Tip o' the Week Header

Tip o' the Week #81 - Thorny Update and Other Goodies

Dear [firstname]

The Holy Thorn

The nefarious miscreant(s) who desecrated our Holy Thorn on Wearyall Hill have not been caught (and probably never will), but there are some positive aspects to this vandalism.  But first, some pictures of its present state, and a FAQ published by a broad coalition of local organisations.

Stumpy   bubble wrap

The "pollarded" Holy Thorn Today

  Garden Fleece and bubble wrap
protecting the severed limbs


There have been lots of comments about whether it is a good idea to protect the limbs from freezing with bubblewrap because it would make for weakened new limbs come next spring (one friend of mine was threatening to sneak up there and tear it off).  As you can see, there is gardeners fleece underneath with bubblewrap on top.  This contorversy has not yet been resolved. 


Frequently Asked Questions about the Holy Thorn:

1. Why has this list of frequently asked questions been put together?

Following the vicious attack on the Glastonbury Holy Thorn Tree which was cut down by vandals on the night of Wednesday 8 December, many people are asking what will happen to the remains of the tree and, equally important, what will happen to the holy wood from the severed branches?

2. Will the tree recover from the attack and grow back?

The tree trunk remains so there is a chance the tree may grow back. We will have to wait until Spring to find out if the tree recovers and is strong enough to regenerate and grow new branches.

3. Who is looking after the tree?

Wearyall Hill is privately owned and the owner has consulted a Glastonbury based Gardening and Landscape Company to advise on how to keep the tree alive and give it the best chance of surviving the winter.

4. Where are the severed branches of the Holy Thorn now?

Glastonbury Abbey was asked to safeguard the branches until people have had their say and the community has decided what should happen to the wood. All suggestions will be taken into consideration and you are invited to put forward your views.

5. Will parts of the branches be sold?

No, there are no plans to sell any of the branches or wood at this time, as there is a consensus that it would be wrong to make money out of this sad situation.

6. Is it possible to grow a new tree by grafting a section of the tree?

Advice has been conflicting so Tony Kirkham, Head of the Arboretum at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew was consulted. We were told the tree can be propagated from semi-ripe cuttings in the late spring, early summer or from hardwood cuttings in the winter and the optimum time for grafting was up until a week after Christmas.

The Grounds Team at Glastonbury Abby received further advice in grafting the cuttings from the severed branches and cuttings were also taken to Ark Redwood, Head Gardener of the Chalice Well Gardens.

Cuttings (scions), taken from last year's growth on the severed branches have been taken back to Kew where they have offered to dedicate their expertise and resources to try and propagate new thorn trees for the community in Glastonbury.

7. Do the scions have to be grafted onto blackthorn or hawthorn?

Kew have informed us that it is hawthorn rootstock that is used, despite some books saying blackthorn.

8. Is there a ceremony I can attend?

Many parts of the community have been organising ceremonies and activities. Please contact Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre (The PRC) for more details. Groups planning to hold ceremonies or services are asked to pass on information to the PRC, preferably in flier format, so they can place it on their noticeboard and share it with the community.

9. How can I have a say in what happens?

You can choose how you want to have your say and send in your suggestions:

Facebook: If you have access to the internet, we have set up a Facebook page called – The Official Page for the Glastonbury Holy Thorn – so that comments and suggestions can be shared.

By email: You can send your suggestions and comments by email to: holythorn@glastonburyabbey.com

Write a letter to: Glastonbury Town Hall, Magdalene Street, Glastonbury, Somerset BA6 9EL

Suggestion Boxes: You can drop suggestions into the `Holy Thorn Suggestion Boxes' in the Town Hall, Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre, the Public Library, St John's Church and the Abbey's ticket office. Please do not enclose money.

10. Who takes the decision on what happens?

Because the Holy Thorn is regarded as sacred by countless people regardless of their faith or beliefs, the Team would like local people to agree what happens.

11. What will happen to all the suggestions we put forward?

The informal Glastonbury Holy Thorn team, with the help of volunteers from all parts of the community, has offered to gather together the ideas and suggestions and, if it is possible, group them so that everyone can see the suggestions and help choose which ones should be taken forwards.

12. How can I help?

If you know of people who might like to send in their views, please spread the word and let them know how to get involved.

13. Who has produced this list of questions and answers?

Following a meeting hosted by Glastonbury Abbey on Friday 10 December, representatives from the local community, Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre, Glastonbury Conservation Society, Glastonbury Town Council, the local police, St John's Church and Glastonbury Abbey have worked together to:

a) Agree to work together to keep everyone in touch with what is happening and co-ordinate activities to avoid duplication
b) Ensure everyone has a chance to have their say in what should happen to the Holy Thorn and its branches.

These Frequently Asked Questions will be updated regularly and also published on Facebook and the Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre website.


As I mentioned above, there are some positive aspects to all of travesty.  First, it looks like the pollarded tree might shoot out some new branches in the Spring (assuming that it survives the coldest December on record, and the freezing weather doesn't continue for much longer).  But more importantly, it has brought our Glastonbury community together in ways that I haven't seen for a long time.  Groups who normally don't speak to each other are working together to bring a positive resolution to this violation of our sacred space here in the Land of Avalon.

When Europe Turned Off To Geomancy

I am reading a very exciting book called Religion and the Decline of Magic  by Keith Thomas (Penguin Books: London. 1971.  ISBN-13: 987-0-14-013744-6.  Available at Amazon).  While I am less than a quarter of the way through this fascinating work, it is giving me a much greater awareness of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in the shift from Catholicism to Protestantism, and the various reinterpretation conservative Protestants made of the way Catholics had basically taken over earlier pagan rituals - like blessing fields and consecration of the host in Communion/transubstantiation.  Until now, the only example of that shift that I was aware of was Oliver Cromwell, in his belief that the place meant nothing, allowing his men to ride their horses in to churches and to defecate on the floor!  Thomas provides much more evidence of how this shift in consciousness occurred.  I'm sure that I will be writing more about this when I finish this well researched book!


Avalon Rising

Sig's Talk

This week, I was interviewed by Hugh Newman on Avalon Rising , an internet radio show here in Glastonbury.  It was a wide-ranging discussion of all things geomantic from leys to labyrinths. You can catch it by going to their website.  You will be able to listen to it live this week and then you can download a recording of it shortly.  

How are your New Year's Resolutions going?

sig's sig
Sig Lonegren
9 Bove Town
Glastonbury, Somerset BA6 8JE
+44 (0)1458 835 818