A zombie is a creature that appears in books and popular culture
typically as a reanimated dead or a mindless human being. Stories of zombies
originated in the African Caribbean spiritual belief system of
Voodoo, which told of the people being
controlled as laborers by a powerful wizard.
According to the tenets of Vodou, a dead person can be revived by a bokor, or sorcerer. Zombies remain under the
control of the bokor since they have no will of their own. "Zombi" is also
another name of the Vodou snake lwa Damballah
Wedo, of Niger-Congo origin; it is akin to the Kikongo word nzambi, which means "god".
There also exists within the West African Vodun tradition the zombi
astral, which is a part of the human soul
that is captured by a bokor and used to enhance the bokor's power. The zombi
astral is typically kept inside a bottle which the bokor can sell to clients for
luck, healing or business success. It is believed that after a time God will
take the soul back and so the zombi is a temporary spiritual entity.
In 1937, while researching folklore in Haiti, Zora Neale Hurston encountered the case of a
woman who appeared in a village, and a family claimed she was Felicia
Felix-Mentor, a relative who had died and been buried in 1907 at the age of
29. Hurston pursued rumors that the affected persons were given powerful psychoactive drug,
but she was unable to locate individuals willing to offer much information. She
Several decades later, Wade
Davis, a Harvard
ethnobotanist, presented a pharmacological case
for zombies in two books, The Serpent and the
Rainbow (1985) and Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the
Haitian Zombie (1988). Davis traveled to Haiti in 1982 and, as a result of
his investigations, claimed that a living person can be turned into a zombie by
two special powders being entered into the blood stream (usually via a wound).
The first, coup de poudre (French: 'powder strike'), includes tetrodotoxin (TTX), the poison
found in the pufferfish. The second powder consists of dissociative drugs such as datura. Together, these powders were said to induce a
death-like state in which the victim's will would be entirely subjected to that
of the bokor. Davis also popularized the story of Clairvius Narcisse, who was claimed to have
succumbed to this practice.
Davis's claim has been criticized for a number of scientific inaccuracies,
including the unlikely suggestion that Haitian witch doctors can keep “zombies”
in a state of pharmacologically induced trance for many years. Symptoms of TTX
poisoning range from numbness and nausea to paralysis, unconsciousness, and
death, but do not include a stiffened gait or a death-like trance. According to
Hines, the scientific community dismisses tetrodotoxin as the cause of this
state, and Davis's assessment of the nature of the reports of Haitian zombies is
Scottish psychiatrist R. D.
Laing further highlighted the link between social and cultural expectations
and compulsion, in the context of schizophrenia and other mental illness,
suggesting that schizogenesis may account for some of the psychological aspects
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