Could we have a thread on Welsh Customs?

Heh! Yes, dogs are marvelous at claiming to random strangers that they are mistreated and underfed!
I wasnt a student - it was just before I went to University . I was working as a general dogsbody for the National Trust. Hard work and little money, but worthwhile experience - just a stop gap job though!


Fantastic night of Mari Lwyd coming up in Caerdydd! I went to this one year and it was great. You can be part of the ‘parade’ and follow the Mari Lwyd from pub to pub - loads of fun!

I suspect I am about to be pedantic and a kill-joy and generally ofnadwy, but I tend to see the above as a bit like “Disneyfying” the Mari Lwyd.
A group of friends getting a horse’s skull and going round to the homes of other friends to sing and collect for charity, that’d be great, wonderful, a marvelous revival, but events like the Cardiff one, unless I have a totally wrong view of it, seem too much like Disney!!

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It didn’t feel “Disneyfied” at all when I was there, more like a tradition being revived. It was a really cold and wet evening, but they brought a great warm spirit with them, lots of singing and fun, and it felt quite authentic. I don’t have a problem at all recommending it to people.


I went along to a “Family night” in Barry last night where someone brought that actual Mari Lwyd along, and did a very nice talk about it. When someone put it on and went about roaring and opening and shutting the mouth, it really was quite an impressive sight!

The talk was pretty well attended with lots of advanced learners and a few first language speakers, but unfortunately my 9-year-old was the only kid. It was a good job we went, as they had two tables of crafts set out, and she had an absolute field day making a magnificent Mari Lwyd and a Calennig thingy out of an apple and twigs etc. (My only regret was that it was too late to stop and chat to people at the end, as it was already well past bedtime for a school night, and my conscience was herding us home!)


I couldn’t agree more with @Deborah-SSi about this Mari Lwyd that has appeared in Canton, Cardiff. If one were to try to aim for a supposed 100% “authenticity” based on an imagined time when such things were done ‘correctly’, there would hardly be any traditions left in Britain at all, never mind any ‘revivals’. Traditions have always changed, adapted and been ‘revived’ according to changing times.

I was actually largely brought up around Canton - in fact I was born in a house five minutes walk from the Mochyn Du a good many years ago (I am 11 months younger than David Bowie!). I in fact went to Canton High School (now Chapter Arts) and moved with it out to Fairwater. My grandparents were old Kaardiffians going back to the 19th century. The prospect of anything like the Mari Lwyd happening in this (or probably any) part of Cardiff in those days would have been UNTHINKABLE, hardly anyone would have even known what it was. The kids at school used to laugh at anyone who showed any interest in wider Welsh culture.

So I think the appearance of the Mari in Canton is absolutely FANTASTIC - if it can appear here then there are no ‘no-go’ areas in the whole of Wales. Some of the credit is no doubt due to Trac Cymru, who are doing much to spread the tradition of the Mari as an integral part of Welsh cultural life, taking it into schools etc.

I would share concerns about ‘Disneyfication’ and trivialisation about much of our public life - one has only to turn on the TV any evening to see that - but this revival and the many others like it that are happening in Wales, as well as their ‘wassailing’ counterparts in England which are now spreading from their southwest redoubt to parts that never had them before, are a welcome antidote to such trivialisation. No two ‘traditions’ will be completely alike, but then they never were, completely, even the first time round.


I apologise. I did realise I was being pedantic. I totally noticed the changes in Cardiff, from disdain to grudging acceptance to enthusiasm for Welsh culture. I have said elsewhere that I was thrilled once, in a Cardiff bookshop to hear a father being proud that his son could understand a storybook in Welsh!! (I am older than David Bowie!!) :blush:


I’m not sure the “for charity” bit would be a marvellous revival! :blush:

Here’s some archive footage from 1964 for anyone interested-

Plus a bit more where the bloke involved says a bit more about it at the end-


I popped in today looking for some cultural history on Calan Mai and found the link to the pdf of your nice little paper @AlanP. Diolch! I’m curious if you published it anywhere so that I can properly reference it in the future? Did you by chance ever publish your other thesis? I’d love to see that as well.

Bendithion Calan Mai, pawb.

Shwmae @chris-aldrich, You’ve reminded me to put the essay up on Academia - I think you’re on there as well - under my full name Alan Robert Phillips. (The references are a bit askew as it was an early essay I did for my MA - but they’re all there.)

My longer thesis on Welsh Harvest Traditions is also accessible on Academia, as it is on the University of Wales Trinity Saint David repository, which to the best of my knowledge is accessible to all:,%20Alan%20(2016)%20Cynhaeaf…pdf
Maybe one day I will go back and prepare it for publication in book form, as I’ve been urged to do!

It is also accessible here on the forum:


Diolch! This is great, and a few more papers than I was expecting.

While going through this long thread the other day, I also came across a longer video/discussion by an academic/researcher on the Mari Lwyd topic that some may appreciate, particularly if they’re considering revivals of Welsh customs:

Anyone know where I can find a nice, white horse skull? :grin: Pending local COVID-19 restrictions, I may put some planning into celebrating Mari Lwyd in the Los Angeles area this holiday season?


@chris-aldrich I see from your academia entry that you work as a biomedical engineer and all related disciplines. I assume that you just happen to have a general interest in Welsh culture and tradition?

I don’t think I’ve seen that video on the Mari Lwyd before, and look forward to watching it, diolch. Great idea about celebrating it across the pond, but just to point out that it is of course primarily a midwinter festival rather than a spring/summer one. Though these things do often tend to have a certain licence nowadays - as with the English morris and mummers teams, which one can now come across any time of year. :laughing:

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I’ve seen a fabulous Mari Lwyd created by using a flat pack as a base, then building on it with papier maché. It’s one way to do it.
flat pack mari lwyd – Mari Lwyd


Flat pack Mari Lwyd! :grin: sounds like a fun project, but I couldn’t see any photos of the end product

There’s a photo on this other link: A Flat Pack Mari Lwyd | scribblah

There was a workshop making them at one Eisteddfod Genedlaethol I went to and it was a surreal experience when a “herd” of Mari Lwyds went galloping past :joy:


Wow, thats pretty impressive for “flat pack”. A herd of them must have been even more impressive/terrifying. It’s definitely something I want to see one day.
Unfortunately it looks like the link to the flat pack kits is no longer operational

Here it is on the Trac Cymru website:
It says that “Trac Cymru’s ‘fflat-pac’ Mari kit is not currently on sale by post but should be available in time for the 2021/2022 Mari season” - I guess you’d just have to contact them to find out. But it looks as if the accompanying book is for sale, anyway.
The site also has 4 videos on the Mari, including one on how to put the flat pack together (once you’ve got it!).


Da iawn @AlanP! That’s definitely the fflat-pac that my friend used and hers turned out fantastic.


Gwych i glywed, @Deborah-SSi! Much of the spread of the Mari Lwyd as a kind of key Welsh tradition in recent years has been down to the work of Trac Cymru - as it says on their website - “going round the country delivering workshops to schools and community groups, and working with local enthusiasts to bring communities together to learn about this unique Welsh tradition”.


I’m definitely aware of the midwinter portion, but I figure one needs to plan ahead to find a skull source. :crazy_face:

I’ve got a strong Welsh (with some Scots/Irish) family background and thought I owed it to myself to have some facility with my cultural roots which have been erased. I’m also working on a thesis relating to oral cultures as they impinge on literacy and how memory plays a role in that. Old Welsh provides a view on the sort of cultural changes I’d love to look at, though it may be a while before I’m at a level of fluency to make that research bear fruit.

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