ARSGANG or the Walking Year
2019 — in progress (Sweden)
1. Since March 2019 I temporarily live in Sweden and I’m in close relationship with the local space, taking long walks in nature and studying local folklore.
A person close to me is seriously ill and the question of the sacred could have arisen precisely because of being in this impasse where sacredness began to work as therapy or even as anaesthesia of all my fears.
I found a complex ritual archaic form of ''fortune telling'' from the mid of 16-th century named Årsgång, which Swedish folklore scholar Tommy Kuusela recalls the following way.
According to the Årsgång ritual, «Walkers during the year» had to follow certain instructions and solve specific problems. For example, they had to meet with supernatural beings, such as Bäckahäst, Huldra, Kyrkogrimen or Nattravnen — a bird that was closely associated with unhappiness and death in Scandinavian folklore, and try to understand what could happen next year.
Myth is closely linked with the ritual. The ritual becomes an approximate staging of the myth, and the myth acts as an explanation or justification of the performed ritual, its interpretation.
A scenario is needed that has to be implemented. Otherwise, as the bearers of the myth feel, something bad will happen. I adapted the local tradition to my own understanding of the situation and my own rules. I created my own walking ritual, in which there is nevertheless a prerequisite to go around a church (I have chosen the church on a hill — Östra Ryds Kyrka from XIII century) with a wish for the recovery of the my close.
I created an area for interpretation and look into folklore to see if it works in life.
2. After almost an year of my stay in Sweden, in the Winter of 2020, the world is facing an epidemic of coronavirus.
Since March 2020, the situation remains uncertain, interstate borders are closed, and overcoming obstacles becomes even more relevant. Fear for the life of a loved one is even greater.
I watch once more the last Tarkovsky film ''Sacrifice'' which he produced at the Swedish island of Gotland. So the island has become one of the places for my rituals.
Film director believed that the authenticity of the atoning sacrifice is that it is a «meaningless», irrational act, useless waste or ritual (like the film hero going through an empty pool with a burning candle or setting fire on his own house).
In the book on folklore of Gotland, published in 1937, there is a record of a man who suddenly disappeared without leaving a trace, being not completing a trip around the main cathedral of the city of Visby.
Probably the most terrible of all creatures Kyrkogrimen was to blame for that.
When churches were built in medieval times, sometimes an animal was buried alive under the floors. Most often they were goats, because they were relatively cheap.
There are also some versions that the criminals were buried alive similar way. In some cases, the criminal’s heart was cut out and placed in the carcass of an animal that was sacrificed.
The spirit of these animals, which became the informal caretaker of the church, was Kyrkogrimen.
Therefore, I should do a walk around the church and look into the door keyhole at my own peril and risk.
So, performing my walking rituals, I essentially experience an emotional impulse, an action that works for me as a therapy to relieve stress and the situation obscurity.