“I Smell the Vapors of Hell on You…”

Picture 7There’s a new joint British-US TV series airing over here, “Outlander,” in which a WWII English nurse finds herself mysteriously taken backward in time, from the mid-1940s to the fiercely independent Scottish highlands two hundred years earlier. (That the independence vote takes place today in Scotland makes this series airing now kind of curious.)

From the point of view of the academic study of religion, the relationship between the science of the lead character and, at least in episode three, the religion of the locals, is predictably antagonistic — in fact, we could go so far as to call the latter mere superstition, at least from the viewpoint of our modern, empirically-based nurse. That these old tropes are still so useful in fiction is, I’d suggest, the curious thing. Continue reading