Mari Lwyd - Weird and Wonderful Welsh Folk Tradition for New Year

Here are some interesting facts about the weird and wonderful Welsh custom of Mari Lwyd

1. Mari Lwyd herself is traditionally a horse's skull affixed to a pole decorated with ribbons. There is a sheet / sackcloth attached to the skull which disguises the barer. Sometimes there is a string which can open and close the horse's mouth

2. She is paraded through town / village by a group of wassailing men who sing:

Wel dyma ni'n dwad (Well here we come) 
Gy-feillion di-niwad (Innocent friends)
I ofyn am gennad (To ask leave) 
I ofyn am gennad (To ask leave)
I ofyn am gennad i ganu (To ask leave to sing)

3. The group approach a house and sing a song in which they requested admittance, which is then refused. There is a bit of back and forth between both sides (known as a pwnco) until the house run out of funny excuses and welcome them in for ale and food

4. The name is thought to originally mean 'Grey Mare' - though there has been some debate.

5. The custom was first recorded in 1800, but it is very likely it dated back even further. The tradition declined during in the early to mid-twentieth century, partly due to the disapproval of some local Christian groups, though it was revived in  the mid-to-latter part of the century (see below for events happening in Wales)

6. The poet Vernon Watkins published his "Ballad of the Mari Lwyd" in 1941:

Mari Lwyd, Lwyd Mari
A sacred thing through the night they carry.
Betrayed are the living, betrayed the dead
All are confused by a horse's head.
Vernon Watkins, "Ballad of the Mari Lwyd", lines 398–400 

7. If you are in Cardiff or nearby on Friday 13th January, there is a procession in Pontcanna. You can find out about more 2023 events on the Say Something in Welsh site here.

8. There is a wonderful mural featuring Mari Lwyd in Womanby Street, Cardiff City centre. It was created by  students from the University of South Wales as part of the campaign by Music Declares Emergency, a charity dedicated to the climate emergency. The words in Welsh mean 'no music on a dead planet'

credit: University of South Wales

Credit: Wikipedia (Photo from Llangynwyd, Glamorgan, during the early 20th century, taken between 1904 and 1910)

Check out our Mari Lwyd Appreciation Products!


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1 comment

Diddorol iawn🎉

Wendy Mckee

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