Two years ago I managed to procure a pony skull found in the wilds of Dartmoor and built my very own Mari Lwyd. The mari is the Welsh version of the hobby horse, a type of mumming creature more generally referred to (by folklorists) as a hooded animal or mast animal. It is a horse skull with movable, clacking jaws, carried on a pole by a person hidden under a cloth. It usually has ears and some kind of eyes attached, and is often decorated with bells and ribbons. It is taken out, with a few other traditional participants, during the winter holidays in a house-visit type of mumming involving songs and riddles. The mari is wonderfully disturbing in the way of so many folk rituals.
I had yet to take my mari out on an official mumming procession since making him, but I got a chance this New Year’s Eve, when a friend (in costume, with besom) and I (under the cloth) paraded through the downtown area of Eugene, clacking the mari’s jaws at drunken revelers. I hope to take some better photos of the mari soon, but in the meantime, here is one snapped during a brief rest.