Here at Outlander from the Inside Out we aim to tackle some thought provoking issues. After all, this book is chock full of so many meaty subjects that it’s akin to trying to choose what type of steak to bite into first. It’s a difficult decision.
So that’s why I find myself staring at the Claire and Jamie promo poster of the 2nd half of S1 that hangs above my computer, trying to find (more like stumble on) the best way of phrasing what I want to say. I’ve come *this* close to throwing in the towel more than once on this blog post. I’ve tried to but every time I look into Claire’s determined face (she’s wearing my favorite gown too…), she reminds me that if she can handle Black Jack Randall’s abuse…and help Jamie through his to come…I can write this blog posting. So there it is.
(BTW Kudos to the Outlander promotions department…to go from Claire, in 20th century dress, reaching for Frank, to Claire in her period dress, fending off BJR is a stroke of genius.)
But there’s a prevailing cloud of mystical smoke hanging above the book and series. It shimmers and entices, thickens and thins, and flows into the nostrils of every character and through every crevice of Outlander. Interestingly enough, it’s not nearly as present in the subsequent books but it never quite leaves. After all, it shapes many of the constructs and devices throughout the series, including the very device that sends Claire to 1743. And it is Frank that first points it out. Walking his wife to a quaint Scottish inn, Frank tells Claire that “Oh my dear, there’s no place on earth with more magic and superstition mixed into its daily life than the Scottish Islands.” With these words, seeds of foreshadowing are planted, then cultivated, nourished, watered, fed and tended for 9 episodes until, at the end of this tenth, the flower of the statement blooms.
He’s planted a seed not only in our minds but in Claire’s as well: Superstition. Magic. While each country, and even each region of every country, has their own take on superstitions, every country on every continent has, fundamentally, an…
Excessively credulous belief in and reverence for spiritual beings; a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief.
Source: Oxford Dictionaries
Many superstitions of today, while people still hold them dear, others view them as perhaps something as simple as insurance policies (something to fall back on), outdated rituals their parents felt compelled to pass on, or have tossed them out altogether, figuring they didn’t need them because they were writing their own destinies. I, myself, grew up thinking that black cats are adorable but not bad luck; we used salt on our food and not over our shoulders; and my father was weary of the ladder because of his fear of heights. But this isn’t what I believe; it’s what Claire, a 20th century gal stuck in the 18th century, believes and how she acts on that information.
In this blog post, the first of two on this topic, I want to talk a bit about the events leading up to the arrest of Claire and Geillis. I won’t be focused on Geillis because, well, I’m fully convinced she is in bed with the Devil. Her story is rather self-explanatory really. And next week’s posting will deal with the trial itself.
Our fearless heroine’s indoctrination into the supernatural mores of Scotland began before her trip to 1743, with an impromptu palm reading. It served to not only confuse Claire but to give the audience hints as to what was in store for her. I think I would react sort of the same way that Claire did: confused and a bit incredulous but, not wanting to be rude, accepting and moving on.
It wasn’t until the very thing her practical mind couldn’t process became a reality and she was immersed in a time when superstition was a fact of life.
Father Bain, Tammas and the Black Kirk was the first real test for our practical Claire as she comes up against forces she doesn’t understand. As the reluctant (more like hostage) healer of the Castle, not only is she distrusted for being a Sassenach (and rumored spy), but she was seemingly imbued with mystical healing powers…and she wasn’t even of the Church! Double whammy there. This isn’t missed by Claire, which only serves to discontent her. After all, she does want to help but she really wants to get home. And don’t forget, she’s essentially being held prisoner. If they’re hung up on her speculated ‘witchiness’ it might be that much harder to get home…upright anyway. She could, and had tried, to convince others she held no magic but, as the people didn’t understand (or perhaps refused to let their minds be changed?) it didn’t seem to help.
Even later, when Dougal took her to the ‘magic spring’, he was convinced that since she was a healer she had to believe in magic because, after all, there couldn’t be some sort of earthly explanation for why a person gets a skin reaction to plants or why ingesting said plants could kill you. After all, the horses eat it. It’s safe…right? The viewer could see that, after awhile, Claire simply gave up trying to convince anybody of what she was and wasn’t. Nobody was listening anyway
With regards to Father Bain, Claire’s quickly educated on how one should NOT piss off an arrogant, misogynistic and grotesquely loud cleric who wielded his power like a god himself, instilling fear wherever he went. And he could do it because of the power he was GIVEN by the community: give a man power over a people’s soul and said man could very well do whatever they wanted, whenever they want. Well…I guess one good thing came out of it. Young Willie was able to use his knowledge of Hebrews in a debate. It’s nice to know that Bain’s influence came in handy somewhere.
When you think about it, how were clerics able to keep their vise-like holds on the communities they served? Like any man given a great deal of responsibility and power, it could very easily be abused. And Father Bain was the voice behind the law. While Arthur Duncan gave the final verbal and official say as to punishment, he seemed to defer to Bain’s ‘guidance’. Due to the fear he instilled in the people of the community, one dared not challenge his influence, his teachings or the fact that his halitosis was appalling. Ok, I don’t know that for sure but for somebody who spouts such nasty vitriol, there has to be some residue left over.
And when it came to poor Tammas, it was easier to yell and throw soul-damning threats at Claire for deigning to help instead of actually admitting that his holy water and loud scripture incantations weren’t working for the sick boy. His threat that he wasn’t finished with her yet wasn’t even veiled.
But, as the cleric was so important to the clan, the people took whatever he preached as gospel, literally and figuratively. The clans didn’t see much of the outside world (unless they were (or suspected of) cattle rustling, in which case they pick up stray English sassenachs. All in a day’s work.), and very few had much, if any, education. Our favorite Highlander Virgin was a glaring exception, having gone abroad to be educated. He saw the outside world and he wasn’t so sheltered. While he admits to Claire that he is a Highlander, born and bred (before making the sign of the cross), he’s educated enough to recognize the difference between the Highlands and the outside world. He does understand the seemingly outlandish ways of the Highlanders but he doesn’t necessarily subscribe to their thinking. He reminds Claire, after she finds the changeling, that its due to the people’s lack of a broader perspective (that they don’t ever leave their homes) that allows such narrow thinking to perpetuate and overtake the community.
Which brings us up to said changeling baby. In a land of perceived fairies and mystical creatures that perform the inexplicable, the fact that a dead (or dying) child is discovered, on a grassy hill, in the woods couldn’t possibly mean that a woman could be dying, someplace else, having delivered her baby alone in the woods and leaving it in a tree. Given that childbirth takes several people, a woman just can’t have a baby without anybody knowing about it. How exactly is a woman supposed to hide the product of an intrigue then? Hmmm…
No, it must means that the fairies came along and exchanged one of their own with a human. Why? I don’t know. I think that if I were a fairy, and I see all the crap that humans do to each other, I’d want nothing to do with the human race. That’s just me though; most of the time I want nothing to do with the human race. How can I get the fairies to take me away? Is there any interview process? Perhaps likes internet dating? Claire tells Geillis that it’s superstitious nonsense and Geillis leaves Claire to her own devices.
I get the impression that Claire has reached the end of her tether. She sees what kind of hold the superstitions, and Father Bain for that matter, have on the people. Not that I blame her, really. It’s not an easy situation to accept.
And then…she and Geillis are kidnapped (and yes I mean kidnapped; that was hardly an arrest) on suspicion of witchcraft. I swear, can’t the woman catch a break? Ever since she’s fallen through the stones she hasn’t had a vacay, much less a decent hour to herself. Give the girl an all-expense paid trip to the beach! (Wait…that may come later…)
The girl needs to rest!! To make matters worse, a psychotic 16 year old, with hyperinflated delusions of her own awesomeness, set her up; I’m sure the icing on the cake would’ve been for Claire to die, probably a slow, horrible death. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Revenge Barbie got off on that stuff. UGH.
Seems there’s a lot happening in the superstitious world around Claire. I can certain see, in such a high-strung community in the Highlands, where somebody would believe an allegation (no matter how unsubstantiated) of witchcraft. Given what we’ve seen of Geillis…but Claire?!? I will finish this two parter next week. Meanwhile stay safe and if you see a set of standing stones that seem to be singing…run TO them! Only don’t run head-long, in case it’s all a cruel hoax. Oh and you must shout JAAAAMMMMIIIEEEE! as you run.
Tootles til next week!!