Wales: Mari Lwyd – Fragrance: Fierce – Refreshing blend of petitgrain, cardamom and citrus, infused jasmine, rosemary with a base of, musk, oakmoss and brazilian rosewood
Mari Lwyd is a skeleton mare of Welsh folklore, and she’s essentially a Christmas pony zombie.She rises from the dead in winter and roams the streets with her undead entourage, her sole aim being to get into your home. This activity is acted out by volunteers who parade a horse skull on a pole draped in white cloth around the streets. On New Year’s Eve, you must engage her in a rhymed battle of wits to keep her at bay. Can you beat the dead mare in a battle of poetic wits? This is the Welsh tradition of the Mari Lwyd, a mid-winter custom wherein the skull of a horse, decked out with bells and ribbons, is paraded on a stick by a reveler beneath a sackcloth, who challenges neighbors in exchange for drink and food.
It probably goes without saying that although Mari Lwyd now manifests around Christmas and New Year’s, this is a pre-Christian practice, one of those pagan rituals that’s endured on the British Isles over the centuries. The rather terrifying spectacle of Mari Lwyd did nearly disappear from Wales at one point, yet it’s had a resurgence recently.
Welsh poet Vernon Watkins paid tribute to his nation’s custom in his 1941 “The Ballad of the Mari Lwyd”
Mari Lwyd, Horse of Frost, Star-horse, and White Horse of the Sea, is carried to us.
The Dead return.
Those Exiles carry her, they who seem holy and have put on corruption, they who seem corrupt and have put on holiness.
They strain against the door.
They strain towards the fire which fosters and warms the Living.