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Back side of the card:
Mari Lwyd is a variation of the folk custom of Wassailing (Christmas caroling). Mari is taken around a village traditionally, often between Christmas Day and Twelfth Night. In some places the Mari Lwyd is locked down for only the winter season, others it is brought out for other holidays, like Halloween and May Day. On Mari Lwyd nights, festivities usually begin at dusk and last long into the night. People form teams of 4-7 all to spread holiday cheer. These parties usually consist of a leader (Osler) who carries a staff or whip and in some regions like Ystradgynlais in the Swansea Valleys have other folk characters like a jester and a Lady. Other members of the party may dress as ‘merryman’ who play music and dance. One lucky person gets to be the Mari Lwyd. They spend the night under the dress of a decorated horse skull mounted on a pole dressed with festive lights and decorations.
These teams roll up to houses where they request entry through the magic of song. The inhabitants are expected to deny them entry (also in song). This exchange is called ‘pwngco (poin-co)’ and goes back and forth until the house’s inhabitants run out of ideas and excuses, at which point they invite the team in where they are plied with ale and food. The Mari Lwyd would run around the house neighing and snapping its jaws, creating havoc, frightening women and children, while the leader of the team pretends to try to restrain it and the merrymen play music.
Magical Creatures by Sarah Skinner