I decided to write this post to establish some connections among several hints given away throughout the series about the stories that bones can tell. In Voyager, there is the scene in which Claire holds the skull of somebody who was killed in the eighteenth century (Geillis’s skull). Without applying any scientific method, Claire can to determine the manner of death. How is this possible? First, I would like to explain why the skull given to Joe Abernathy for examination belongs to Geillis. Back in 2014, I wrote a detailed post regarding this scene: Joe Abernathy and Ishmael Foreshadow Geillis’s Death. Here is the post’s fragment which is relevant for discussion.
Dr. Abernathy refers to Geillis as a white lady. Here is an excerpt when Abernathy is discussing Geillis’s skeletal remains.
Well, now that we’ve got Mr. Thompson and his dead white lady sorted out, what can I do for you, L.J.? (Voyager, ch. 20).
- Her remains were obtained from a Caribbean cave.
- Her age is estimated to be somewhat between the late-40s and mid-50s. This was probably done by looking at teeth wear and bone density.
- Sex determination was probably done by looking at the hip bone, which displays in females broader anatomical features and it also shows evidence of birthing trauma.
- The remains belong to somebody of European descent (white). This task is done by comparing the measurement of long bones among different races. This information is listed in a reference table.
- The skeletal remains are dated 150 – 200 years before 1968.
In another post that I wrote while rereading Dragonfly in Amber, I noticed some animistic tendencies in how both Raymond and Claire deal with bones. Here is the link, Raymond’s Ossuary:
Of interest is Raymond’s secret room, the ossuary. I have always thought there is a meaning to the animal bones. I cannot tell what it means, but it seems that the sensations that Claire experiences by looking and touching the bones are a reference to the dragonfly in amber. According to the author, the dragonfly in amber is “a means of preserving something of great beauty that exists out of its proper time” (The Outlandish Companion, 368). For some reason, bones acquire animate characteristics in this chapter.
They had a certain appeal, so still and so beautiful, as though each object held still the essence of its owner, as if the lines of bone held the ghost of the flesh and fur that once they had borne (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 16).
I reached out and touched one of the skulls, the bone not cold as I would have expected, but strangely inert, as though the vanished warmth, long gone, hovered not far off (Dragonfly in Amber, ch. 16).
How do these bones relate to the dragonfly in amber? When a living creature dies, the soft tissue is hardly ever preserved. Hard tissue perseveres through time and can eventually become fossilized. . .
Subsequently, Raymond reveals that he talks to bones.
“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)
In fact, Raymond is an animist, a characteristic of the ancient Celts (and many of us know that he is a very skilled time traveler and from the past). Inanimate objects such as bones have spirits that communicate with him. Claire, as his descendant also inherited this skill.
The TV adaptation also revealed that Raymond is skilled at bone reading and that he uses it to see the future. In Episode 204, “La Dame Blanche”, he uses sheep knuckles and tells Claire that she will meet Frank again (and she is back in the eighteenth century in this scene).
Here are my observations in regards to this scene (from Bone Reading in Episode 204):
- The Ancient Celts used to practice animism. Raymond is one of them. Traditional societies with animistic beliefs practice divination. It seems that bone reading is a skill that Raymond learned in his own time.
- Another possibility is that he could have been in Africa. His employee has the look. Claire even mentions that she has seen a similar procedure in Africa while traveling with her uncle. Some cultures of Africa still practice divination using not only bones but other objects: African Divination. The use of bones is not culture-specific. The Shang Dynasty used bone oracles to contact the spirit of ancestors and predict the future.
- The TV adaptation hints that Claire might evolve the gift of bone reading or fortune-telling. At this stage, she could be a considered an oracle due to the knowledge she has from the twentieth century.
- Readers tend to think (that includes me) that every time that bones are mentioned that they represent a charm. This episode has made it clear that bones can be used to “communicate” with the spiritual realm. I would also like to add what Phaedre in a later book tells Claire: her grandmother used to talk to bones to get information about the future.
Geillis’s skull is not the only one that Claire has come into contact. In Drums of Autumn, she encounters the skull of Otter-Tooth. She realizes that Otter-Tooth was disliked and that he was decapitated, and she does not hesitate in releasing this information aloud (she is lost in this scene, and, as per Raymond, bones are a company of a sort). Of course, because of her medical knowledge, she can determine the manner of death. However, how could she tell that Otter-Tooth was not liked by others? Claire also recites “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats, a poet that was born in 1795 (and the events in Drums happen before the American Revolution). As a result, Claire reveals to Otter-Tooth that she is also a time traveler like him (the main reason why his ghost is friendly to her).
Finally, I wonder what would happen if Claire ever gets into the cave of the Spaniard where the gold is hidden. There are some similarities between Jamie and the Spaniard, and Claire could provide readers with useful information.
Gabaldon, Diana. Dragonfly in Amber. New York: Bantam Dell, 1993. Print.
– – -. The Outlandish Companion. New York: Delacorte Press, 1999. Print.
– – – . Voyager. 1994. New York: Bantam Dell. 2002. Print