Many people believe that zombies are played out and I believe this is not far from the truth given the over saturation of zombies in movies, books, television, etc. However, zombies still fascinate the majority of us.
Zombies have been around for a long time. Some of the first evidence of zombies can be found in the first written hero tale – The Epic of Gilgamesh. Zombies have popped in films since 1932’s “White Zombie”, starring Bela Lugosi.
Zombies can be initially divided into two categories: Modern and Classic. Modern Zombies are reanimated corpses, but classic zombies are individuals who only appeared to have died. Their bodies emulate that of corpse because they have been lured into a false death by the Bokor, a Voodoo Priest that practices Black Magic.
The person who meets this unfortunate fate is someone that has posed a threat to the Bokor or someone who has gone to the Bokor for assistance. Voodoo lore suggests that the Bokor traps his victim’s soul by sucking it out of the body and sealing it in a bottle. Death and burial soon follow.
The Bokor goes to the grave at night, opens it and calls the victim’s name. The bottle containing the victim’s soul is passed briefly under the nose to revive the body, and the zombie is led away. Rituals, drugs, and shocking beatings are issued to the zombie in copious quantities to ensure absolute compliance. Classic zombies become slaves. They have no interest beyond what they are told to do.
This mythology was carried from West Africa to Haiti where it eventually mixed with Roman Catholicism producing Voodoo. In the early part of the 20th Century, the U.S. occupied Haiti. Haiti mythology eventually made it back to mainland U.S. One of the bringers of Voodoo mythology was author W. B. Seabrook, who wrote the book “The Magic Island” in 1929. Island is the sensationalized account of a narrator in Haiti who encounters Voodoo cults and their resurrected thralls. Time Magazine claimed that the book “introduced ‘zombi’ into U.S. speech.”
Film has been a defining force in shaping the look, nature, and effects of the zombie. While White Zombie catapulted classic zombies into attention of movie goers, the Modern Zombie would not appear until 1968 in George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead.” George’s zombies were flesh eating, shambling, groaning, and instinctual.
… Part 2 Coming Soon …