Mari Lwyd


As the end of the year draws near, I was thinking about some of the customs that I was brought up with that have had a deep impression on me especially musically.

One such memory is of Mari Lwyd.

The Mari Lwyd (the Grey Mare) is a pre-Christian tradition said to bring good luck for the New Year. People made a horse figure from a horse’s skull, with decorative ears and eyes attached. They adorned it with colourful reins, bells, and ribbons and wrapped it with a white sheet that is carried around on a pole.
The Mari Lwyd and its party would go door-to-door, singing and challenging the families inside to a battle of rhyming insults in Welsh. At the end of the battle of wits (known as pwnco) the group would be invited into the house for refreshments and by the end of the night were probably very merry.

I came across a site for the Cor Cymunedol Bangor Community Choir whose rendition of the Mari Lwyd Carol reminded me of the community singing I remember as a child. I took the first verse and from it created a jolly New Year Carol also using a hurdy gurdy and a drum.

If you want to sing along –

Wel dyma ni’n dwad
Gyfeillion diniwad
I ofyn am gennod i ganu
Os na chawn ni gennad
Rhowch wybod ar ganiad
Pa fodd mae’r ‘madawiad, nos heno
‘Does genni ddim cinio
Nac arian iw gwario
I wneud i chwi roeso, nos heno

Here we come
Dear friends
To ask permissions to sing
If we don’t have permission,
Let us know in song
How we should go away tonight
I have no dinner
Or money to spend
To give you welcome tonight

Here are a few videos that I came across that I quite like, an original film from 1964 of the pwnco, a more folk rendition and a soundscape –


Artwork of the Mari Lwyd  by Museleon based on Mari Lwyd (wiki)

Cor Cymunedol Bangor Community Choir –

Finally, I wish you all a Happy New Year – Blwyddyn Newydd Dda