Geillis in Outlander is a time-traveller who kills her husband in the 20th century in order to travel back to the 1700s in an effort to change the course of Scotland’s history.
Outlander is a show which has stolen our hearts and it’s safe to say that it has had us fans on the edge of our seats several times over the years.
Many of those times are down to antagonist Geillis Duncan, who served as the primary villain for the third season of the series. However, many fans of the show might not know that Geillis was actually inspired by a real individual.
In the series, Geillis is a time-traveller who kills her husband in the 20th century in order to travel back to the 1700s in an effort to change the course of Scotland’s history.
On her travels in the first season, she meets protagonist and fellow time-traveller Claire Fraser and the pair bond over their shared interest in herbs.
When the two friends find themselves on trial for being witches, Claire discovers that Geillis is a time traveller after seeing her smallpox vaccination scar. She saves Claire’s life and is sentenced to death – but later it’s revealed that she managed to escape.
Geillis returns in the second series and Claire encounters her the very same day she originally travels back in time, but it is not until the third season that she gets a starring role. Here, she takes part in acts such as murder and kidnapping in her zealous efforts to get aScoton the throne and regain Scottish independence.
While Geillis’ character was thought up by author Diana Gabaldon for the series, Geillis Duncan was in fact a real person who lived in the 1500s. She was a teenage maidservant who, like her fictional counterpart, was accused of witchcraft.
She worked for bailiff David Seton, who was a prominent figure in the 16th century North Berwick Witch Trials. He accused her of witchcraft due to her ability to heal those with seemingly-incurable ailments.
She also reportedly drew suspicion due to her frequently wandering out in the middle of the night. Soon after, Seton began interrogating and torturing his maidservant in an effort to get a confession of witchcraft out of her.
Seton discovered a mark on Geillis’ neck which was called “the Devil’s mark” and this only furthered Seton’s suspicions.
Geillis eventually confessed to witchcraft but it was wasn’t uncommon for women at the time to make false confessions due to being violently manipulated into doing so.
She was the was forced to give over the names of other ‘witches’, and was then imprisoned in the Old Tolbooth prison in Edinburgh. Geillis was later executed at Castlehill in Edinburgh.
While the Outlander character was not directly based on Geillis Duncan, according to Diana Gabaldon. The villain – born with the name Gillian in the 20th century – would have been aware of Geillis Duncan due to her interest in witchcraft and therefore took on her name when she travelled back in time.