Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Mari Lwyd

The Mari Lwyd is a wassailing folk custom found in South Wales. The tradition entails the use of an eponymous hobby horse which is made from a horse's skull mounted on a pole and carried by an individual hidden under a sackcloth. It represents a regional variation of a "hooded animal" tradition that appears in various forms throughout Britain.

The custom was first recorded in 1800, with subsequent accounts of it being produced into the early twentieth century. According to these, the Mari Lwyd was a tradition performed at Christmas time by groups of men. They would form into teams to accompany the horse on its travels around the local area, and although the makeup of such groups varied, they typically included an individual to carry the horse, a leader, and individuals dressed as stock characters such as Punch and Judy. The team would carry the Mari Lwyd to local houses, where they would request entry through the medium of song. The householders would be expected to deny them entry, again through song, and the two sides would continue their responses to one another in this manner. If the householders eventually relented, then the team would be permitted entry and given food and drink.

Image source.


Jay's Shadow said...

Looks like something that would be in “The Wicker Man”.

Anarchivist said...

Thanks for posting this! There is a Mari Lwyd character in the urban legend themed novella "Pretty Marys All in a Row," and I wasn't very familiar with this piece of folklore. Great to have a picture. Maybe I'll make one of these this year!

Justin D said...

Very cool. Although, I'm not sure I'd let that in, no matter how many songs they sung.

Pumpkin5 said...

That is cool, I have a horse head.....Hhhhmmmmm...... :)

girl6 said...

i think..The Godfather would mos def approve of a big ol horse head!!!
speaking of The Godfather & Wales..C & i visited Caerleon Wales a few years back to connect with my pop's side of the family and i hadn't known that The Roman Baths of Caerleon Wales are older than the ones in Bath England. gahhhh

The Mari Lwyd..is very intriguing. so many theories. one cooler than the next. it's also been associated with Mary because of her riding on a donkey (symbolized by the horse head) when fleeing w/ baby Jesus & Joseph to Egypt.

Where my mom & i were born..Newfoundland Canada they do the whole Mummering thing. which also takes place around Xmas/the New Year & reminds me a lot of Mari Lwyd. except, i think it's more fun & sorta more practical too. people dress up in costume with their faces completely covered & go from door to door. you'll be invited inside to do a little bit of entertaining..whatever & if your neighbors can't guess who you are..you are treated to food..beer..stuff like that. my uncle is KING of mummering. he's always catching someone with their guard down.

i hate hot weather/summer. like i would totally shoot her dead if i could. but..May is a pretty cool month. i LOVE the whole May Day & May Pole celebrations. you've got the May Queen..decorating with flowers..dancing around the May Pole. homages to Mary. pretty cool chick that one.

Joel said...

Just have to nerd out for a second because I'm fascinated with pre-Christian European religious customs like Mari Lwyd. While the origins of a lot of these old traditions have been erased and are hard to pin down, my favorite version of this myth is a sung one. It tells the story of a pregnant horse being removed from a stable in Bethlehem, to make room for Mary to give birth to Jesus - where, without care and tending, it died. An allegory for the ousting of pagan religions by the spread of Christianity. I like to imagine this ancient, ousted spirit roaming the metaphysical world, waiting at the windows of our cultural consciousness, asking to be "let back in". So it can be tended to and nourished again. So it can have its baby...


"And now I am nightmare,
I am rattling womb,
The Uffington Wraith I've become.
Forced into darkness,
you've made me a fiend;
Bridled with shadow,
Saddled with scream.
From window to window
Traversing the night,
My face in your glass
in a shudder of light.
Seeking that deep of welcome
befitting a Queen.
Let me in once again,
Let me in!"

Griffin said...

Reminds me of the Zezengorri of Spain. If anyone's interested in more of these folk costume traditions, look up "Europe's Wild Men".

girl6 said...

That song is so lovely. & i love that it is sung by a guy.
when the religious game, of whoever has the most followers will win started..it totally made the Catholic Church realize that they had to appeal to the Pagans & give them what they wanted/needed to make them want to join. i think that's why churches are so heavily adorned with statues & other decorative objects.

Haitians also integrated their vodum loas into the form of Catholic Saints.
Damballa is God (candle/sky)
Lady Erzulie is Mary (Our Lady of Sorrows)..her horses eternally weep their tears of pain & sadness over her broken heart. she is also depicted as the moon. the moon was originally believed to be female long before old man moon came along. her baby is..Ti Jean Petro (Jesus) every loa had to be reincarnated into Catholic Saint form so they could worship in peace. Santeria ISN'T evil either like it's portrayed in Hollywood movies.

i find all these connections SO fascinating!!
they are important to know & remember.