Daily Archives: December 10, 2010

Was This Tree Really Such a Thorn?

Glastonbury Thorn photographed last month

Two days ago, somebody cut down Glastonbury’s famous thorn tree. It was reputedly said to have grown from the staff of  Joseph of Arimathea which burst into blossom when he thrust it into Wearyall Hill close to the Glastonbury Tor. It spookily used to flower every Christmas and Easter and at one point was the most famous tree in Christendom. It was only last Wednesday that I watched a local TV news report of the ritual where a child from a nearby school has the honour to cut off a branch to send to the Queen so that she can put it on the royal dining table for Christmas.

The act has been called vandalism but really it is sacreligious. It was done deliberately because the tree was considered sacred. Katherine Gorbing, the director of Glastonbury Abbey said, “The mindless vandals who have hacked down this tree have struck at the heart of Christianity. It holds a very special significance all over the world and thousands follow in the footsteps of Joseph Arimathea, coming especially to see it.” The local folk of Glastonbury are shocked.

No doubt this was done by someone who takes exception to Christian superstitions. It could have been someone from a different religion but I imagine that it was probably someone who does not like religion. I think that the act was pointless and destructive. I do not want to see these religious practices eliminated and I think it gives atheists a bad reputation (if indeed the desecration was done in this cause). Where would we stop? This part of Somerset is dotted with the legacy of obsolete religions from the prehistoric mounds and Stonehenge to the incredible abbeys of Bath, Wells, and Salisbury. I, for one, do not want to see these go and take great joy and satisfaction considering the foibles of mankind and the need for superstition.

However, the Glastonbury Thorn will triumph in the end. Cromwell’s soldiers cut it down and burned it during the English Civil Wars but it was replanted. There is also more than one tree as I understand with another one in the grounds of the Church of St John. In fact, the thorn has been replaced continuously over the centuries and so it wont be long before the tree is replanted on Wearyall Hill.

You might be interested to learn that there are other sacred trees in the world. The apple tree under which Newton is supposed to have observed a falling apple and hit upon the idea of gravity has been grafted and can be found in a number of auspicious locations including MIT. Do you think that someone might take the hump against science and cut that down?

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