“The Grey Mare”
Winner of the Seren Poetry Christmas Competition 2017
I was absolutely thrilled to win the Seren Christmas Poetry Competition this year with my poem ‘The Grey Mare,’ depicting the old Celtic ritual of ‘Y Mari Lwyd.’
The Mari Lwyd is a wassailing folk custom which was popular in South Wales throughout the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. The tradition can still be observed in certain parts of the country, (notably Llantrisant, where it has been recently revived) over the Christmas period. The ritual involves the use of an eponymous hobby horse, which was traditionally made from a real horse’s skull, mounted on a pole and hidden under a sackcloth. You can read more about it here.
My poem was inspired by the circumstances and Pagan thinking which surround the custom of the Mari Lwyd. Mid-winter is a time of death and rebirth, a point in which the days begin to get longer and lighter. Evergreens like holly and ivy are a feature of the season because of this, and in Wales, each year a dead horse is mysteriously revived…. The custom marks the passing of the darkest days of midwinter, traditionally believed to be a time in which the veil between this world and the ‘otherworld’ is at its thinnest.
In my poem, the narrator digs through the larder cupboard of her childhood home, rummaging through items which revive memories of her parents, and eventually stumbles across the old hobby horse, ‘gormless and huge,’ with which her father would perform.
Copies of the card can be bought from Seren online.