Y Mari Lwyd is a strange Welsh custom originating in the regions of Glamorgan and Gwent in South Wales, used to mark the passing of the darkest days of midwinter. The custom of dressing in a white sheet adorned with the decorated horse skull is unique to this part of Wales. It can still be seen parading the streets at Llangynwyd, near Maesteg, every New Year's Day. The people taking part would call at local houses and sing songs to gain entry; the householder would be expected to deny entry at first before relenting and inviting everyone in for food and drink.
The puppet consists of a horse's skull decorated with ribbons affixed to a pole; to the back of the skull is attached a white sheet, which drapes down to conceal both the pole and the individual. In some instances, the horse's jaw was able to open and close as a result of string or lever.
Folklorists have debated that the term meant "Holy Mary" and thus was a reference to the Virgin Mary, while others believe it simply means "Grey Mare", referring to the heads' equine skull. It turns out the tradition of Y Fari Lwyd has ancient pre-Christian origins, In Celtic Britain; the horse was believed to be a symbol of power, fertility and prowess on the battlefield. Many believed these animals had the ability to cross between this world and the otherworld.
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