Folklore Friday: Ho, Ho, Holy Crap! Is that skeleton horse?
Hiya Bookworms! How have you been? I have one more bit of holiday folklore to share with you guys before the new year. Put on your fuzzy slippers and I’ll tell you why Welsh people are completely bananas.
The new year is a tricky thing. It makes some people feel optimistic, but some people get really emotional about letting go of their past. It makes an altogether different group of people feel like getting drunk and doing a real weird puppet show for their neighbors. That’s where the Welsh zombie horse Mari Lwyd comes in.
Yup. You heard me right. I said Welsh zombie horse. That’s an actual, true thing and I love it so much. The entire country had entered into a social contract that revolves around a horse effigy. There isn’t a record of where the tradition of Mari Lwyd comes from, but the gist of it is that every year our horse friend Mari Lwyd rises from her grave and wanders around the villages of Wales. Her appearance forces people to deal with their fear of death and to embrace the sense of hope that each new year brings.
Deep, huh? Now comes the weird part! It’s also a tradition for folks, usually men, to lodge a horse skull on the end of a stick to make a Mari Lwyd puppet. The guy holding the puppet will cover himself in some sort of cloth so that our little zombie pony looks like she’s just a movin’ and groovin’ around all by herself. Then the puppeteer’s friends will put on their favorite costumes. They don’t have to have an undead equine theme. A guy could dress like a sexy cat, or Conan O’Brien, or even a Swiss chef. All that matters is that these blokes are ready to party because they are about to make a straight nuisance of themselves.
They get their spooky puppet, they have some drinks, and they head out through the village singing songs and looking fancy in their costumes. They knock on a door and then the game is afoot. The tradition goes that the homeowner must keep Mari Lwyd out at all costs. They must engage in a battle of somewhat insulting riddles and songs with Mari Lwyd to keep her out of the house. This is a lot like doing an episode of Lip Sync Battle against some drunken frat boys holding a piñata on a stick and it can go on until someone has enough material for a mixtape or they run out of ideas. Just whichever.
Regardless of who wins, at the end of the weird improv comedy show on your doorstep, you’re supposed to invite Mari Lwyd and her attendants in for snacks and drinks so they’re fortified for the next house. This is to symbolize that you’re at peace with the arrival of the new year. You better be because Mari Lwyd is coming in whether you’re ready or not. It’s like Fox Mulder says, you can’t fight the future, y’all.
I hope you guys have a great New Year's Eve whether you get turnt or just chill out at home and watch movies. Work on your song and riddle game beforehand just in case you get a visit from Mari Lwyd. And, remember, Mari Lwyd is a horse. If a bunch of dudes show up dressed like the Powerpuff Girls waving around a stuffed badger that is not a tradition and you should lock your doors and call the cops. Good luck out there, Bookworms!