I first read The Crow Goddess decades ago, when I was an undergraduate. I must have found it in a second-hand bookshop somewhere – I have no recollection of where – because I’m pretty sure that it was long out of print even then. Still, if you can find a copy, it’s very much worth snapping it up as it’s the best work I’ve read of life in the ancient world of the Celts.
I recently met up with a friend, another Welsh Druid, in a local pub. Over the course of a few beers, many topics came up in conversation, but one has stuck with me. We noted that before the year 2000, the Mari Lwyd was not at all well-known, even in Wales. Since then, though, she has become, not exactly mainstream, but quite recognisable and a definite part of contemporary Welsh culture, with new Maris and new groups popping up all over the place. A video which I watched recently shows dozens of Mari Lwyds gathering in one place, and there will of course have been others which didn’t attend. It’s very striking how this element of traditional culture rose from obscurity to a new prominence and vitality. Clearly the Mari is speaking to something in our collective psyche, even if I’m not sure what that is.
Periodically, the OBOD forums I participate in see discussions arise about cultural appropriation.
I’ve already made my position clear on this: it annoys the heck out of me, and I get really angry at people who take elements of Welsh language and culture and casually try to redefine them turn them into something they are not – which most often seems to be a rebranded version of common pagan themes. For example, there are currently a number of people trying to treat Gwyn ap Nudd as a rebranded, touchy-feely, Cernunnos, when the extant body of myth clearly depicts him as quite different.
In the Second Branch of the Mabinogi, Brân the Blessed, the giant and King of Britain, is mortally wounded whilst rescuing his sister Branwen from her abusive husband, the King of Ireland. He tells his companions, the seven survivors of that brutal expedition, to cut off his head.