- "There has been some speculation that the Staff of Joseph... the staff that rooted and bloomed on this very hill... had once been the shaft of the sacred spear."
- ―Edwina Cheltingham[src]
The Holy Thorn was a thorn tree that grew in Glastonbury, England. According to legend, it grew out of the staff of Joseph of Arimathea when he thrust the staff into the ground when he reached Glastonbury in 37. It became part of the lore about the Holy Grail and many pilgrims flocked to the town.
By the twentieth century, the people of Glastonbury had recognized the need to protect the identity of the real Holy Thorn tree, to prevent it from being picked to death by visitors. Edwina Cheltingham was one of its protectors, and knew the whereabouts of the real tree - found near the Lady Chapel at Glastonbury Abbey. It was popularly believed that the Thorn was to be found on Wearyall Hill.
The Holy Thorn and the quest for the Spear of Longinus
In March 1945, a group of Nazis led by Dieterhoffmann had arrived at the annual Holy Grail lore conference in Glastonbury to help find the Holy Thorn, so that they could use its wood to re-create the shaft of the Spear of Longinus. One of the conference's lecturers, Henry Jones, Sr. had discovered the group's sinister aims, and contacted his son, Indiana Jones, who came from Ireland with his assistant, Brendan O'Neal.
The three climbed Wearyall Hill to the supposed Holy Thorn while Professor Jones recounted its history. Before he could pluck some of its foliage, Edwina Cheltingham arrived to drive him away. Introducing themselves and their quest, they enlisted the help of the botanist, who related that the staff of Joseph which had made the tree may also have been the shaft of the Spear of Longinus. Indiana figured out the Nazi's plans for the tree, and they plotted to catch Seigfried to gain insight into how far the Nazis had gotten in their quest.
Later that night, after escaping from Dieterhoffmann at Chalice Well, the trio met up to rendezvous with Cheltingham again at Glastonbury Abbey. After a chance encounter with a mysterious blond woman, they followed her to a thorn tree, where they met the old botanist. Cheltingham explained that the Abbey's thorn tree was the real one, having been grown from a clipping of the original, while the Wearyall tree was long destroyed, and replanted with a regular thorn. As they departed from her, in a car driven by her student, Rebecca Stein, she gave O'Neal a sprig of the real thorn for luck.
In Ireland, O'Neal used the sprig of the Holy Thorn when assembling the Spear of Longinus inside the New Grange Mound. He attached it to a shaft of yew, the tree of death in Celtic legend, and tied on the half of the spear tip that he had swiped from Dieterhoffmann in Wales. After the spear was assembled and behaved miraculously, the tip was reclaimed by Otto Nehrkorn. It is not known what happened to the sprig.
Behind the scenes
The Glastonbury Thorn is unique among hawthorn trees for blossoming twice a year - once in spring, and once in mid-winter. In accordance with tradition, a sprig from the Holy Thorn is still sent from Glastonbury to the ruling monarch of England for Christmas, cut from a tree in St John's church grounds by the oldest child at the adjacent school.
In real life, the Holy Thorn on Wearyall Hill was rooted there from a cutting of the original Holy Thorn in 1951 - several years after Jones' adventures with the Thorn. In 2010, the tree on Wearyall Hill was vandalized, with all the branches cut off, leaving a stump.
- Indiana Jones and the Spear of Destiny (First appearance)