After learning that the CDC will be running a zombie apocalypse emergency style drill, I did a bit of digging about the possibilities of zombification on medline.
It turns out that there has been a dedicated group of researchers working on the zombification process for quite some time.
The practice is an extension of vodou, which is a bizarre transplant of the African Vodun. I am related by marriage one of the experts on African vodun, Suzanne Blier of Harvard University. She has written a book on the African Vodun, which is both very enlightening and COMPLETELY different from what you would expect. Here she is talking about the origins of the terms and the initial art/spirituality involved.
So how did something that was so much a part of the culture become a dark subculture? I suspect a lot of the press about Vodou came from the people who were trying to control the population of the islands. Vodou practitioners would be likely to be at odds with colonial authority.
When the United States occupied Haiti in 1915, the practitioners of Vodou were in opposition and the term zombie became more popular. According to Ulysses Paulino Albuquerque‘s (and others) masterful paper on the zombification process, ” a “zombie” is defined as a female or male individual that has been poisoned, buried alive, and resurrected. These individuals manifest symptoms that would be classified as a catatonic schizophrenic, characterized by inconsistency and catalepsy, alternating between moments of stupor and activity.” Nothing about eating brains.
The process of zombification was used as a punishment against criminals. Rather than being afraid of zombies, people were afraid of becoming zombies. Or they still are. It is estimated by researcher Davis that the process continues. From 1982 to 1984 he found eight different zombie formulations and assisted in their preparation.
Many of the herbs used in the preparation of zombie poison are extremely powerful and have a variety of medicinal applications. Several are herbs I recently researched and been impressed by their potential.
So is the process of zombification really a very complex anesthetic experience with lasting side effects? If so, the use of powerful herbs mixed with a variety of animal poisons and the ability to resurrect/awaken the sleeper must be seen as a dramatic demonstration of the abilities of the vodou practitioners in Haiti.
Now, who started the rumor about these poor souls wanting brains?
- Zombies: The “Real Life” Walking Dead (repeatingislands.com)
- Inside Haitian Vodou (LIFE.com photo essay) (boingboing.net)
- Haitian Houngan and flagmaker Silva Joseph Dies at 81 (repeatingislands.com)
- Zombie Apocalypse,Horrible Horror and Slasher Movies (waitingonthenewmoon.wordpress.com)
- Enron Zombies! Run! (caraellison.wordpress.com)
- Haitian vodou flags featured at Folk Art Market (repeatingislands.com)
- Undead Science (crashingedge.wordpress.com)
- ZombieBooth Takes Zombification to a New Level of Gory Hilarity (themactrack.com)
- What Would You Do If You Were Bitten By A Zombie? (bigbaddie.com)
- The Gassy Gnoll: Zombie Horde Edition (gameknightreviews.com)
- Zombie Apocalypse Scheduled for Nearby Delaware County (thekenyonthrill.wordpress.com)
- Review: ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE shuffles past your typical TV movie (geektyrant.com)
- Beware the posthuman zombification business card (infocult.typepad.com)
- Zombie Brains: Fake Ghoul Science From a Real Scientist (wired.com)
- Zombie Apocalypse to Fail in PHILIPPINES (akosiisko.wordpress.com)