Earlier this year, I created a limited edition print featuring a large central dragonfly amidst Celtic symbolism. I was inspired to create my art as an homage to “Outlander,” the beloved, bestselling books by Diana Gabaldon, now a hit TV series on Starz.
The second book in the series is entitled, “Dragonfly in Amber.” The “Outlander” story follows Claire, a WWII nurse who is mysteriously transported back in time to the early 18th century after falling through a circle of standing stones in the Scottish Highlands. She marries a Highlander outlaw, Jamie, and together they struggle to save themselves and the Highland way of life from British overlords.
I’m inspired by art and nature, and here I was also intrigued by the author’s title, “Dragonfly in Amber.” The motif of a dragonfly has many meanings, but with the addition of the insect set in amber, it becomes even richer. Amber is known as the “memory stone” and is thought to contain magical properties. It locks thoughts and memories in place to keep them safe. Amber is seen as a window into the past. It is ground and used medicinally for soothing. This organic gemstone is formed over millennia from the hardened resin of ancient pine trees. It remains but transforms in time.
In the story, Jamie and Claire wonder if it is possible to change time, specifically to avoid the disastrous Battle of Culloden. The dragonfly is a universal symbol of “change.” But when “change” is trapped in amber, then the object that symbolizes change is frozen in time and cannot be transformed. Change becomes part of memory. In this case, the dragonfly may represent the Scots’ defeat on Culloden moor, which changed the Gaelic way of life in the Highlands forever.
There are many other interpretations of this title which makes it such a rich metaphor. Gabaldon has stated it symbolizes Jamie and Claire’s marriage. In my artwork, I incorporated many symbols from the story. The dragonfly glows within an amber sphere, along with other icons. Notice Claire’s two wedding rings, interwoven like an infinity symbol. There is a star-filled dome that refers to the King’s chamber at Versailles. The top ring doubles as a compass, alluding to “Voyager,” the next book in the series. The word “CHANGE” is inscribed there with the “N” pointing north on the Eiffel Tower—a nod to Claire’s time in Paris during the war. A fleur de lys of France sits at the south point. The silver ring contains two hearts for Jamie and Claire above the purple mountains of the Highlands. The curved lines on either side of the dragonfly create balance and harmony while honoring the Gaelic culture. The spirals may also represent horseshoes for good luck, clefs and musical notes, snakes, and the twisting storylines of plot and subplot.
This Celtic knotwork weaves in and out of the standing stones of Craigh na Dun to ground the entire design in Scotland, now incorporated into a new greeting card with a Celtic border. I hope you enjoy it! Look for two new designs coming soon for the first book, “Outlander,” and the third book, “Voyager!”