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Jamie Fraser and the Sidhes, the Elders and the Celtic Gods 

THERE WAS A TOUCH OF MAGIC, MYTH, AND POETRY in The Scottish Prisoner that in not present to that degree in Diana Gabaldon’s other books. I’d like to share some of my impressions and thoughts about several key moments in the book that I think may touch ultimately on some secrets in Jamie’s ancestry. Since I will be citing passages from The Scottish Prisoner, as well as information from Voyager, and A Breath of Snow and Ashes, the rest of this essay will be found below the cut. 


 On Auld Ones, Shide, Faeries and Celtic gods. Early in The Scottish Prisoner, Jamie tells of a time when he encountered the Auld Ones or Shide in Scotland. Jamie claimed that the Shide are the “creatures of the other world” that sometimes come out at night from their “stony duns” underground to participate in the Wild Hunt. He had just killed a deer when he heard them. He ran into water because legend had it that they couldn’t cross water. He also made sure the he kept his eyes shut tight. Jamie explained the importance of doing so: 


     “Ye dinna want to look upon them,” he said. “If ye do, they can call ye to them. Cast their glamour upon you. And then ye’re lost.”       “Do they kill people?”       Fraser shook his head.       “They take people,” he corrected. “Lure them. Take them back into the rocks, down to their ain world. Sometimes”— he cleared his throat—“ sometimes, the stolen ones come back. But they come back two hundred years later. And all—all they knew and loved–are dead.” 


–Diana Gabaldon, (2011). The Scottish Prisoner (p. 351). Kindle Edition. 

Now in the world of the Outlander and Lord John Grey books it seems as though Diana thinks of the Auld (or Old) Ones, the Shide, the Faeries and the old Celtic gods as being interchangeable. (Diana pretty much says that the Sidhe and the old gods are the same in the Outlandish Companion Volume II). 


Later on in The Scottish Prisoner, when Jamie goes to Ireland and visits Father Michael, he learns about an ancient bog-man whom the monks dug up out of the peat. He had “suffered the threefold death”: He’d had his head bashed in, his throat cut, and he had been drowned. (There was also a rope around his neck in case all of that hadn’t been sufficient.) Laying near him was the Cupán Druid riogh or the cup of the old Druid kings that an old friend of Jamie’s, Quinn, was interested in. 

During Jamie’s visit, Father Michael explains more about the old Celtic gods. He mentions Taranis who was “the god of thunder,” Esus, who ruled over the underworld, and Teutates, “one of the old tribal gods.” Ritual sacrifices needed to be made to these gods. Esus liked hanging and Teutates liked drowning. Father Michael further commented that the ancient Celts “would take prisoners of war and burn them in great wicker cages, for Taranis.” 

Father Michael explains that he ended up burying the bog-man again: 


     “I didn’t think I should put him straight back where he came from,” Father Michael explained, flattening the flying wisps of hair with his palm.       ….“So ye put him under the hill,” Jamie said, and a sudden chill went up his back at the phrase. That was in the poem “The King from Under the Hill”— and, to his knowledge, the folk “under the hill” were the Auld Ones, the faerie folk… 

–Diana Gabaldon (2011). The Scottish Prisoner (p. 253). Kindle Edition. 

Is there a connection between the Auld Ones and the standing stones? Jamie eventually sees the Cupán and turns away from a temptation to lead men once again in battle. In the process of looking at the cup though, he sees something carved into it. The abbot tells Jamie it is “a carraig mór, or so I think. A long stone.” Jamie realizes to his dismay that it is a standing stone, complete with a “cleft down the center.” 


So a number of questions arise from this: 

Is there some sort of connection between the Auld Ones and people like Claire who can go through the standing stones?’
Maybe Master Raymond (who seems to be an ancestor of Claire and other people who can go through the stones) is an Auld One?
Surely there are times that Jamie thinks that Claire is an Auld One. In a latter book, a mortally ill Jamie beseeches Roger to make sure that Claire goes back through the stones if Jamie were to die because people would recognize her as an Auld One and they would kill her if he wasn’t there to protect her.
We also know that the Sidhe stories mention people disappearing for 200 years–which seems to be the length of time one is typically transported to and from different times.
If the Druid cup of kings has a picture of a standing stone on it, does that mean that maybe the original Druid king was from the future or had some Sidhe blood that enabled him to go through the stones?
One also wonders if the man who went through the threefold death was from the future. Was he also a Druid king?  (In some traditions it is the king who would be sacrificed to obtain the blessings of the gods for his people in difficult times.)
If the Druid cup of kings is related to the standing stones, indicating that Celtic kings might have been time travelers, is there a connection between the Fraser prophesy and the possibility that Jamie and Claire’s daughter Bree and their grandchildren Jem and Mandy would contain the blood of the Auld Ones and hence the Celtic kings?
Close encounters of the Sidhe kind. Jamie eventually returns to Ireland in The Scottish Prisoner with the body of his friend Quinn who has a Faerie  tithe to the underworld upon him. (Long story.) Jamie goes out into the bog to bury his friend alone. As he is finishing the burial he hears the sound of a horn: 


     They’re coming. He didn’t pause to ask himself who it was that was coming but hastily put on his breeks and coat. It didn’t occur to him to flee, and for an instant he wondered why not, for the very air around him quivered with strangeness.
      Because they’re not coming for you, the calm voice within his mind replied. Stand still.
      They were in sight now, figures coming slowly out of the distance, taking shape as they came, as though they materialized from thin air. Which, he thought, was precisely what they’d just done.
      There was no mist, no fog over the water. But the party coming toward him— men and women both, he thought— had come from nowhere, for there was nowhere from which to come; nothing lay behind them save a stretch of bog that reached clear to the shore of the lake beyond.
      Again the horns sounded, a flat, discordant sound— would he know if they were tuneful? he wondered— and now he saw the horns themselves, curving tubes that caught the rays of the sinking sun and shone like gold. And it came to him what they sounded like: it was the honking of wild geese.
      They were closer now, close enough to make out faces and the details of their clothing. They were dressed plain, for the most part, dressed in drab and homespun, save for one woman dressed in white— why is her skirt no spattered wi’ the mud? And he saw with a little thrill of horror that her feet did not touch the ground; none of them did— who carried in one hand a knife with a long, curved blade and a glinting hilt. I must remember to tell Father Michael that it wasna a sword.
      Now he saw another exception to the plain appearance of the crowd— for it was a crowd, thirty people at least. Following the woman came a tall man, dressed in simple knee-length breeks and bare-chested but with a cloak made in a checkered weave. The tall man wore a rope around his neck, and Jamie gulped air as though he felt the noose tighten around his own throat.
      What were the names Father Michael had told him?
      “Esus,” he said, not aware that he spoke aloud. “Taranis. Teutates.” And, like clockwork, one man’s head turned toward him, then another— and finally the woman looked at him.
      He crossed himself, invoking the Trinity loudly, and the older gods turned their gaze away. One, he saw now, carried a maul.
      He’d always wondered about Lot’s wife and how it was that she turned to a pillar of salt, but now he saw how that could be. He watched, frozen, as the horns blew a third time and the crowd came to a stop, hovering a few inches above the glimmering surface of the bog, and formed a circle around the tall man— he stood a head taller than anyone else, and now the sun lit his hair with a gleam of fire. The woman in white came near, lifting her blade, the man with the maul moved ceremoniously behind the tall man, and a third reached for the end of the rope round his neck.
      “No!” Jamie shouted, suddenly released from his captive spectatorship.
He drew back his arm and hurled the Cupán as hard as he could, into the midst of the eerie crowd. It hit the bog with a splash, and the people vanished.
     He blinked, then squinted against the glare of the setting sun. Nothing moved on the surface of the silent bog, and no bird sang. With the sudden energy of a madman, he seized his spade and shoveled dirt furiously, tamped it down, and then, catching up his cloak under his arm, ran, water splashing from his sandals as he found the wooden causeway, half-submerged.
      Behind him, he thought he heard the echo of wild geese calling and, despite himself, looked back.
      There they were, now walking away, backs turned to him, into the face of the setting sun, and no glinting sight of the curving horns. But he thought he saw the flash of checkered cloth in the crowd. It might have been the tall man’s cloak. It must only be a trick of the fading light that made the checkered cloth glow pink. 

–Diana Gabaldon (2011). The Scottish Prisoner (pp. 446-448). Kindle Edition. 

I found my own hairs rising as I read this part of the book. It was such an awesome mixture of the mystical ritual of sacrifice, the eerie encounter of beings from two different worlds, death, grief, and even resurrection of a sort (assuming that Quinn was the man wearing the checkered pink cloth). 

Now after I got over the awe of this passage, another big question arose for me. Remember, Jamie had said earlier in the book that humans should not look at the Sidhe because “If ye do, they can call ye to them. Cast their glamour upon you. And then ye’re lost.” 

Okay, so why didn’t Jamie fall under their spell after he looked at the Auld Ones? Why didn’t they take him with them, which they usually do with humans? 

Perhaps because the Auld Ones had Quinn’s soul, they didn’t need Jamie. Still, why not have two souls (and this one with a full body) if you could? 

Perhaps it was because Jamie called on the Trinity and was protected. But maybe there was another reason–maybe even two. 

One possibility is that Claire has a little bit of Sidhe blood. Some of Jamie’s family thought he was enchanted by Claire. Maybe healing wasn’t Claire’s only inadvertent “magic.” If Jamie was even slightly under Claire’s thrall, maybe no other Sidhe could “glamour” him. 

The other possibility is that Jamie has a touch of magical heritage himself and so was immune to the Sidhe enchantments: 

“Folk said when my mother ran away from Leoch that she’d gone to live wi’ the silkies; only because the maid that saw my father when he took her said as he looked like a great silkie who’d shed his skin and come to walk on the land like a man. And he did.” Jamie smiled and passed a hand through his own thick hair, remembering. 

–Diana Gabaldon (2004). Voyager (pp. 418-419). Kindle Edition. 

Actually, it would have been Jamie’s paternal grandmother who would have been the silkie. If Jamie did have this heritage, it would explain why Jamie was such a good swimmer (although being part silkie doesn’t quite fit with his extreme sea sickness). 

Having some silkie blood would also explain why both Jamie and Jenny had some extrasensory experiences. At Jamie’s wedding to Laoghaire, Jenny saw a vision of Claire as if she were standing right there and as a result Jenny knew that the marriage was doomed. Jamie also has dreams that seem to transport him into the future. After Roger and Bree and the kids return to the future, Jamie clearly sees them, describes the Manse and Fiona and–of all things–a telephone. 

So if we have a little bit of magical creature in Jamie, and some Sidhe blood in Claire, and if the old Druid kings had some Sidhe blood, then maybe this is also more proof that either Bree or one of her children or grandchildren might indeed be a candidate to fulfill the Fraser Prophesy to rule Scotland (perhaps by going through the stones to some future time). 

Magical indeed. 

{𝚂𝙿𝙾𝙸𝙻𝙴𝚁𝚂: ALL of Diana Gabaldon's writings, especially The Scottish Prisoner} Amazing theory about some Celtic myths evoked in the Outlander saga. Even if the conclusion turns out to be wrong, the research and reflections carried out by its author are worth reading, as they may explain the mysterious phrase Jamie said to Roger when he was bitten by the snake (La Croix de Fire):

“She's an Elder. If they find out, they will kill her. "