FTX-050 - THE MARI LWYD
WELSH CUSTOMS, SONGS & DANCES
Actuality, Songs, in Welsh & English, with explanatory talk in English,
about the extraordinary BEGGING HORSE, the Mari Lwyd, a house-visiting ceremony
still extant in South Glamorgan. This recording, made by Peter Kennedy in 1956,
captures the excitement, with the participants explaining the on-the-spot improvised
verse-making, which includes socio-political commentary, making this is an important
document. Tracks #7-12: Margaretta Thomas of Nantgarw remembers, not only the
MARI LWYD, but also the songs & dances performed at the local fairs, as
well as Harvest and Halloween customs.
The Mari Lwyd rec at Llangynwyd, nr Maesteg, Glamorgan, S Wales, 24/12/56.
1. Hushed conversation (in English) inside the farmhouse, before the arrival
of the Begging Horse Party, between David and Thomas Jenkins - 1'44"
2. The Mari Lwyd Song (in Welsh) outside, led by William David Thomas, with
reply verses from inside led by the farmer, David Jenkins - 13'24
3. Sounds of the Mari Lwyd Party entering the farmhouse - 1'51"
4. The Farewell Song (in Welsh) and sounds of exit from house - 0'40"
5. Explanatory talk (in English) by David Thomas and David Jenkins -
6. Further talk by Thomas Jenkins - 1'15"
7. Improvised verses (in Welsh) by David Jenkins & David Thomas with some
versers answered in English - 3'27"
Margaretta Thomas, Nantgarw, 28/12/56
7. Talk (in English) about the Mari Lwyd at Nantgarw with Song (in Welsh) -
8. Explanation and description of custom incl "Punch and Judy" - 3'08"
9. Talk about last performance & custom dying out - 2'30"
10. Talk about learning the Nantgarw Dances at the local Fair - 10'29"
11. Further talk about dances with 2 Songs (in Welsh) explained afterwards
12. Talk about Halloween "Ducking for apples", Nutting, Bonfires & other
Customs, "Here we go round the Rose Bush" and final Song: "Coiminero" - 4'54"
All tracks recorded and edited by Peter Kennedy 1956 and first published by
The MARI LWYD ("Grey Mare" or "Grey Mary") involves a man carrying a
decorated horse's skull, fixed on top of a pole, and completely covered by a
white sheet. It is led by the Groom, a man with a whip, and accompanied by a
number of singers, known as "the Party". Around Christmas and New Year, they
go around the farms, pubs and big houses, where, once admitted, they are treated
to food and drink. However, as the Party approaches a house, the occupants bar
the doors and shutter the windows against their entry. Then they listen out
for the arrival of the Party, and it is up to the head of the household to improvise
verses in reply to those of the Party, making the song last as long as possible,
before admitting them.
Iowerth Peate in MAN, Vol. XLVIII (London: Royal Anthropological Society: 1943) "The Mari Lwyd: A Suggested Explanation", pp.53-8, relates the custom to Wassailing
and to a song which mentions the Virgin Mary, suggesting that the two customs
have merged. A New Years Eve house-visting custom in Orkney (recorded in North
Ronaldsay by Peter Kennedy in 1955) and also in Shetland, mention a "carrying
horse" which perhaps refer to a similar type of begging custom there. The song
has the chorus: "We are a' St. Mary's Men".
E.C.Cawte in RITUAL ANIMAL DISGUISES (D.S.Brewer for the Folklore Society:
1978) Chapter V, "The Mari Lwyd in South Wales", pp.94-109, includes a photograph
taken at Llangynwyd early in the century. He gives a distribution map showing
the places where Mari Lwyd customs have been reported and the Welsh-speaking
areas. He also includes a detailed description of the part played by the "Punch
and Judy" from Margaretta Thomas, given to him by her daughter, Dr. Ceinwen