Zombies in Haiti
Are zombies a real part of Vodou or just a myth? This question is very easily answered, Yes! The creation of Zombies became a part of the Vodou practice. Drugs are used to cause the half living creature. The drug is given to the zombie and administered over sorcerers called Bokor's. This name brings fear to many Haitians who do live this as a reality.
A Bokor is a Vodouisant who practices black magick and is said to rob the tombs, taking away the dead to turn them. This is said to be useful for them for labor and some zombies are even sold into slave labor. They may be alive but they have no personality or sense of mind really. They just walk, feed, and keep going, remembering nothing of their past life. Few Haitians have actually seen a zombie, some say it is because the appearance they have of a normal human being.
As the body ages, the zombie begins to lose movement to a point where the Bokor can no longer do anything. Remember, these are rotten bodies walking around that have been dead but are still walking. Many cult movies have come out of Haiti from the belief in zombies, including the movie "White Zombie" made in 1932.
Before the person is dead, it is said that the Bokor takes the soul of the person and seals it in a bottle. This soon leads to death of the person and the funeral following. Soon after, the Bokor returns at night to claim the body. He opens the grave and passes the bottle under the zombies nose, said to awaken him. Through this, he then takes the body away. But I bet you are wondering, How do they control these creatures of the night? Rituals, beatings, and regular issues of drugs are given to make sure that they follow their masters commands.
The Theory of Dr. Wade Davis
Now lets take another approach to this, a more scientific approach. In the 1980's Wade Davis found what could have been a powder that was used to create real zombies, providing scientific basis. There is said to be a powerful neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin in the drug which is found in many animals, specifically the pufferfish.
Eight samples were collected in different regions of Haiti. Puffer fish(containing tetrodotoxin), Marine toad(numerous toxic substances), human remains, and hyla tree frog(irritating substance). The powders would contain various dried plants and powdered animal bones, depending where they went. The ingredients would vary slightly but have common grounds.
It is said the the tetrodotoxin that a puffer fish contains causes death and paralysis. The paralysis prevents them from reacting to stimuli. The powder was said that if applied externally, it could break into the victims skin. The drug could then passed into the bloodstream, paralyzing the victim making others believe that he were dead. After this the family would bury them and the Bokor would come for the body. The victim would rise and believe himself to be a zombie.
Although the theory seems promising, it does have some controversy. When first looked at, it does seem quite true. Many researchers have brought up questions of his research and the actual components brought back from Haiti. They questioned his ethics since he observed the desecration of graves when gathering ingredients. Some of the samples of the powders contained little to no tetrodotoxin. There have been many controversies against his theory but it is actually the only explanation for the Haitian zombies.
The creation of zombies in Haiti is said to be a real problem. The families stand over their passed members grave until the body has decomposed, making it useless to the Bokor. To some people zombies are seen as folktales and fantasy, but to others it is a living reality.
Those who believe in zombies do not fear them, knowing that they are mindless. The fear they have is of becoming one against their will. The Bokor does this sometimes to as a threat to maintain social order in the community. The zombie is a image that remains in Haitian folktales as well as philosophical discussions