Saturday, May 21, 2016

St. Raymond, the Shaman, and His Association with Claire

By Stella Murillo, Guest Blogger, Porcelain Thunderbird

(OLC Blog Editors's Note:  This article contains references to events that occurred in Episode 207, "Faith" (for those who may not have seen it) and in future books in the Outlander series)  **Feel free to leave any questions you may have for Stella about this post in the comments, on our FB page or on Google+)

The Outlander series is a narrative in which elements of romance and the fantastic are blended with those of folklore and history.  Master Raymond’s healing and divination powers are some of these elements. According to the author, Raymond is an experienced time-traveler and healer, a shaman, Claire’s ancestor, and probably an ancient Celt:  Furthermore, there are some parallels that both Raymond and Claire share.

Raymond’s interactions with Claire reveal some hints indicative of his time-travelling skills. While discussing the Hippocratic Oath, Raymond asks Claire whether she has sworn it. Her answer foreshadows what she will become once she is back in the twentieth century.
"Er, well, no. Not actually. I'm not a real physician. Not yet." I couldn't have said what made me add the last sentence (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 20)
Raymond asking that question is a hint that he suspects that Claire is from the future. Back in the eighteenth century, women were not allowed to receive a high level of education. Furthermore, he knows what Claire needs to go back to her time: a gemstone. The white crystal that Raymond gives Claire is first stone she receives from him.  
He mentions that it is for her protection twice. Of course, the stone’s main purpose is to protect Claire from poison. It is sensitive to the presence of harmful compounds. However, there is a subtext associated with time traveling. Raymond does not know that Claire accidentally fell through time. She is not aware that the crystal could be used to survive the passage through the stones. This second interpretation is further supported by the gifts that Raymond sends Claire once she is back at Lallybroch. Claire relates:
Master Raymond did not write, but every so often, a parcel would come addressed to me, unsigned and unmarked, but containing odd things: rare herbs and small, faceted crystals; a collection of stones, each the size of Jamie's thumbnail, smooth and disc-shaped. Each one had a tiny figure carved into one side, some with lettering above or on the reverse. And then there were the bones. . . (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 31)
These gemstones resemble Otter-Tooth's opal, which is also carved. Their use as a gift confirms that Raymond is aware that Claire is a time-traveller. Claire muses that these stones are prehistoric, probably pre-Roman, an indication of the time frame from which Raymond comes. The carvings may represent magic. Claire subsequently gives one of the gemstones as a charm to Mary MacNab to stop her from worrying much about her son's seizures (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 31)

Another characteristic that Raymond and Claire share is what the TV adaptation revealed as bone reading (Episode 204, “La Dame Blanche”). Of note are the differences between book 2 and this episode in regards to Raymond’s Ossuary. Raymond does not perform any divination in front of Claire. He just confirms that he is able to do it. He relates:
"Well, they are company, of a sort, while I pursue my work." . . .  "And while they may talk to me of many things, they are not so noisy as to attract the attention of the neighbors. . ." (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 16)
The notion that inanimate objects, in this case, bones, talk is related to animism, a hint that Raymond is probably an ancient Celt. The bones have spirits that communicate with him. Of interest is the fact that Claire might evolve the ability to communicate with inanimate objects:
. . . "I feel a good deal more sympathy with our friend the elk." I patted the high jutting nose with some affection.
"Sympathy?" The soft black eyes regarded me curiously. "It is an unusual emotion to feel for a bone, madonna."
"Well . . . yes," I said, slightly embarrassed, "but they don't seem like just bones, you know. I mean, you can tell something about them, and get a feeling for what the animal was like, looking at these. They aren't just inanimate objects." (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 16)

It seems that this trait of perceiving the soul of inanimate objects is inherited. I tend to suspect that this gift helps Claire to determine the manner of death while holding Geillis's skull in Voyager without the use of any scientific approach. 

Another connection between Claire and Raymond is the Cabbalistic symbols painted on his cabinet. Claire recognizes them because her uncle Lamb used to study them. It seems that the interest for the esoteric appears to run in the family/blood. Raymond reveals that the painted symbols are there to keep people away from the cabinet, especially those who believe in them. The reader also knows that he sells his clients bitter cascara instead of poison. Therefore, Raymond's occult practices seem to be more like a cover to stop certain people looking for him. His reputation as a practitioner of magic and his involvement in dark circles are just a fa├žade. In fact, he does not believe in magic but in logic. He has a thorough knowledge of chemistry:
 “Sulfur. Grind it with a few other small things, touch it with a match, and it will explode. Gunpowder. Is that magic? Or is it only the nature of sulfur?” (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 16)
Reverend Walter Laurent, of Geneva, regards Raymond highly, even though he was associated with du Carrefours, a sorcerer or witch with a terrible reputation who ended up burned.
". . . No one knows where Master Raymond came from; he speaks several tongues, all without noticeable accent. A very mysterious man, Master Raymond, but - I would swear by the name of God -  a good one." (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 26)
Since Claire first appeared in the eighteenth, her provenance is a mystery to other characters. In fact, this enigma puts her in danger in Outlander. Black Jack wanted to know more about her. Raymond summarizes best how other characters perceive Claire:
“You have been seen in my shop,” he pointed out. “Your background is a mystery. And as your husband noted, my own reputation is somewhat suspect. I do move in . . . circles, shall we say?” – the lipless mouth broadened in a grin – “where a speculation as to your true identity may be taken with undue seriousness. . . (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 20)
Therefore, both characters’ provenance is questionable.

In regards to Raymond’s moral virtues, Claire agrees with Reverend Walter Laurent’s assessment. At this stage, Raymond had already saved her from the infection she acquired due to the miscarriage. How Raymond healed Claire is of interest. The Cherokee shamanistic system will be used to understand the process (Mooney, 342). 

Cardinal                         PointColor                            Meaning
East                                       Red                                        Success; triumph
North                                    Blue                                       Defeat; trouble
West                                      Black                                     Death
South                                    White                                    Peace; happiness

This system resembles Celtic practices according to a conversation between Jamie and Peter Bewlie. It is similar to the notion of the “four airts” (The Fiery Cross, ch. 81). A particular entity or spirit is associated with each color and cardinal point. Mooney states that a shaman "invokes the Red Man to the assistance of his client and consigns his enemy to the fatal influences of the Black Man" (342) (. . .) Both the Red Man and the Blue Man are not only invoked to be successful in a battle. They are also called when somebody needs to be cured of illness. In his ethnological research, Mooney explains the formula the Cherokee used to treat rheumatism.
. . .The white or red spirits are generally invoked for peace, health, and other blessings, the red alone for the success of an undertaking, the blue spirits to defeat the schemes of an enemy or bring down troubles upon him, and the black to compress his death. The white and red spirits are regarded as the most powerful, and one of these two is generally called upon to accomplish the final result (347).
During the healing process, Master Raymond saves Claire by touching various parts of the body, including her breasts and womb. Master Raymond asks Claire to call the red man. This process resembles how Amerindian shamans invoke different spirits for healing purposes: 
 "Now," he said softly. Call him. Call the red man. Call him" (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 25). In this particular case, the red man is Jamie. Therefore, Jamie has the spirit of the warrior, of victory in him. The passage also emphasizes that both Claire (white) and Jamie (red) are powerful together.

Of interest is Mother Hildegarde's comment before Master Raymond's appearance when Claire was about to die. 
"I was invoking the aid of St. Raymond Nonnatus," Mother Hildegarde explained, wringing out a cloth in cold water. "He is an aid most invaluable in the assistance of expectant mothers." (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 25)

Master Raymond has characteristics of some Roman Catholic saints, such as healing the sick miraculously. When Raymond reveals to Claire that he can see auras, he makes a reference to Virgin Mary:
"Everyone has a color about them," he said simply. "All around them, like a cloud. Yours is blue, madonna. Like the Virgin's cloak. Like my own" (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 25).
 Because the Virgin’s cloak is blue, the aura present in both Claire and Raymond elevates them to a status of sainthood, especially when it comes to healing. This passage also includes a reference to them being related by blood.

Finally, I would like to discuss a romantic element associated with Raymond’s healing process. In Dragonfly in Amber, one of the reasons that Claire uses to prevent Jamie from killing Black Jack and ensuring Frank’s existence is that her husband owes her a life (ch. 21). Of course, it is a weak argument since Jamie saved her from Jonathan Randall at Fort William and also from getting burned at Cranesmuir. Eventually, Claire is hurt because of Jamie breaking the trust between them and challenging Black Jack to a duel. After recovering from the miscarriage, Claire says that she does not care about Jamie anymore, which is not the case. Upon hearing about Jamie's incarceration, she starts working for his release. Of course, Claire has the choice to leave him at the Bastille but opts to free him instead. She does care, and what Jamie experienced at Wentworth is in her head all the time.  Another reason is the she needed him to thwart Prince Charles's business enterprise with St. Germain (in the books’ storyline only). In retrospective, Claire recognizes that Jamie is the one who brought her back to life. Therefore, she owes Jamie her life. She muses:
But I had come back from the dead. Only Jamie's hold on my body had been strong enough to pull me back from that final barrier, and Master Raymond had known it. I knew that only Jamie himself could pull me back the rest of the way, into the land of the living. That was why I had run from him, done all I could to keep him away, to make sure he would never come near me again. I had no wish to come back, no desire to feel again. I didn't want to know love, only to have it ripped away once more (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 28).
There are other cases in which Jamie brings Claire back to life throughout the series. In A Breath of Snow and Ashes, there is the scene in which Claire almost dies after being poisoned by Malva. She is feverish and having out-of-body experiences, hallucinations caused by a dying mind. She decides to fight back for her life after seeing Jamie with Malva. The last few sentences of the passage are indicative of the relationship between Claire and Frank. Claire acknowledges that she stopped loving Frank the moment she fell in love with Jamie. She could not give Frank the love he probably wanted, even though she believed Jamie dead for many years. After loving Jamie, she does not want to risk loving somebody else due to the suffering it will bring due to separation or death.

Gabaldon, Diana. Dragonfly in Amber. New York: Bantam Dell, 1993. Print.

- - -. The Fiery Cross. 2001. New York: Bantam Dell. 2005. Print.

Mooney, James. Cherokee History, Myths and Sacred Formulas. Cherokee: Cherokee Publications. 2006. Print.

About the Author
Stella Murillo is a blogger of several topics that include fashion, wellness and Outlander. She is a contributor to Adoring Outlander: Essays on Fandom, Genre and the Female Audience. She is fluent in both English and Spanish. She earned her B.A. at the University of Toronto in 2001 in Spanish and Anthropology. 

1 comment:

  1. I did find a lot of the sexual scenes with the BDSM overtones etc to be a tad gratuitous. I mean yes, we all know that the times were bawdy but at certain points the series almost fell into a pornographic soap opera category. I didn't read the book so am not sure how it compares. However, the breathtaking scenery, good acting, dramatic historical period, sets and the romance, intrigue and time travel etc kept me watching.