Mari Lwyd is celebrated from Christmas Day to the Twelfth Night after Christmas. This is from December 25 to January 6 each year, however, the dates differ from village to village. It is part of a tradition with a singing person dressed as a horse, with an accompanying troupe, hoping to receive food and drink. The visit is concluded with a farewell song. Allowing a Mari Lwyd to enter is good luck, as the horse brings good fortune onto the premises. The tradition has been practiced differently from village to village. It also tends to startle foreign tourists when they first come upon this horse.
History of Mari Lwyd
The earliest account of the Mari Lwyd festival dates from 1798, and the tradition became popular in South Wales in the 19th century. The Mari Lwyd is typically made up of a horse’s skull, decorated with colored ribbons and fixed to the end of a wooden pole. Its eye sockets are often filled with green bottle-ends or colored material. White sheets are usually fastened to the base of the skull to conceal the pole and the person carrying the Mari, and the lower jaw is sometimes spring-loaded so that this person can snap it at passers-by.
The celebration itself would begin at dusk and often lasted late into the night. During it, the skull is carried through the streets of the village by a party known as the merry men, who stand in front of every house and sing traditional songs. The singing sometimes consists of an improvised rhyme and verse contest between the Mari party and the inhabitants of the house, explaining why they need to enter and gain access to the house if the occupant is unable to counter their reason in song.
The tradition began to decline in the 20th century partly due to the decrease in the number of Welsh Speakers, and also due to the increasing rowdiness and drunkenness which became associated with it – an unacceptable behavior, especially with the rise of the Chapel and Methodism in Wales. However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence in the groups performing across Wales.
Mari Lwyd timeline
Author J. Evans releases his book “A Tour Through Part of North Wales,” in which he extensively talks about the Mari Lwyd festival.
Welsh Poet Vernon Watkins writes a long poem titled: “The Ballad of the Mari Lwyd.”
Lois Blake publishes a letter in the Journal “English Dance and Song,” in which he notes that the Mari Lwyd appeared each Christmas Eve at the Barley Mow Inn.
Author Susan Cooper includes an appearance from the Mari Lwyd in her novel titled “Silver on the Tree.”
The song ‘Mari Lwyd’ appears on the album “Hyn,” by Carreg Lafar.
Mari Lwyd FAQs
Is there a link between Mari Lwyd and the Morris dance?
There is no known link between the Mari Lwyd, which was found in South Wales, and the Morris dance, which originated in the north of the country.
Does Mari Lwyd appear in video games?
Mari Lwyds appears in “Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition.” In this game Mari Lwyd is a spirit that dances its way through towns. It seeks temporary shelter while singing.
How did the men carry the Mari Lwyd to local houses?
The men would carry the Mari Lwyd to local houses. There, they would request entry through song. The householders are expected to deny them entry, also in song, and the two sides would continue their responses to one another in this manner.
Mari Lwyd Activities
Learn about the historical festival
If you’re not familiar with this festival, or simply want to know more about it, this is a good day to learn as much as you can. There are available sources for the information and facts you need, including the internet, the library, and other knowledgeable folks.
Participate in decorating a Mari Lwyd
Part of the activities for the festival is the decorating of the horse skull. Add your own touch of creativity to this, and you can be sure to have a fun time doing it.
Share pictures and videos
Post photos and videos taken from the activities of this day via your social media accounts and any other available platforms. That will do much in letting people know how great the festival is, and help preserve lovely memories.
5 Facts About Horse Skulls That Will Amaze You
They are secretly stored
Horse skulls have been found concealed in the structures of buildings, usually under the foundation or floor, in Ireland, England, Wales, and the Scandinavian Peninsula.
They can be quite expensive
Depending on the quality and size, horse skulls can sell for anywhere between $900 and $4,500.
They have traditional roots
Horse skulls are part of the larger folk tradition of concealing objects in structures.
Horse skulls can improve sound
There are theories that depositing them in buildings enhances the acoustics of a room, such as in a church or threshing barn.
They are believed to repel evil
Some theories exist that horse skulls are a method for repelling evil spirits such as witches and ghosts.
Why We Love Mari Lwyd
It helps us connect with loved ones
The day provides a reason for family and friends who are far off to come back home for the celebrations. This helps them connect and have a great time together.
It promotes cultural continuity
Many Welsh citizens and other related Europeans who are not familiar with their age-long traditions get to know about and participate in the festival. This makes them reconnect with their roots and preserve their culture.
The day helps spread joy
With the costuming, dancing, eating, and music accompanying this day, it is one that inevitably makes people happy. Throughout the day, joy is being spread all around.
Mari Lwyd dates