Echtrai -According to the Irish of the Celtic pagan tradition, an echtrai refers to a broad category of mythic journeying, usually undertaken by a ‘hero’, and very often to the ‘Otherworld’.
There are many and varied flavours of echtrai, some involving encounters with strange, otherworldly beings, undersea creatures, spirits, and secret or hidden lands. There are numerous interpretations and spellings of the word itself, but here, we deploy it in very sweeping, poetic terms in order to qualify it as the title of a journal dedicated to landscapes lost, abandoned, forgotten and mythic.
The earth is a vast archive, a catalogue of activity and events that spans the epochs, encompassing everything that we know and likely ever will know – layers upon layers, each layer containing and encapsulating the moments of its occurrence, each layer a caché of memory, history, and things long gone, faded into an evanescent past.
But what is history if not a means of interpreting, decoding, or systematic ordering of the past? Historians, archaeologists, geologists, palynologists, specialists of every type are educated interpreters attempting to dissect, comprehend and document events that they had no part in, and oftentimes scant knowledge of. The earth’s history is largely an enigma, it sits on unstable, mutable, shape-shifting foundations as it conspires to write and rewrite itself under the scrutinous eyes of scholars.
All, shades of fiction.
In determining or seeking truth, we often have to trust our intuition, our instinct, and lay ourselves open to the strange or unexpected. Time is, of course, a continuum, it is porous – it has no clear boundaries across the millennia; stories and accounts move through it with ease, yet much of our truth is occluded, encrypted, or shrouded in myth. For what is a myth but an alternate version of true events, amplified and extruded to ensure longevity? A myth instructs and informs. It is subtly didactic, though often couched in hyperbole. It cloaks itself in extraordinary armour, in hope that its core message is elegantly preserved, there, awaiting faithful transmission to the next generation. A story of succession. But the generations can be unreliable custodians of history, and much is lost or distorted along the way. A hazardous journey through time, where everything is subject to bias, fragmentation, or sustained and deliberate erasure.
It is upon this journey that we embark with Echtrai journal, an attempt at attuning to the frequencies of the liminal, hoping to reconstruct the lost and distorted fragments of antiquity, listening for ancestral voices, the words of those long gone, hidden deep within the earth. A vestigial undersong that resonates across time.
It is perhaps a well worn trope that in our increasingly technologised lives, we are rapidly and incrementally losing our connection with each other and the natural world. A trope that nevertheless requires a re-telling or reinterpretation. In order to connect to, and inspire our successors, our descendants, and those around us, we need to re-enchant the natural world, recover and restore our sense of wonder, reconstruct or retell our myths, create new myths, salvage the memory of places whose narratives have been lost across time, make new that which has fallen by the wayside and into decay.
Our history is already being written and accounted for – what we seek are those things that have slipped into the cracks and fissures of time, that don’t quite fit traditional or accepted models, things lost, forgotten, ignored, overlooked, stolen episodes, contaminated recollections, mythic narratives, things of uncertain chronology, fictions and half-fictions that speak of nature and place in unique and creative ways. Echtrai is a journey without destination, it is a part of the continuum, an attempt at tying together disparate, discursive threads, threads that tell our lost and forgotten stories, now gilded, aureate, polished and brought shining into the light.
We are looking for:
New, established, or emerging writers with a flair for the original – a creative, innovative style that will excite and engage our audience and encourage them to question, learn, enquire, discuss and challenge. We hope to showcase excellence in non-fiction, fiction, poetic prose, experimental texts, hybrid forms and insightful, thought-provoking presentation. Alongside this we will bring together writers, visual artists, photographers and other creatives with a harmonious vision and a unique voice in one elegantly presented journal.
‘..the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there..’ L. P Hartley, The Go-Between, 1953.