Mari Lwyd - the Grey Mare - is the central character of a midwinter festive tradition celebrated in South Wales, and elsewhere. Through the dark nights between Christmas and New Year, the Mari leads her unruly retinue from house to house, winning access by outsinging the inhabitants at each door, and, once inside, boisterous revelries ensue.
There is a tradition that hares sit and gaze at the moon, and in many places it is believed that to see a hare by moonlight is especially lucky.
According to one story, two hares climbed up a hill one night to see the sky. Out of the darkness came an old fox, and the hares ran away from its hungry jaws. One escaped down the hill, while the other leaped so high into the sky that she reached the moon.
Now, every month, the hare returns to the hilltop to gaze up at his partner on the face of the moon.
Jack and Jill ran up the hill,
To see the moon together.
Jack sat down upon the mound,
And gazed at Jill forever.
There are many medieval manuscript illuminations which show hare- and other animal-headed figures, but there is no indication as to whether these are mask-wearers, animals dressed in human clothing, or true theriocephalic* creatures.
Unfortunately no written or oral tradition has yet come to light that could indicate any potential interpretations that the scribes who drew these may have held.
These medieval drawings have been interpreted as depictions of mummers taking part in dances or other revelries. Similar animal-headed humans have existed throughout history, including ritually inspired prehistoric cave paintings, and the deities of ancient Egypt. They also appear in contemporary culture, and may be seen in films such as The Wicker Man (1973).
*Therio = beast + cephalic = head.
Green Man Gatekeeper, Taurus Crafts, The Old Park, Lydney, Glos. GL15 6BU
Copyright © 2023 Green Man Gatekeeper / Clive Barrett All Rights Reserved
All copyright, design rights and intellectual property rights existing in our designs and products and in the images, texts and design of our website/marketing material are and will remain the property of Green Man Gatekeeper / Clive Barrett.
We will treat any infringement of these rights seriously.