that following the crucifixion of Christ, his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, arrived at Glastonbury with twelve companions. Tired and weary, Joseph thrust his staff into the ground on Wearyall Hill, where it took root and flourished. During the time of the English Civil War, between 1642 and 1651, the Thorn that stood on the hill at the time was cut down by one of Cromwell’s soldiers on the grounds that it was a relic of superstition. It is said that as it fell, its thorns blinded the axe man in one eye.
The Thorn was once believed to blossom on Christmas Day. In 1753, the British Calendar was altered to bring us into line with Europe and eleven days were dropped from the month of September. The Glastonbury Thorn, which flowered on Christmas Day Old Style, was closely observed and it was rumoured that thousands of people flocked to the town to see whether it would stick to its principles and blossom on the old day, or cave in to Parliament and blossom on the new one. ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine’ a publication of that time, reported: “A vast concourse of people attended the noted thorn on Christmas-day, new style; but, to their great disappointment, there was no appearance of its blowing, which made them watch it narrowly the 5th of January, the Christmas-day, old style, when it blowed as usual.
“Gentleman’s Magazine January 1753”
A sprig of the winter blossom is traditionally cut from the Thorn in St. John’s churchyard and sent to the reigning monarch, maintaining the continuation of an old tradition initiated by James Montague, bishop of Bath and Wells, when he sent a branch to Queen Anne, consort of James I (1566 – 1625). At the end of term, the pupils of St. John’s School gather round the tree and sing carols, including one specially written for the occasion. The oldest pupil has the privilege of cutting a sprig of the Thorn which is then taken to London and presented to the Queen, where it resides on her Christmas Day breakfast table.
The thorn is a variety known as Crataegus monogyna var, biflora, (or Crataegus oxyacantha praecox) usually seen in the Middle East. It is unusual in that it flowers twice a year, in spring and again in winter, when the fruits of the spring blossoms are still the tree. The average life span of the tree is approximately 100 years and this particular one, a direct descendant of the original, was planted on Wearyall Hill in 1952. A previous one had been planted in 1951 to commemorate the Festival of Britain. However, it didn’t take and was replaced a year later.
Other descendants can also be found in St. John’s churchyard, the Abbey, the gardens of Chalice Well, the grounds of the Abbey Barn (RuralLife Museum) and in private gardens around the town. Many have tried to grow the Glastonbury Thorn from seed and direct ctings, but it can only be grown by being grafted onto the common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna.
VANDALISED IN 2010:
The previous iconic Glastonbury Holy Thorn, which had stood on Wearyall Hill since 1952, was vandalised with a chain saw during the night on 8th December 2010 and reduced to a stump. Shock waves rippled around the world at the attack and Glastonbury Abbey was asked to safeguard the branches on behalf of the community.
But all was not lost and Morgana West, Manager at Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre arranged for Tony Kirkham, Head of the Arboretum at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, to visit Glastonbury and take cuttings from the severed branches that had been entrusted to Glastonbury Abbey for safekeeping.
Despite the severe snow and hazardous road conditions, Tony and his Head of Nursery, Tony Hall, travelled from London on a flying visit toGlastonbury. They returned to Kew with several scions and grafted them onto Hawthorn rootstock so that new Glastonbury Thorns could be grown from the severed branches on behalf of the community. Several of the scions have now grown into healthy saplings and will soon be ready for planting.
On 22nd March 2012, concerned they were going to rot, the severed branches were handed over by Glastonbury Abbey into the custodianship of Morgana West. The Abbey felt that the PRC was the most suitable organisation to represent the community in that it will recognise and honour the spirituality of all the people of Glastonbury and the importance and significance of the tree to many people from all walks of life.
A replacement Holy Thorn was quietly planted on Wearyall Hill on 1st April 2012 by the landowners working with Glastonbury Conservation Society and blessed by Revd. David MacGeoch, Vicar of Glastonbury, linking the tree to its historical past. Whilst not from the 1952 – 2010 tree, the new Thorn came from a Devon nursery, whose parent tree came from Glastonbury Abbey via Oxford Botanic Garden. > The Glastonburycommunity awoke on 16th April to find the new tree had also been severely damaged. The stem was snapped off about 18 inches from the ground and has not survived. A quote from Morgana went worldwide stating; “Mindless at it seems, they can never damage the ‘Glastonbury Thorn’. More than just a tree, it is a symbol of the good things in our community and in the wider world around us. Whilst there are those who might ‘hack away’, they can never destroy what is in people’s hearts and hopes.>> >> >> >On 15th December 2012, another new Glastonbury Holy Thorn was planted on the slopes of Bere Lane recreational park – owned by Glastonbury Town Council. In attendance were Ian Tucker – Mayor of Glastonbury, Revd David MacGeoch – Vicar of Glastonbury, Morgana and the Glastonbury Unity Candle, Dreow Bennett – Archdruid of Ynis Witrin, Cllr Denise Michell and Cllr. John Brunsdon. Members of the community were also in attendance, including children carrying lanterns from Glastonbury Abbey’s Lantern Parade and all had processed through the town to the planting site. Everyone was invited to help plant it into the ground by adding a handful of the soil. The new tree has been nurtured and donated by Cllr. Brunsdon. Whilst it is not one of those being cultivated by the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew and Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre (from scions of the vandalised Wearyall Thorn) it is a strong and healthy tree and planted in a position felt to help it become the ‘Town Tree’.
Peace Poles are four sided poles standing six feet high displaying the message ‘May Peace Prevail On Earth’ in different languages on each side and are now recognised as the most prominent international symbol and monument to peace. The Peace Pole Project started in 1976 to spread the message ‘May Peace Prevail On Earth.’ and symbolise the oneness of humanity and our common wish for a world at peace. They remind us to think, speak and act in the spirit of peace and harmony and stand as a silent visual for peace to prevail on earth. They are planted wherever people wish to see this message radiate out into the world, in parks, schools, places of worship, hotels, gardens and even on mountain tops. There are now over 250,000 around the world.
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class Herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international visitor attraction. Its landscaped 132 hectares and RBG Kew’s country estate, Wakehurst Place, attract nearly 2 million visitors every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst Place is home to Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. RBG Kew and its partners have collected and conserved seed from 10% of the world’s wild flowering plant species (c.30, 000 species). The aim is to conserve 25% by 2020, and its enormous potential for future conservation can only be fulfilled with the support of the public and other funders. Kew receives funding from the UK Government through Defra for approximately half of its income and is also reliant on support from other sources. Without the voluntary monies raised through membership, donations and grants, Kew would have to significantly scale back activities at a time when, as environmental challenges become ever more acute, its resources and expertise are needed in the world more than ever. Kew needs to raise significant funds both in the UK and overseas.
THE GLASTONBURY UNITY CANDLE
The Glastonbury Unity Candle is a 12×2″ blue candle and produced by Starchild in Glastonbury. Held in a large glass lantern, it travels all over the town to different organisations and events. It arrives unlit so that each can re-ignite the flame and recall that we all come from the same spark. Infused with herbs, trees and flowers, including the Glastonbury Thorn, its striking colour recalls the livery of the town’s Pilgrim Reception Centre. The Candle is the brainchild of Morgana West, manager of the PRC who says it ‘communicates a message of harmony, understanding and healing straight from the heart of Glastonbury and out into the world.’
There is a deep spiritual significance to the colour blue and it represents faith, devotion, peace, inner knowledge, love, tranquillity and harmony.
In many cultures and beliefs, blue is seen as a very sacred colour and thus was chosen to represent the sacredness of Glastonbury.
The Glastonbury Peace Candle
On the same day that the Olympic Flame passed through Glastonbury another flame was lit for the first time -The Glastonbury Peace Candle.
Three of these stunning symbols of Peace have been produced. One is now in South Africa. In August this year another was given to the Glastonbury Town Council to be presented as a gift to the Queen from the people of Glastonbury in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee and now resides at Windsor Castle. The third will stand in the Town Hall on Saturday.
This iconic masterpiece, cast in bronze, was four years in the making and symbolises the universal light of peace, love and compassion. The design began as a commission for a Paschal Candleholder in wood for Winchester Cathedral and celebrates Christ’s resurrection which is an unusual theme in church art.
It depicts the Holy Trinity and can be read from the ground up. God the Father is the eternal, infinite and invisible; and is represented by the base which is a perfect circle – the ground of all being. The figure of the risen Christ which is without any individual features of gender, race or age and represents all humanity offers up the Holy Spirit or Dove of Peace to the world in up-stretched arms. So the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is shown representing a universal message of peace, love and compassion.
The Hiroshima Peace Flame
The Hiroshima Peace Flame was lit from the atomic fires of Hiroshima in 1945 and has been kept burning ever since as a symbol of remembrance, forgiveness, healing, transformation and ultimately, Unity.
It was lit from the burning embers of the explosion which killed approximately 140,000 people on 6th August 1945, by a grandmother who had lost most of her family in that explosion. She then sat with the flame on her Buddhist altar for many years as she went through her own process of grieving and finding forgiveness. Eventually other local people heard about the flame and wished to sit with it, then the press heard about it, and now it burns in the Hiroshima Memorial Park, and flames lit from it burn all over the world. The idea behind the Peace Flame is that it will be kept alight until all nuclear weapons have gone from the face of the earth.
This particular flame has been burning in Glastonbury for 8 years.
‘Deliverance’ – a Candle for Hope
Lit for the first time by a child who, when asked what he would think was a hopeful idea, he said, “That there be no more fighting.”
‘Deliverance’ is a candle stand made from a discarded oak post destined for firewood and metalwork washed up on the Highbridge coast.
Wasted and overlooked like much in our modern world, these materials have been redesigned and reworked into something of value, a symbol of hope that we look afresh at what society deems as valueless and spent.
Created by Belinda Miers in Glastonbury as a piece of art, it now permanently resides at Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre where it has certainly become a talking point as people explore what it might mean to them.
“It reminds me of freeing myself from the old chains of worn-out beliefs”, said one visitor.
The Perpetual Brighid Flame of Avalon
At Imbolc/Candlemas 2005, the Brighid flame was kindled on Bridie’s Mound, at the Beckery, in Avalon, where legend has it Saint Brighid stayed during her time in Avalon. It is dedicated to the Goddess Brighid, the Saint Brighid, and the Fire of the Divine Feminine. The flame is held by chosen flame keepers in Avalon in their sanctuaries and homes, and is the Bridie Flame of the White Spring, illuminating the waters and the Brighid Shrine.
The Flame of Avalon
The Flame of Avalon sparked to life on the final day of the Glastonbury Goddess Conference in 2004, which was dedicated to the Goddess Brighid of the Triple Flame.
The Flame of Avalon’s Light was created from:
The 2004 Conference flame- from the central altar that burned thought out the all the Goddess conferences.
Brigit’s Flame-Brought from Kildare in Ireland
The Hiroshima Peace Flame-Originally lit by a woman survivor from the burning embers of the nuclear aftermath.
Bridie’s Flame -From the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides
The Children’s Flame – From the United States
The Madonna Ministry Flame – From the United States
Mexico Goddess Conference
Agentina Goddess Conference
Goddess Temple in Malta