Year Walking (Årsgång in Swedish or Årgang in Norwegian), is an ancient heathen practice, over a thousand years old, that remained widespread in Scandinavia until as late as the beginning of the 20th century.
The purpose of Year Walking was to foresee the future and the ritual could be performed only on popular heathen festival days such as Summer Solstice, Midwinter Solstice or Heathen New Year’s Eve (the night of the first full moon after Yule). A year walker was not allowed any food or drinks on the day of their ritual and was allowed no contact with others, so would often lock themselves away in a dark room with no fire for the entire day. If the year walker successfully followed these rules they could emerge at exactly midnight to begin the walk.
The year walker would then proceed to the final destination of a church. On the way they would encounter all manner of supernatural creatures from folklore and face challenges that would test their mind, faith and may even risk physical harm.
If the year walker made it to the church they would walk in a formation around the cemetery until they could look into the future!
Artwork from Simon Flesser of simogo.com who has created a video game based on the ancient art of year walking!