THE ancient Welsh traditon of the Mari Lwyd returned to pubs in Abergavenny once again to the delight of onlookers last weekend.
And this Saturday afternoon (January 20) it's the turn of Chepstow's Wassail and Mari Lwyd.
Once almost forgotten. the Mari Lwyd tradition was revived locally several years ago and now the sight of the sheet covered horse’s skull is a familiar one in the weeks after Christmas.
Originally paraded from house to house,accompanied by a group of musicians and singers, the Mari Lwyd would attempt to gain entry to homes.
The people inside would reply in verse, pretending to refuse entry. There followed an impromptu verse battle between the two sides until the callers, who were always better prepared, were allowed entry into the house.
Back and forth went the rhymes until one side claimed a victory. Usually, but not always, the Mari won and letting her into your house was considered good luck for the horse was thought to bestow good fortune on the residents as it left.
Once inside the Mari chased the young women of the family, gambolling and cavorting, it would blow, sniff, bite and neigh in an effort to frighten them and when the horse-play was over, the revellers would be given food and drink.
This custom, a form of wassailing, is part of a pagan tradition and the first written record of it dates back to 1800 and a painting of the Mari Lwyd in action commissioned by Lady Llanover in about 1860, can still be seen above the entrance to the old Llanover Post Office.
In Abergavenny this year, it was celebrated at Hen Galen with the parade starting from the Chapel Café in Market street and visiting the Angel Hotel, the Kings Head, Hen and Chickens, the King’s Arms and the Grofield.
Meanwhile in Chepstow tomorrow after a four-year absence, it’s sure to be a spectacle as nine different Morris groups parade their traditional Beasts and Maris through the town alongside dancing, singing, music and good cheer.
The procession is combined with the tradition of wassailing the apple trees with singing, dancing, drinking and general merrymaking in the hope of encouraging the spirits to provide a good harvest.
The Chepstow Wassail and Mari Lwyd takes place in and around Bridge Street, the castle, orchard and Wye Bridge from noon to 6.30pm on Saturday, January 20.
It has traditionally included a ceremonial meeting of the Welsh and English at the bridge, a Mari Lwyd performance at the museum and a ceilidh at the Drill Hall.
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