You’ll notice that TheModern-Nerd defines Zombies two ways:
Zombie (Haitian Creole: zonbi; North Mbundu: nzumbe) is an animated corpse brought back to life by mystical means, such as witchcraft.
Zombies (fictional) are fictional undead creatures regularly encountered in horror and fantasy themed works. They are typically depicted as mindless, reanimated corpses with a hunger for human flesh, and particularly for human brains in some depictions.
The staff has asked me to come on board to provide some insight to the first definition. For the sake of this discussion let’s call it, the real definition. I’d like to take you on a brief trip down to my peoples homeland, Haiti, where “zombie” is more fact than it is folklore. Put down your survival guides and let’s go.
The first actual zombie report happened in 1929. William B. Seabrook’s The Magic Island, a true sort of Indiana Jones type memoir about his time in Haiti. In the book Seabrook describes the events and things that he was allowed to witness and participate in while he was there. In my opinion, an extremely bold move for any man, especially a white man in the early 2oth century, way before the neuroscientific and ethnobiological aspects of a real zombie were understood. What Seabrook discovered and learned is what I know though tradition. I have no choice in knowing, I’m not as bold as Seabrook that I’d go looking for this knowledge.
Ask any Haitian, the subject of zombies is a well known yet sensitive one. It’s like talking to the American government about Paradise Ranch, or Area 51 as you might know it. These are both subjects that have been supplied with evidence of artifact and ritual yet the cultures within which they exist remain apprehensive about acknowledging them. The latter wasn’t even acknowledged by the government until 2003. Fact, it is a criminal offense in Haiti to raise the dead. Would murder be a criminal offense if weren’t considered possible? You do the math.
The Hollywood context of a zombie tends to be mobs of half-dead, flesh eaters out to kill and or infect. This is not the case in Haiti. The only truth to the Hollywood version of a zombie is that a zombie is half-dead. I don’t knock them for it any more than I knock them for their version of Pirates (see: Pirates of the Caribbean). Entertainment is entertainment.
In Haiti however, the real zombies aren’t out to eat flesh. They aren’t out to do anything for that matter, other than the desires of their masters, that being whoever it is that created them. These individuals are referred to as Bokor’s or Hougan’s. What happens is living victims are given potions which makes them appear dead, so much so that these comatose yet living individuals are eventually buried. One can consider these individuals as buried alive. Afterwards the Bokor returns for the “corpse” and continues administering potions that keep the victim under their control. Hence a zombie is in fact created by a Bokor, and the “living dead” aspect is more of a state of mind than anything else. There are additional methods involved in the entire process that remain secret.
I can’t stress this enough, the truth is that science and the general public still don’t understand the Haitian zombie because they have yet to acknowledge the vast understandings that are behind it.
To discuss and understand Haitian zombies without reference to Haitian vodou is to discuss and understand smoke without reference to fire. But this is as far as I’ll go into the topic of vodou at this time because again, I’m not as bold as Seabrook.
- Deuce Cartier