I grow weary of TV and movie zombies. Bloody, yes; scary, not so much. The truth is far more terrifying.
A zombie is a supposedly dead person who has been reanimated. In Haitian voodoo, which may have its roots in Western or Central Africa, a zombie is an undead slave created by a witch or priest or priestess. The creature was once alive but, by the application of magic and a few household ingredients in the right proportions, got zombified. It’s own will erased, it continues indefinitely as a soulless creature. The supposition that the victim is aware of his plight but unable to do a thing about it makes the whole thing even worse.
The witch administers the drug as a coup de poudre (French for strike of the powder), the victim inhales and that’s the last thing he remembers—for eternity. His soul is highjacked and he is an easily controlled slave. Some speculate that tetrodotoxin (TTX), a powerful and frequently fatal neurotoxin found in the flesh of the pufferfish is a major ingredient of the coup de poudre. Other substances have been suggested and of course there is the magic.
Haitian voodoo—any kind of voodoo or voudo or vudu or however you want to spell it––scares the bejesus out of me causing all the bejesus formerly inside my body to collect in a puddle around my feet. While voodoo is basically an earth and nature worshipping religion, the dark side of voodoo which includes zombies, is very, very dark.
Naturally, the zombie motif serves as a metaphor for slavery—especially the brutal flavor of slavery practiced in Haiti in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Films and books have created sometimes amusing but also disturbing caricatures of zombies. The underlying themes all of these stories have in common is the idea of society’s vulnerability and our fear the system we have in place to protect us will fail—miserably.
That scary idea seems quite real. Especially in this election season!