Legend has it that Saint Joseph of Arimathea came to Glastonbury to spread the Christian faith with the two cruets full of Christ’s blood and sweat. When he arrived he walked up Wearyall (now Wirral) hill and on reaching the top he stopped and exclaimed something like “Since we be weary all here we will rest” (hence the name Wearyall hill). There he thrust his staff into the ground and it took root forming a hawthorn tree. The tree flowered twice a year, once in Spring and once at Christmas. It then suffered hundreds of years of people cutting off branches and carving names into the trunk but it still flowered every year. Later in the 17th century during the Civil war it was considered a superstitious relic and burnt by the Roundheads. However many cuttings were taken and another tree was planted in 1951.
The 1951 tree still stands but was vandalised in 2010, and as you see in true Glastonbury form, spiritual ideas live on by the continual ritual of tying prayer ribbons to it. Whether they are to worship Joseph, or the tree as a relic, or to find peace and a spiritual awakening remains to be seen. People have different reasons. The ritual is associated with Celtic, Shaman and Tibetan Buddhist deities. In Glastonbury people explore and practice all of these religions, there many ways to find enlightenment! I find it interesting how pre-Christian religions and paganism unite with Christianity so often, each borrowing stories from each other for their own beliefs.
Here’s another Glastonbury thorn at the Abbey in front of Saint Patrick’s chapel.
St. Joseph of Arimathea is often symbolised with the two cruets of Christ’s blood and sweat that he collected when he hung from the cross. It is possible Joseph brought the cruets with him to Glastonbury as well as the holy grail, if the cruets weren’t themselves the original grail that is! (More about the holy grail later 😉 )
The Guardian Bird of Saint Joseph of Arimathea
This is the third guardian bird in my series of six. You can read about the King Arthur bird and the Queen Guinevere bird here
You can see this one plus the guardian birds of relics of 2 other saints, King Arthur and Queen Guinevere birds and a living legend rock star bird, and other pieces of work at Glastonbury Abbey’s exhibition Traces Revealed which continues until January 28th 2018.