It all started so innocently…
Following our wonderful visit to Chepstow Wassail earlier in the year, we had made important connections with some of the folk concerned with the Mari Lwyd. These were re-ignited when I received a message from the couple who operate the Y Fari Troellog, one version of the Mari Lwyd. They were coming to Cornwall over Halloween bringing their Mari and asked if we would like to meet up and bring our Oss, Penkevyll.
My partner, Laetitia, then had the brilliant idea of meeting up at the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle and making an event of it. I wrote to the Museum and they agreed to our plans and the next couple of weeks were filled with myriads of emails and Facebook messages flying to and fro encouraging folks to come and witness this historic event. One of the responses we had been from Mari Trecopr – so that was another Mari who wanted to come!
We then decided to extend the Mari event to include All Souls Day and to be spent visiting the hostelries in nearby Tintagel. We sent emails to all of them warning them of our impending appearance and suggesting that if they had any problem with that to get back to us.
We worked on the pwnco ceremony that we would be enacting at the Museum. A pwnco is a rhyme contest between the Mari party and the inhabitants of the household, or in this case, museum. Both parties challenge each other with improvised verses which are traditionally sung as an exchange through the closed front door. If the Mari Lwyd is successful then they are invited in to bestow blessings and good fortune on the building. During this time the Osses are ‘fed and watered’ with alcohol and cake. Many people offer the Mari money to bring luck.
It was decided that in this case we would create our version of a pwnco by making it more of a welcome rather than a challenge as it was the Mari’s first time in Cornwall. We thought that we would enter into the spirit of things by reciting our verses in Cornish, so we contacted the redoubtable Craig Weatherhill for help, and he produced the goods willingly and swiftly. Many thanks Craig!
The culmination to all our plans happened this last weekend when it all finally came together in a wild, slightly anarchic happening. I’ll take you through the experience….
We travelled up from our home near Lands End with certain misgivings and unanswered questions on our mind:
Would many people turn up? We’d sent invites to all we could think of who would be interested but apart from a handful of people, no-one had really committed themselves to coming.
Would we be able to perform our part in the pwnco ceremony adequately? Our contribution was written in Cornish and had to be sung in response to the Welsh verses, and given the busyness of our lives at that time, we hadn’t had any chance to practise.
Would the weather be kind as Cornish weather is notoriously unpredictable?
We all met up in the Cobweb Inn and following suitable refreshment it was time to take Penkevyll down to the Museum. We allowed plenty of time for this as the Oss has to ‘meet and greet’ on her way!
Once inside the Museum we met the managers, Judith and Peter, and prepared ourselves for the arrival of the Mari’s. We hadn’t long to wait. Before we knew it there was a great knocking on the front door and the Mari party starting singing their verses of the pwnco in Welsh.
We answered, rather haltingly in Cornish, a final verse was exchanged and the door was flung open and the Mari Lywds were welcomed in!
In order for the Mari Lwyd to properly bestow blessings on a building, they have to thoroughly investigate every nook and cranny. So you can guess what fun the Osses had doing that! As you can see from the following photos.
At last it was time for the traditional libations and so everyone was ‘fed and watered’ with alcohol and cake.
Needless to say this was very well received!
It was time to go out and meet our public and see how many folks had turned up to support this event.
To our delight there were dozens and dozens of people there enjoying the music, dancing and general merriment. So without further ado the Mari Lwyd and Penkevyll joined in with gusto! It was brilliant! 😀
Later on we caroused our way around the Boscastle pubs meeting the locals and thoroughly enjoying ourselves – as you can tell…
…and so to bed!
The next day we were joined by more people from Wytchwood Morris. We repeated our visitation to all the hostelries in Tintagel, only this time Penkevyll stayed in her warm and dry stable (rider unavailable), and I was free to join the musicians and enjoy the spectacle of the Mari Lwyd without having to keep an eye on Penkevyll (a full-time job).
Unfortunately the night weather was wild and more like Wuthering Heights as we made our way from pub to pub.
This footage link will give you some idea of what we were up against!
It didn’t dampen our enthusiasm though and we even found time to discuss and plot how we may repeat this experience in the future.
The outcome of all our scheming? Well now, you’ll just have to wait and see……! 😉