Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The Story of Glastonbury

Both of tonight's drawings have to do with the story of Glastonbury.  The photos included are also part of the Glastonbury saga.

You may be asking yourself "just what is the Glastonbury story?"  Well, let me tell you about it.

The story goes that when the first persecution of the followers of Jesus began in Jerusalem (see the beginning of the Book of Acts), St. Joseph of Arimathea and others set sail for some safer place.  Joseph, as you may recall, was the wealthy man who gave up the tomb he had reserved for himself so that Jesus could be properly buried.  Anyway, a group of these early Christians finally landed in what is now England at a place that came to be known as Glastonbury.  Joseph is said to have climbed the hill near the shore using the staff that had once belonged to Jesus.  Halfway up the hill he paused to rest and while leaning heavily on his staff, it suddenly took root in the earth, and quickly grew into a type of Hawthorn tree found only in the Mediterrean east.  Unlike most Hawthrone trees this tree blooms twice a year -- at Christmas and at Easter!

The original tree is long gone, cut down by the Puritans; however, cuttings had been hidden away and after the restoration of the throne in England, these were brought out and planted.  So the tree found at Glastonbury today is of the same stock as the original.  Many have since tried to grow the Glastonbury Holy Thorn from seed and direct cuttings, but they always revert to the normal Hawthorn type, flowering only in the spring.  It is only the tree on Glastonbury that continues to bloom at Christmas and at Easter.

Here is my drawing of a spray of flowers from the Glastonbury Holy Thorn.  This tree bears the formal name of Crataegus Oxyacantha praecox.  It is a plant of Mediterranean origin, but, which in Somerset (England) blooms twice yearly: at Christmas and at Easter.  The family name for the tree is Rosaceae

The Glastonbury Holy Thorn, as with all Hawthorn trees, is useful in various ways.  For example, an infusion of Hawthron is used to treat various heart and circulatory problems and to support digitalis therapy.  The young leaves are good in salads and there are various other uses in traditional European herbalism.  The fruit of the Hawthorn, called haws, is edible and is commonly made into jellies, jams and syrups.  The haws can also be used to make wine and to add flavour to brandy. 

Here is a photograph of an old tree grown from the cuttings taken from the original Glastonbury Holy Thorn.  Notice the masses of intertwining branches of this historic tree.  In case you can't read it, the sign says: "Glastonbury Thorn -- The Original Thorn Grew On Wyrral Hill".  The other spelling for the name of the hill that St. Joseph was climbing when his staff took root is "Wearyall".

This photo shows a Glastonbury Holy Thorn tree growing near the site of Glastonbury Abbey.  This ancient tree died at the end of the 1900's, but cuttings keep the special tree of Glastonbury still growing on the holy hill.

       Ruins of the Glastonbury Abbey pillaged by King Henry VIII after he set himself up as the Head of the English Church.

Glastonbury was the site of a huge abbey during the centuries the Catholic Church flourished in England.  It was always a place of pilgrimage and remains so to this day.  Visitors see the ruins of the great abbey and the descendants of the original Glastonbury Holy Thorn.

This site is famous for several other reasons as well.  Legend has it that this site played an important role in the life of King Arthur.  Even more importantly to some researchers, however, is the legend that says that St. Joseph of Arimathea brought with him the cup used by Christ at the "last supper" and that it remains hidden at Glastonbury.  This is the "holy grail" which plays such an important part in the story of King Arthur.


May peace be with you.

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