The Welsh Tradition of Mari Lwyd

The Skeletal Welsh Horse You Must Beat in a Battle of Rhymes.

Have you ever heard the story about the ‘The Welsh Tradition of Mari Lwyd?’ It 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. – But wait… it gets even weirder than that.

Basically, a horses skull on a stick visits your home or the local pub and you then need to rap battle them out in poetry and songs. This can go on for minutes or hours. If the person in the house wins. The horse must go away and is not allowed inside. But, if the skeleton horse wins the ‘battle’ the people are allowed to come inside and ‘raid’ the house and eat as much food and drink as much alcohol as they desire.

A Mari Lwyd at Llangynwyd, Wales (1904–10) (photo by Frederic Evans/Wikimedia)

This is a proud tradition of the Welsh, filled with great significance for the locals to keep their traditions going as it has slowed down during the last few years. More and more people are now starting to bring back this tradition year after year to introduce the younger generations to the tradition of Mari Lwyd.

The decorations on the skull can be decorated in spirals or ancient Celtic rune symbols and involving some more modern time symbolism and items on it as well.

Even though it is a symbolism of good luck. Many parents would tell their children about Mari Lwyd, that if they were misbehaving she would come at night to snatch them away in their sleep.

It probably goes without saying that although Mari Lwyd now manifests around Christmas and New Year’s, this is a pre-Christian practice, one of those pagan rituals that are endured on the British Isles over the centuries.

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. 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.

and the more modern approach…

Would you allow Mari Lwyd into your home for food and drink?

Thank you for reading… #TheSomethingGuy #SouthAfrica #Blog

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