hobby horse

"Mari Llwyd" carved hobby horse, the head carved from wood and draped with beige cloth to cover the neck, with ribbons suspended from the upper jaw and the head covered with coloured rosettes made of cloth. The head is fixed to a pole, with another stick to control the jaw.

Carved hobby horse, Mari Lwyd, the head carved from wood and draped with beige cloth to cover the neck, with ribbons suspended from the upper jaw and the head covered with coloured rosettes made of cloth. The head is fixed to a pole, with another stick to control the jaw

This hobby horse originates from Glamorgan, Wales. It was purchased by the Museum in 1950 at a Sotheby’s auction. The hobby horse is known as ‘Mari Lwyd’, and is of a type once used widely as part of a door-to-door mumming performance at Christmas and the New Year.

The horse head and jaw are carved from wood and covered with a brown cloth. The hobby horse is decorated with bows and strips of cloth. The head is fixed to a pole, with another stick to control the jaw. The horse would have been carried by a man covered in the sheet, using the stick to control the horse’s jaw.

The masquerade group went from house to house in a village during the Christmas season, asking permission to enter the home in a song. The inhabitants would initially refuse entry, then perform a rhyming competition with the masquerade group until the group was eventually invited into the house for food and drink. Once indoors, the Mari Lywd horse would chase people, clacking its jaw to scare the inhabitants. Sometimes, the head was lifted to a window with the jaws snapping to scare unsuspecting people inside. When leaving a house, the group would sing a blessing before moving on to the next house.

The tradition of the Mari Lywd was first recorded in 1800 but was almost defunct by the early twentieth century. The tradition was revived in parts of Glamorgan during the 1950s and still survives in some places.

Collection Information

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