Geillis Duncan was the wife of the procurator fiscal, Arthur Duncan, and lived in Cranesmuir, a village near Castle Leoch. She shared Claire's passion for herbs, though her interests extended beyond simple healing and remedies into much darker practices.
Gillian was born in the 20th century and first married to Greg Edgars, whom she had met through the Scottish National Party. She was also involved with the Society of the White Rose, who celebrated and honored the Stuarts, and she took an avid interest in the significance of stone circles, especially the one at Craigh na Dun. After discovering that Craigh na Dun was one of many portals through which one can travel through time, she recorded detailed notes about how to get through it, researching people she believed tried to or successfully went through, including Claire Randall in the 1940s. Finally, she went through back to the 18th century; since she believed blood and fire were needed, she killed her husband as sacrifice before going through the portal.
Her obsession with the Jacobite cause was her chief motivation to travel back to the 18th century, to try and change the course of Scotland's history. Sometime after arriving in about 1733, she took the name Geillis Isbister – 'Isbister' being a name of the Northern Isles – and lived in a croft with a man much older than herself. Their neighbors, the MacLarens, didn't know much about them, except that they were strangers that showed up suddenly and built a croft nearby. A few days before Roger MacKenzie and William Buccleigh MacKenzie arrive at the MacLarens', the croft had been burned, and upon investigation the man was found hanged inside, with no trace of the woman. Angus MacLaren only knew that the woman, Geillis, may have been heading to the village of Cranesmuir.
She had a penchant for killing her husbands to inherit and use their wealth for her own ends. She was the biological mother of William Buccleigh MacKenzie and a direct ancestor of Roger MacKenzie, both of whom inherited her green eyes.
In spring of 1743, Geillis is living in Cranesmuir, a village near Castle Leoch, when she meets an Englishwoman named Claire Beauchamp. They exchange knowledge about the uses of local plants used for healing, and become friends. She is often taken aback by Claire's reactions to common practices of the time, such as nailing a lad's ear to the pillory for stealing and leaving an ailing infant to die in the woods in the belief that it is a changeling.
On one occasion while Claire is visiting her house, Geillis drugs Claire and asks questions about where she came from and who sent her, aided by a scrying bowl. Before she can glean any useful information, they are interrupted by Geillis' husband, Arthur, the procurator fiscal for the district. Claire hears Geillis scream briefly, as though startled, when Arthur walks in on Geillis while she's changing.
Later that evening, while dining at Castle Leoch, Arthur Duncan falls down, apparently choking on his meal. Claire tries to resuscitate him using mouth-to-mouth breathing, but Arthur dies, and Claire feels a tingling sensation on her lips.
Claire visits Geillis again while Jamie is away on a hunt with the Duke of Sandringham, having received a message from Laoghaire MacKenzie that Geillis was ill and requested that Claire come to her. When Claire arrives, Geillis is confused, saying she is fine and did not send for Claire. Almost immediately, they are both arrested and thrown into the village thieves' hole.
Geillis confesses that she sold the ill-wish to Laoghaire, not knowing the girl intended it for Claire, and they realize it was Laoghaire's jealousy regarding Jamie that made her send Claire to Geillis. Geilie also confesses that she had an affair with Dougal MacKenzie, and was pregnant with his child. She guesses that Colum, having learned of his brother's indiscretion, had a hand in Geillis' arrest, and she further explains how she had been poisoning her husband for months, though he survived longer than she had thought he would. When he saw her naked in her boudoir and discovered she was with child—and knew it could not be his—Geillis decided she had to kill him before he could tell anyone, and poisoned him during the dinner. Finally, Geillis admits she had diverted money from her husband, intending it "for Scotland"—and she comes out as a fervent Jacobite.
Throughout the witch trial, many "witnesses" have clearly concocted stories and been paid off, but a few damning details come out about the cures that Geillis sells to the locals, including one girl who nearly bled to death trying to rid herself of an unwanted pregnancy. On the second day, after Claire refuses to be tested by being submerged in water (the theory being that a witch will float, while an innocent woman will sink), she is stripped from the waist up and whipped until Jamie arrives to fling the jet rosary around Claire's neck. He manages to stop the whipping, but the crowd grows restless and uncontrollable.
Geillis steps forward and confesses to being a witch, detailing all of her deeds in such a way that she absolves Claire of any wrongdoing, painting her as an innocent dupe that Geillis used for her own dark purposes. In a final dramatic play that will allow Claire to escape, Geillis draws the crowd's attention by tearing away her bodice and revealing her pregnant belly—as well as a smallpox vaccination scar on her arm.
Months later, when Dougal tells Claire about Jamie's capture and impending execution at Wentworth Prison, he conveys a message from Geillis: the numbers one, nine, six, and eight, and the message, "I think it is possible, but I do not know." Dougal tells Claire that Geillis is dead, burned as a witch after her son was born three months prior.
Dragonfly in Amber
In Scotland in 1968, Claire tells Roger Wakefield that Geillis Duncan was his ancestor and that she was burned as a witch in 1743. When she asks Fiona Graham about the standing stones at Craigh na Dun, Fiona tells her that another woman had been asking about them. She says the woman, Gillian Edgars, was tall and fair-haired with very striking green eyes, and that she reminded Fiona of someone. Claire asks Roger if they should try to stop her from going through the stones and Roger says yes, even if it puts his very existence in danger.
Claire and Roger go looking for Gillian at her apartment and are rudely turned away by her husband. They next go to the Institute for the Study of Highland Folklore and Antiquities where Gillian took courses. The receptionist there shows them a picture and Claire indicates to Roger that it is Geillis. They meet with the director of the institute who tells them that Mrs. Edgars is a very intense student and that at times her interests seem a bit obsessive. Claire asks if she's interested in standing stones and stone circles and he confirms it. The director shows them Geillis's study carrel with her papers and notes.
Later, Roger takes Brianna out to dinner then casually tells her he wants to drop off a bottle of whisky. He takes her to see Greg Edgars, lies to the man about being Gillian's cousin, and gain entrance to the Edgars' home with their gift of whisky. Roger asks if Greg knows where his wife is and Greg says she's probably meeting with other Scottish Nationalists, or possibly the Society of the White Rose, two organizations working toward Scottish independence. He tells Roger that Gillian is obsessed with Bonnie Prince Charlie and often has others around to talk about what if his rebellion had succeeded. Brianna asks Greg if his wife is interested in standing stones. After they leave, Brianna asks Roger who the woman in the photograph was and he tells her Geillis Duncan. Bree starts to believe her mother's story.
Claire steals Gillian's notebook from the institute and learns Gillian's plans. The three of them go to Craigh na Dun on the eve of Beltane to stop her, but by the time they reach the stones, they realize that Gillian has already killed and cremated her husband as a blood sacrifice. They watch as Geillis, dressed in 18th century clothing, disappears into the cleft in the stones. Roger is nearly pulled into the stones and Claire is knocked unconscious. Even Brianna hears the stones and realizes that her mother's story was true.
After living in France – during which time she had two more husbands that she also killed – she traveled west to Jamaica where she married Barnabas Abernathy, a wealthy plantation owner, whom she killed soon after their marriage.
She then endeavored to kidnap young white boys and hold them prisoner in her home. One of these was young Ian Murray, who was captured by pirates off the coast of Scotland. She would take each boy to her room, drug them and, if they were virgins, would search for a stone only virgins had. It's unknown what she wanted from them apart from the stone, but afterwards she had them killed.
Ian Murray was the last boy she took to her room, and since he wasn't a virgin she only used him for sex, keeping him prisoner. Jamie and Claire Fraser discover her presence in Jamaica and find out her story while searching for Young Ian, but Geillis also finds pictures of their daughter Brianna. Realizing that Brianna is the last descendant of the Frasers of Lovat, and believing she is the subject of a prophecy made by the Brahan Seer, she decides to return to the twentieth century to find Brianna.
Geillis takes Young Ian to a cave called Abandawe, a mysterious and feared placed that contains a time portal. Intending to use Ian as a blood sacrifice, she brings several gemstones with her as part of the ritual. When Claire and Jamie arrive to stop her, she holds a gun to Ian's head, threatening to kill him if they came any closer, but Jamie goes after her and she shoots him. Claire, enraged by Geillis' actions against Jamie and Ian, and needing to stop her from going after Brianna, swings a dull axe at Geillis' throat and as good as decapitates her.
Claire recalls one of her last interactions with her colleague, Joe Abernathy, in the twentieth century: examining the skull of a white woman found in a Caribbean cave, whom Claire had sensed was murdered due to having her head nearly severed with a dull blade.
Written in My Own Heart's Blood
In 1739, Roger MacKenzie tells William Buccleigh MacKenzie who his parents are. Buck decides to visit his mother, Geillis, and they travel to Cranesmuir. They find her at the procurator fiscal's house, where they find Geillis in the company of Dr. Hector McEwan. When Geillis examines Roger's wounded throat, he realizes she is having an affair with the doctor.
Geillis takes Buck to her upstairs room, while Roger questions McEwan about what he knows about Geillis. McEwan knows that Geillis is a fellow time traveler, but she has not admitted that to him. He said Geillis got pregnant with his child and that she aborted it.
Later, Roger tells Buck all he knows about Geillis Duncan.
Lord John Series
"A Plague of Zombies"
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|“||This is the grimoire of the witch, Geillis. It is a witch’s name, and I take it for my own; what I was born does not matter, only what I will make of myself, only what I will become.||”|
Geillis can be very charming, but will not hesitate to use any one or any means, including murder, to further the Stuart cause. She has murdered at least five husbands, usually wealthy men. In her middle years, Claire thinks she is suffering pronounced dementia, most likely caused by syphilis. At first, she is a friend to Claire, but later on they become mortal enemies.
In Outlander, Geillis Duncan is a tall young woman, perhaps a few years older than Claire. She has fair hair and skin and beautiful green eyes, with a generous bosom and swell of hip. In her later years, she grew fat, the delicate bones of her face hidden in swelling plumpness, but with the same green eyes filled with malice and humor.
Gillian was a Scot who married Greg Edgars, whom she met through the Scottish National Party. She murdered her alcoholic husband in a ritual to go through the standing stones on Craigh na Dun. She used blood and five gemstones to aid her passage, and she arrived in 18th century Scotland in 1733, where she took the name Geillis.
Geillis conceived Dougal MacKenzie's bastard child, and her pregnancy saved her from being burned as a witch for several months. After she gave birth to a son, the child was given to another family to raise. Dougal saved her from burning, using the corpse of a recently deceased woman in her place.
Roger MacKenzie is a descendant of Geillis and Dougal's son. Roger has Geillis's eyes and inherited her ability to pass through the stones.
- Gillian is a Medieval English feminine form of Julian, from the Roman name Iulianus, which was derived from Julius which is from a Roman family name which was possibly derived from Greek ιουλος (ioulos) "downy-bearded".
- Edgars is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century male personal name "Eadgar", composed of the elements ead, "prosperity, fortune", with gar, "spear"; the first element was a distinguishing mark of the royal house of Wessex.
- Geileis (GAY-leesh) comes from the Old Irish name Gelgeis: gel "shining, bright" + geis "swan". Name of several early Irish princesses.
- Isbister is a habitational name from any of several places in the Orkney and Shetland islands named Isbister.
- Duncan is the Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Donnchadh meaning "brown warrior", derived from Gaelic donn "brown" and cath "warrior".
- Mélisande is the French form of Millicent, from the Germanic name Amalasuintha, composed of the elements amal "work, labour" and swinth "strong".
- Robicheaux is a French surname that is probably an altered spelling of Robichon or Roubichou, pet forms of Robert, from the Germanic name Hrodebert meaning "bright fame", derived from the Germanic elements hrod "fame" and beraht "bright".
- Abernathy is a Scottish habitational name from Abernethy in southeastern Perthshire. The place name is of Pictish origin, meaning "mouth of the river Nethy".
- Geillis Duncane (or Gillis Duncan) was the name of a real woman who was tried as a witch in 1591 during the North Berwick witch trials in Scotland.
- Geillis has blond hair in the book series. Lotte Verbeek, who plays Geillis in the TV series, has red hair.
- The Exile, chapter 3. (to Kenneth): "It's 1743, for God's sake! Did it take ye ten years to get up the nerve to risk the stones?"
- Voyager, chapter 60. Claire asks Geillis for confirmation that she had been in Cranesmuir for several years before Claire arrived, and Geillis responds, "Five years, aye." Possibly Geillis was not including the years before she came to Cranesmuir.
- Written in My Own Heart's Blood, chapter 40.
- Originally the numbers given were 1-9-6-7, but this was an error.
- The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel
- Behind the Name: Gillian - accessed 07 June 2016
- Behind the Name: Julian - accessed 07 June 2016
- Behind the Name: Julius - accessed 07 June 2016
- Surname Database: Edgars - accessed 07 June 2016
- Celtic Female Names of Ireland – accessed 26 June 2014
- Ancestry.com Surnames: Isbister - accessed 07 June 2016
- Behind the Name: Duncan - accessed 07 June 2016
- Behind the Name: Mélisande - accessed 07 June 2016
- Behind the Name: Millicent - accessed 07 June 2016
- Ancestry.com Surnames: Robicheaux - accessed 07 June 2016
- Behind the Name: Robert - accessed 07 June 2016
- Ancestry.com Surnames: Abernathy - accessed 07 June 2016
- "The Witch Persecution in Scotland." Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of History, Volume 3, Issues 1-6. Comp. University of Pennsylvania. Dept. of History. N.p.: U of Pennsylvania, 1912. N. pag. Google Books. Web. 26 June 2014. link.