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Illustration above - by Swedish Fairy-tale artist Lennart Helje

 

 

      January 21st 2018
                    ........  Going Welsh with the Mari Lwyd  .....

         An important part of Welsh folk history which was never really extinguished, but now enjoys riding the wave of folk revival, is the Mari Lwyd - also known as Y Fari Lwyd. The grey mare.

       Associated with mid-winter folklore, at around the time of Christmas, New Year and Old or New Twelth Night, Mari would be led out by her keeper(s). They would go from house to house (often the Public House!), peering in the windows and banging on the door to be let in.
     The chilly outside Mari party would sing traditional verses (in Welsh of course, as indeed they still do) begging for entrance. The fire-warmed inside party would reply, also in song, telling Mari to go away! 
      Eventually, after a longish song-battle, the door is opened and Mari enters, bringing good luck to the house.

     A variety of Mari's enjoying a catch up outside the two pubs at the bottom of Bridge Street and
circling the apple trees as part of the Wassail at the foot of the castle walls
.

     The 'Chepstow Annual Wassail and Mari Lwyd' is a lovely 'revival' event, where Mari's are welcomed from all over Wales (and further) to take part in a combination of Mari Lwyd 'Open Door' plays and Wassail in a gorgeous setting in old castle dell, where a little apple orchard has been specially planted.  
     Later, there's a unique evening meeting where rival companies, English at one end and Welsh at the other, meet at the centre of the Old Bridge. There's much flag waving, Morris dancing and Wassail drinking before all return as friends, led by many Mari's and a big Gloucester Old Spot Boar (for the English of course)!

  Mari's around the pretty old town area of Chepstow - undaunted by a rather wet day in mid-winter.
Below: The dark punky fella 'Penkevyll' comes all the way from Cornwall's Land's End !

You can find more about the Mari Lwyd tradition, and the Chepstow Mari here on my website  - scroll down to January 27th