Study Guide

Outlander The Supernatural

By Diana Gabaldon

The Supernatural

"The story goes that by order of the house's owner, one wall was built up first, then a stone block was dropped from the top of it onto one of the men—presumably a dislikable fellow was chosen for the sacrifice—and he was buried then in the cellar and the rest of the house build up over him. He haunts the cellar where he was killed, except on the anniversary of his death and the four Old Days." (1.80)

Sometimes it feels like Scotland is a land ruled by superstition: ghosts, Wee Folk, Loch Ness monsters. But with Claire time-traveling and all, these things almost seem normal. Maybe they are true after all…

"It wasn't his dress that was odd. But when he pushed past me, I could swear he was close enough that I should have felt him brush my sleeve—but I didn't." (1.152)

The identity of the mysterious Scottish ghost in full Highlander regalia who is watching Claire brush her hair is never revealed in Outlander. Could it be Jamie? But if so, how?

"Oh, you read tea leaves?" I asked, mildly amused. (2.50)

Claire kind of seems to scoff at tealeaf reading at this point. What she doesn't realize is that most of Mrs. Graham's predictions come true. A little tealeaf reading is normal compared to traveling two hundred years back in time.

The truth is that nothing moved, nothing changed, nothing whatsoever appeared to happen and yet I experienced a feeling of elemental terror so great that I lost all sense of who, or what, or where I was. I was in the heart of chaos, and no power of mind or body was of use against it. (2.219)

Just as the stone circles seem inhuman and older than time itself, so does the power they command. Claire has trouble putting what happens to her into words… all we know is that it gives us a headache to even think about it.

Had I fought toward others? I had some consciousness of fighting toward a surface of some kind. Had I actually chosen to come to this particular time because it offered some sort of haven from that whirling maelstrom? (7.47)

Claire tries to figure out what the heck actually happened when she fell through the stones, but this kind of mental exercise is futile. The supernatural is supernatural because it defies logic. She, like us, can only guess at what really happened.

It's always two hundred years in Highland stories, said the Reverend Wakefield's voice in memory. The same thing as "Once upon a time," you know. (8.70)

As Claire listens to the Bard sing some faerie tales, she starts to wonder if they're true. How much of supernatural legend is rooted in some sort of truth? What is truth and what is embellishment?

It was a small bundle of plants, plucked up roughly by the roots, and bound together with a bit of black thread. (24.162)

People believe in the supernatural in this time period, so things like this ill-wish left under Claire's pillow have power. Or at least people think they do. Should Claire be worried? Remember that she almost gets burned at the stake for being a witch a few weeks after finding this omen…

I realized dimly that I was either being hypnotized, or under the influence of some drug. (24.639)

Geillis Duncan is suspected of being a witch… and we think she is. Or maybe she has some sodium pentathol hidden somewhere in her cleavage. She somehow manages to put Claire under a spell and almost get her to reveal that she's a time-traveler. That's some hardcore magic there… or something the NSA would be interested in if Geillis lived in the 21st century.

"Yes, I am a witch! To you, I must be. […] I can nurse the sick and breathe their air and touch their bodies, and the sickness can't touch me. […] And you must think it's an enchantment, because you've never heard of vaccine and there's no other way you can explain it." (25.335)

Saying she's a witch is an easier explanation than saying she's a time traveler. It raises the possibility, too, that maybe women who were accused of being witches actually were time travelers. This sure would explain a lot…

The anointing was quick and immeasurably gentle, a feather touch by the Abbot's rapidly moving thumb. "Superstitious magic," said the rational side of my brain, but I was deeply moved by the love on the faces of the monks as they prayed. (39.101)

By this point, Claire should know better than to dismiss anything as superstitious. She's a time-traveler who has done witchcraft and seen the Loch Ness monster. A few monks believing in God is the most mundane thing she has seen so far.