Tag Archives: Hen Galan

A Dead Horse In A Sketchbook

14 Jan

mari 2 2020

Husb and I went to the Gower Wassail and Mari Lwyd festival last weekend, where there was a gathering of Maris. Normally they’re jumping around the place, up to mischief, but this one had been propped up against a pole and was sat quietly, so I had a chance to draw her in more detail than normal. The sketch on the right was the first and I made her face way too long. I know that horses have long faces anyway, but this one was foreshortened and the drawing on the left is more accurate. Some people might think it a bit strange that people choose to keep company with dead horses, but it’s what we do in these parts 😀

To find out more about the Mari Lwyd tradition in Wales, please click here

Hen Galan Hapus – Happy Old New Year

13 Jan

Mari cas gwent

Today (January 13th) is Hen Galan, the Welsh Old New Year, based on the archaic Gregorian rather than the modern Julian calendar. And there’s a long tradition in Wales of welcoming in the Old New Year with fun, festivities, feasting and a dead horse. As you do. She’s called the Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare) and is a modern incarnation of the ancient Celtic horse goddess Epona, also called Rhiannon in Wales.

mari 3 2020

Grey and white animals were prized in pre-Christian times for their ability to flit between this world and Annwn, the Otherworld, which isn’t like the Christian Heaven and Hell. That’s why Christianity almost wiped out the tradition, by the mid 20th century there were only a handful of Mari Lwyds left in Wales, where there had once been hundreds. But now she’s coming back and Husb and I went Wassailing on Saturday and there were six Mari Lwyds prancing around and making mischief. The one at the top is Mari Cas-Gwent (the Chepstow Mari Lwyd) and the bottom one is Mari Benfro (the Pembrokeshire Mari Lwyd). They’re all different.

Anointing The Apple Trees.

11 Jan

mari 4 2020

 

In two days on January 13th it will be Hen Galan, the ‘old’ New Year in Wales, which is heralded by the tradition of the Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare). It’s a pre-Christian custom rooted in the worship of the ancient Celtic horse goddess Epona, known in Welsh culture as Rhiannon.

 

mari 1 2020

 

Husb and I went to the Gower Wassail festival today, which included a parade of Mari Lwyds by torchlight, with lots of music and shouting to ‘wake up’ the apple trees in the orchard, and to anoint their roots with cider. It’s an ancient ritual meant to encourage a good apple harvest next year. Here’s Husb getting dressed as a Mari – traditionally although the Mari is female, the person inside is a man, although these days there are women puppeteers as well. You can see the horse skull on the floor.

Ready To Print

3 Jan

cut

I finished cutting a Mari Lwyd skull into my vinyl block. I’ll print it this weekend, using Japanese Hosho paper and Caligo Cranfield ‘Safe Wash‘ relief printing ink, with maybe a hint of chine collé.  I was going to do two skulls but I think the one at the back would make it too crowded so I haven’t cut it.

 

The Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare) is a manifestation of the ancient Celtic horse goddess, Epona – or Rhiannon in Wales, and might even be linked to the earliest cave paintings of shamen in their animal masks. She makes her appearance in the Welsh tradition during Hen Galan, or the ‘old’ New Year based on the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar which is usually celebrated around the 13th of January.

You can order your own Mari Lwyd, a flat pack horse skull kit designed by David Pitt here….

A Flat Pack Mari Lwyd

2 Jan

Mari Lwyd 2020

Mari Lwyd time will soon be here and I’ve been doing a little lino cut to make some cards to celebrate. She’s a manifestation of the ancient Celtic horse goddess, Epona – or Rhiannon in Wales, and might even be linked to the earliest cave paintings of shamen in their animal masks. She makes her appearance in the Welsh tradition during Hen Galan, or the ‘old’ New Year based on the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar which is usually celebrated around the 13th of January.

 

flat pack

A flat-pack Mari Lwyd kit designed by David Pitt and sold by ‘trac’

Horse skulls are a bit hard to come by these days, but if you want your own Mari Lwyd, you can order a flat pack horse skull kit here….

Keep On Sketching

21 Jan

20190121_190414-1169128395.jpg

Sometimes the creative juices don’t flow like they should, there’s a few artists I’ve been chatting to online who are in the same predicament. I find it helps to keep working through it. You don’t have to create great art, just keep doing the exercises. It’s like a musician practicing their scales or chords. I like drawing with ballpoint pens, they flow nicely. I did these scribbles from photos of Mari Lwyds.

 

 

 

 

Doing A Stretch

16 Jan

gellionen 4

Sketching en plein air at Gellionen Chapel last weekend was like sketching anywhere else, the first one or two drawings are quick warm-up sketches, a bit like doing stretches before exercising or running. They get you into the mood, into the flow and also recognise that drawing is a very physical activity. This is my first sketch of the day, very quick, intuitive, getting a feel for the space that the subject occupies.

 

Big Scary ‘Oss

15 Jan

gellionen 3

Here’s another drawing from my visit to Gellionen Chapel last Sunday for the service featuring the Ystrad Mari Lwyd. There are different incarnations of the Mari Lwyd across the UK and in parts of England she pops up as the Hobby Horse or ‘Obby ‘Oss and is usually associated with celebrations around May Day, rather than the Welsh New Year (Hen Galan).

When I draw en plein air, in public, I have to work quickly as people tend to move about. I’ve found that doing two or three drawings at the same time means that I can respond flexibly and switch between them. I got up close to the Mari a few times and managed to draw her face on. She alternated between being very mischievous and extremely scary.

It’s That Horse Again!

13 Jan

gellionen 1

Husb and I visited the beautiful Gellionen Chapel this morning for their annual Hen Galan service with the Ystradgynlais Mari Lwyd. Hen Galan is an old tradition in parts of West Wales where people celebrate the New Year according to the old Julian calendar, which places the new year around two weeks after the official one. Of course, I had to have a scribble!

 

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