It takes a character like Outlander's Geillis Duncan to bring mystery and intrigue to a narrative which could arguably become somewhat predictable and dry, without the edginess the jagged beauty brings to the plot. She's complex and unpredictable but has many times been caught in the snares created by her own imperfect humanity.
At the same time, she rises to heights of unexpected nobility, such as in the witchcraft trial, where she risks all to exonerate her friend, and through her confessions pointing all the fingers towards herself. She has blood on her hands, real and fragile humanity in her heart, and is tormented by her own story, which as it turns out goes forwards and not necessarily backward in time. These are just 10 hidden details about Outlander's controversial, self-confessed witch.
10 Claire & Geillis, BFF?
Claire and Geillis seem unlikely friends, but they do hit it off. Geillis is a mentor and teacher to Claire, teaching her all kinds of things. She teaches Claire about the different properties of plants, including the inherent healing and restorative powers of plants.
Geillis also confides certain dark secrets with Claire, such as the belief that she is in fact demon-possessed. This takes tremendous insight from Geillis to see into her own condition. It also shows the Geillis considers Claire a true friend. This isn't the kind of thing one confides to just anybody. Still, despite the closeness between the two, Claire remains on guard and cautious around Geillis.
9 Charming but lethal
Geillis might be charming and distinctly soft around the edges, but she is lethal. She has in fact murdered five men, all of whom were husbands of hers. These were all wealthy men, none suspecting the fate that befell them when they married her.
The fact that she learns through Claire, among others, to gain increased witchcraft powers is thus a little concerning… especially when considering her bloodthirsty, untrustworthy character. All of that power in the hands of a murderer surely can’t be a good thing.
8 She is possibly insane
Geillis is more than just a little wicked at heart. She does things which suggest a profound measure of insanity. This insanity, according to other characters’ assessment of her, goes further than moral sanity.
While some believe her insane condition has to do with dementia - others believe it is more than likely the result of syphilis. Whatever the reason - viewers can be sure that she isn't exactly marriage material!
7 A real witch
Viewers might not be aware that the name "Geillis Duncan" is in fact the name of a real witch, who underwent trials for being a witch five-and-a-half centuries ago, in 1591.
The trials, called the North Berwich Witch Trials, were held in Scotland. Geillis’ name was derived from the actual historical figure and it would seem the fictional character walks closely in the steps of her namesake. It all seems unbelievable and mysterious but then, as they say, truth is stranger than fiction.
6 A lover of men
Geillis appears to have a soft spot for men, having not just gone through a string of husbands, but also a series of lovers. At one stage, she confesses to having had an affair with Dougal MacKenzie and even being pregnant with his child.
She seems also to be a 'black widow' - hiding behind her beguiling femininity to seduce men and trap them in her web of lies and deceit. When she is done with the men, she has no qualms about getting rid of them, even having confessed to poisoning her husband for months, and expressing displeasure that he hadn't passed on as quickly as she had hoped.
5 She is patriotic
As controversial as Geillis is, she does have some noble qualities which surface at unsuspecting moments in the narrative, often to a viewer's surprise. Of course, it’s this complex nature which makes her such an intriguing character to watch.
At one point in the narrative, Geillis admits to having diverted money from her husband. This she excused by saying it was "for Scotland." Geillis, with all her charms and deceit, comes out a fervent Jacobite.
4 She's from the future
Following Geillis' prosecution comes the shocking revelation that Geillis is in fact from the future - 1968 to be exact. This revelation comes in the same episode that Geillis is found guilty of witchcraft, making for heightened suspense at a pivotal turn in the narrative.
Sadly, Geillis is eventually burned at the stake before having a chance to return "home." Claire, however, was luckier and was rescued at the nick of time by Jamie.
3 Something noble remains
Geillis is probably one of the most curious and mysterious characters in all of Outlander. She is ruthlessly wicked but still manages to surprise viewers with striking loyalty and faithfulness to certain others. Following the witch trial, Geillis confesses to being a witch. In the way she puts forward her confession, she completely absolves Claire of any involvement she might have had in wrongdoing towards the community.
Claire is painted as innocent by Geillis, who portrays herself as the sole instigator of the witchcraft and darkness for which she has been tried, diverting the audience’s attention completely away from Claire.
2 Geillis’ preggy belly
Remember the scene following the witch trial in which Geillis is passed through the crowd naked. She is pregnant in the narrative. Directors went to a lot of trouble to make the actress, Lotte Verbeek's pregnant belly convincing which was especially challenging.
To pull this off, they had to consider the actress's body size and the stage of her pregnancy in the narrative. Then a lot of digital work had to be done to cover up creases from pulling and bending. Shadows and lighting also had to be added to make the preggy belly believable.
1 She takes risks
Geillis likes to live life on the edge. Dutch actress Lotte Verbeek said to the Hollywood Reporter that she loved the character because she was written in such a playful way, and there was something ballsy and gutsy about the way she embraced life.
Sadly, this bravado eventually ends in Geillis being tried and found guilty of witchcraft.