Zombie (Haitian Creole: zonbi; North Mbundu: nzumbe) is a term used to denote an animated corpse brought back to life by mystical means such as witchcraft. The term is often figuratively applied to describe a hypnotized person bereft of consciousness and self-awareness, yet ambulant and able to respond to surrounding stimuli. Since the late 19th century, zombies have acquired notable popularity, especially in North American and European folklore.
In modern times, the term "zombie" has been applied to an undead race in horror fiction, largely drawn from George A. Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. They have appeared as plot devices in various books, films and in television shows.
West African Vodun
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. It is also said in vodou legend, that feeding a zombie salt will make it return to the grave.
Haitian Vodou and alleged pharmaceutical explanation
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 a powerful psychoactive drug, but she was unable to locate individuals willing to offer much information. She wrote:
“ What is more, if science ever gets to the bottom of Voodoo in Haiti and Africa, it will be found that some important medical secrets, still unknown to medical science, give it its power, rather than gestures of ceremony. ”
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), a powerful and frequently fatal neurotoxin found in the flesh of the pufferfish (order Tetraodontidae). The second powder consists of dissociative drugs such as datura. Together, these powders were said to induce a death-like state in which the will of the victim 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.
The process described by Davis was an initial state of death-like suspended animation, followed by re-awakening—typically after being buried—into a psychotic state. The psychosis induced by the drug and psychological trauma was hypothesised by Davis to re-inforce culturally-learned beliefs and to cause the individual to reconstruct their identity as that of a zombie, since they "knew" they were dead, and had no other role to play in the Haitian society. Societal reinforcement of the belief was hypothesized by Davis to confirm for the zombie individual the zombie state, and such individuals were known to hang around in graveyards, exhibiting attitudes of low affect.
Davis' claim has been criticized, particularly the 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 (particularly of the muscles of the diaphragm), unconsciousness, and death, but do not include a stiffened gait or a death-like trance. According to psychologist Terence Hines, the scientific community dismisses tetrodotoxin as the cause of this state, and Davis' assessment of the nature of the reports of Haitian zombies is viewed as overly credulous.
Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing 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 of zombification.
In popular culture
The figure of the zombie has appeared several times in fantasy themed fiction and entertainment, as early as the 1929 novel The Magic Island by William Seabrook. Time claimed that the book "introduced 'zombi' into U.S. speech". In 1932, Victor Halperin directed White Zombie, a horror film starring Bela Lugosi. This film, capitalizing on the same voodoo zombie themes as Seabrook's book of three years prior, is often regarded as the first legitimate zombie film ever made, and introduced the word "zombie" to the wider world. Other zombie-themed films include Val Lewton's I Walked With a Zombie (1943) and Wes Craven's The Serpent and the Rainbow, (1988) a heavily fictionalized account of Wade Davis' book.
A new version of the zombie, distinct from that described in Haitian religion, has also emerged in popular culture in recent decades. This "zombie" is taken largely from George A. Romero's seminal film The Night of the Living Dead, which was in turn partly inspired by Richard Matheson's 1954 novel I Am Legend. The word zombie is not used in Night of the Living Dead itself, but was applied later by fans. The monsters in the film and its sequels, such as Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, as well as its many inspired works, such as Return of the Living Dead and Zombie Flesh Eaters, are usually hungry for human flesh although Return of the Living Dead introduced the popular concept of zombies eating brains. Sometimes they are victims of a fictional pandemic illness causing the dead to reanimate or the living to behave this way, but often no cause is given in the story. Although this modern monster bears some superficial resemblance to the Haitian zombie tradition, its links to such folklore are unclear, and many consider George A. Romero to be the progenitor of this creature. Zombie fiction is now a sizeable sub-genre of horror, usually describing a breakdown of civilization occurring when most of the population become flesh-eating zombies – a zombie apocalypse.
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Look at other dictionaries:
zombie — ou zombi [ zɔ̃bi ] n. m. • 1832; créole zonbi 1 ♦ Fantôme, revenant (dans les croyances vaudou des Antilles). « les noctambules la prirent pour un zombi et l accablèrent de jurons pour la renvoyer dans sa tombe » (P. Chamoiseau). 2 ♦ Par ext.… … Encyclopédie Universelle
zombie — ☆ zombie [zäm′bē ] n. [of Afr orig., as in Congo zumbi, fetish] 1. in voodoo cults of W Africa, the python deity 2. any voodoo snake deity, as in Haiti and parts of the S U.S. 3. a) in West Indian voodoo, a supernatural power through which a… … English World dictionary
zombie — Poder sobrenatural que supuestamente puede introducirse en un cadáver y reanimarlo. Diccionario Mosby Medicina, Enfermería y Ciencias de la Salud, Ediciones Hancourt, S.A. 1999 … Diccionario médico
Zombie — 1.Untoter,Seelenloser,Wiedergänger 2.willenloser/energieloserMensch 3.Drogenabhängiger,Drogensüchtiger,Freak … Das Wörterbuch der Synonyme
zombie — → zombi … Diccionario panhispánico de dudas
zombie — (n.) 1871, of West African origin (Cf. Kikongo zumbi fetish; Kimbundu nzambi god ), originally the name of a snake god, later with meaning reanimated corpse in voodoo cult. But perhaps also from Louisiana creole word meaning phantom, ghost, from… … Etymology dictionary
zombie — s. 2 g. O mesmo que morto vivo. • Plural: zombies. ‣ Etimologia: palavra inglesa … Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa
zombie — /ˈdzombi, ingl. ˈzHmbɪ/ [vc. creola, di origine sconosciuta] s. m. inv. 1. morto vivente 2. (est.) persona apatica, abulica CONTR. persona volitiva, energica … Sinonimi e Contrari. Terza edizione
zombie — ► NOUN 1) a corpse supposedly revived by witchcraft, especially in certain African and Caribbean religions. 2) informal a lifeless, apathetic, or completely unresponsive person. DERIVATIVES zombify verb. ORIGIN West African … English terms dictionary
Zombie — Als Zombie wird die fiktive Figur eines zum Leben erweckten Toten (Untoter) oder eines seiner Seele beraubten, willenlosen Wesens bezeichnet. Der Begriff leitet sich von dem Wort nzùmbe aus der zentralafrikanischen Sprache Kimbundu ab und… … Deutsch Wikipedia