The Haitian Zombie

By: Maya Breininger

When you think of the word “zombie”, what do you picture?

Many cultures have different depictions of the creature; some are shown as intelligent spirits – a being that is brought to earth to bring harm to humans, while others are shown as soulless bodies of humans being brought back from the grave in search of people to consume.

Unbeknownst to most who enjoy the creepy story, the idea of a “Zombie” was a Haitian borne concept, one that will be broken down in today’s text.

In Haiti, voodoo and other forces of witchcraft, are common amongst civilians, and are used in everyday communication. In Haitian culture, the definition of a zombie, is a being that retains human form but does not contain a soul, and who’s actions resolve a human’s most primal urges such as cannibalism, and resisting death.

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The idea of the zombie, or in Haitian terms, “Zonbi”, originated when slaves were brought to Haiti from West Africa, increasing the vodou religion. According to Haitian folklore, zombies are the result of a spell that was cast by a sorcerer called Bokor, which is enacted by an elixir, or potion that slaves were forced to drink.

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According to many sources, slaves considered suicide the one way to take control of their lives. However, with the potion, it would force each person to appear dead, causing them to be buried. Weeks after being buried, Bokor would return for them and force them to do his bidding. This was considered a slave’s worst dream, because it rendered their ability of choice completely useless, and rid every sense of comfort.

So, now that you know this deeply rooted folk tale of the original zombie, you must wonder; how did this turn into the depiction of the brainless, slow and even humorous version that we see today?

Zombies appeared in films and pop culture, along with Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula, around 1932. They appeared in many viral versions of film such as, the movie series ‘The Walking Dead’, and Michael Jackson’s music video “Thriller”.

Over time, all folk tales and stories will be washed down, but it’s important to understand and remember the origin of such mythical creatures, and to properly credit the millions of people who truly believe and respect this tale.

For more information about the origin of Zombies, or how they rose to fame, visit these websites:

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