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Mari Lwyd: Llangynwyd

Of all the villages associated with the Mari Lwyd, it is Llangynwyd which has maintained its uncrowned role as the community closest to the heart of the tradition. The three Llangynwyd communities, Lower, Middle and Upper, lie in the Llynfi Valley just south of Maesteg in what used to be Mid Glamorgan and is now the County Borough of Bridgend, and to see the tradition today it is necessary to visit the Old House pub in the village of Upper Llangynwyd at about 2pm on New Year's Day. It is not true that the tradition was unbroken here, but the break was shorter than anywhere else... perhaps only a couple of years. In recent times the maintenance of the tradition has been in the capable hands of Cwmni Caerdydd, Cardiff's official dance team, who recreate the old tradition in dramatic and powerful style; they perform it not as a museum piece but as a living and evolving custom in which new verses are being continually created, often spontaneously.

Until his death in 1997, there was an important link with the past in the person of Cynwyd Evans, one of the original Mari Lwyd party. Cynwyd, who was well into his eighties, would hold the fort single-handed inside the Old House as the Mari tried to enter, his ability to remember and create new responses delighting everybody. When you visit the Old House, look at the pub sign outside; it is Cynwyd's image you see there, holding the Mari's reins.

Trefor M. Owen's book Welsh Folk Customs (1974) contains photographs of the Mari Lwyd party at Llangynwyd around 1908. More of these pictures are available as postcards from the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans, Cardiff. In 1956, the English folklorist Peter Kennedy visited Llangynwyd and recorded the tradition as it was performed then; these recordings, along with Mrs Margaretta Thomas's memories of the Mari Lwyd as performed in Nantgarw, are available on Peter's Folktracks series of cassettes, catalogue number 60-050 (from Folktracks, 16 Brunswick Square, Gloucester GL1 1UG, telephone 01452 415110). The Celfyddydau Mari Arts sound archive includes a recording of Cynwyd Evans and Cwmni Caerdydd made at the Old House on New Year's Day, 1996, and our document archive includes these Llangynwyd verses, noted by Gareth Morgan in 1980:

(Mari party):
Wel, dyma ni'n diwad
Gyfeillion diniwad
I ofyn cawn genad - i ganu.

(Party in the house):
Os na chawn ni genad
Rhowch glywed ar ganiad
Pa fodd mae'r 'madawiad ≠ nos heno.

Ni dorson ein crimpa'
Wrth groesi'r sticeila'
Yn dyfod tuag yma ≠ nos heno.

Os aethoch rhy gynnar
I'r gwely'n ddialgar
O codwch yn harddgar ≠ roesawu.

Y deisen fras, felus,
A phob sort o spices
O torwch hi'n radus - Y Gwyliau.

A thapwch y faril
Gollyngwch yn rhigl
A rhenwch e'n gynnil - Y Gwyliau.

Mae Mari Lwyd lawen
Am ddod i'ch ty rhonten
A chanu yw'r diben ≠ Mi dybiaf.

'Dyw gwiw i chwi scwto
A chwnu'r latch heno
Waith prydydd diguro ≠ Wyf, gwyriaf.

Os doese 'ma ddynion
All torri gelynion
O ro'ch ryw atebion ≠ I'r bechgyn.

'Wel ganwch 'newch ffrindie
O rowch englyn..........
Bod 'na fodd i fi'ch dilyn - Nos heno.

Wel, ffrindie gwr diflan
'Rwyt ti wedi meddwi
'Waeth mae dy (h) ana'l di'n drewi
Trwy'r fodfedd o dderi ≠ nos heno.

Mae Feri Lwyd yma
Llawn sÍr a rhubanau
Mae'n werth i roi gola' ≠ I dy gwelad.

Mae'r gaseg yn gyson
Wedd ei chefn iddi chynffon
Ň'i dwy lygad duon ≠ Yn chware.

Os oes yna ddynion
All blethu englynion
O rhowch i'n atebion ≠ nos heno.

(From inside):
Wel Dafydd gwr diflan
Fe weles ei'n fegien
A dim crys ar dy gefen ≠ Dros y Gwyliau.

Mae'r do' ella'r tra choenus
'Dyw'r ffordd ni ddim yn agos
A dyw'r lleuad ddim yn dangos ≠ Nos heno.

(The final verse, for which the Wassail tune is used):
Ond nawr rwy'n drafod canu
Agorwch y drws inni
Mae'n o'r i mas ar a gaseg las
Mae ei sodlau bron a rhewi.

YR WASSAIL

Wel dyma'r hoenus feinwen
Sy'n codi gyda'r seren
A hon yw'r Wassail wych ei chlod
Sy'n caru bod yn llawen.

Duw rhoddo i'ch lawenydd
I gynal blwyddyn newydd
Tra b'o crwth a thincian cloch
Well, well y b'och chwi beunydd.

Ffarweliwch, foneddigion,
Ni gawsom roesaw ddigon
Bendith Duw f'o ar eich tai
A phob rhyw rhai o'ch dynion.

Maria Jane Williams of Aberpergwm, Vale of Neath, included two relevant items in her National Airs of Gwent and Morgannwg (1844, republished by Cymdeithas Alawon Gwerin Cymru, the Welsh Folk Song Society, in 1988). Her notes record that the songs were associated with the Mari Lwyd. The tune for Y Washael is virtually the same as that used in Llangynwyd; the tune for Hyd Yma Bu'n Cerdded varies considerably from the basic tune known elsewhere:

Y WASHAEL

O dyma enw'r feinwen
Sydd yn codi gyda'r seren;
A hon yw'r washael fawr ei chlod
Sy'n caru bod yn llawen.

HYD YMA BU'N CERDDED

Hyd yma bu'n cerdded
Gyfeillion diniwed
Hyd yma bu'n cerdded
Gyfeillion diniwed
A phawb yn ymddiried cael canu.

Os eithoch yn gynnar
I'r gwely ddialar
Os eithoch yn gynnar
I'r gwely ddialar
O codwch i'n hawddgar roesawi.

Trefor Owen, in Welsh Folk Customs, gives more than 20 verses collected by Nefydd (Rev William Roberts, 1813-1872). Roberts, a native of Denbighshire, became Baptist minister in Blaenau Gwent; his sole purpose in recording the custom was to argue against its continued existence on the grounds that it was pagan.

Iorwerth C Peate, in Traditions and Folk Life (Faber and Faber, 1972) includes a photograph of the Pentyrch Mari Lwyd at the Welsh Folk Museum (now the Museum of Welsh Life) but does not give any verses from the songs.

E C Cawte's Ritual Animal Disguises (Folklore Society, 1978) contains a chapter on the Mari Lwyd in South Wales, including a 1908 photograph from Llangynwyd and a distribution map showing places where the Mari had been reported (this is known to be out of date, in the light of the research done in the 20-plus years since this excellent book was published).


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Last updated December 10, 2000. Copyright © 1999 Celfyddydau Mari Arts.