Nov 20, 2015

Posted by in Occult Studies, Vodou | 0 Comments

The Shopping Dead: A Look At Zombie Culture

The Shopping Dead: A Look At Zombie Culture
Zombie haiti ill artlibre jnl

Zombie haiti ill artlibre jnl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With right around 20 million viewers tuning in for the debut of the sixth season, AMC’s The Walking Dead is by far one of the most popular shows on television right now. Zombies are regularly featured these days in movies, television, video games, and all kinds of various merchandise; everything from clothing to bumper stickers. With all of the commercial success of these ghoulish creatures, you almost can’t walk into a retail store without seeing one displayed on something. However, even though they are a huge part of popular culture now, not many people know anything about the history of the creepy, flesh-eating fiends that we have all come to know and love. So, I thought I would share with you a little bit about where the now-infamous zombies came from.

In Haitian rural folklore, a zombie is a reanimated corpse of someone who has died and then been brought back through some form of necromancy or black magic. It is believed that a bokor, or sorcerer in the Vodou religion, revives the deceased individual and then keeps them as a personal slave, as they have no willpower of their own. There is also a second, rarer type of zombie in the Vodou culture that is an incorporeal being, or “zombie astral”, and it can be captured inside a decorative bottle and then kept in order to enhance the bokor’s power or sold to someone else for luck or healing. Both types of zombies are a reflection of soul dualism, a belief that exists in Haitian Vodou, and each is missing one half of their soul, either the flesh or the spiritual half.

Many scholars believe that the zombie belief in Haiti was brought over by the slaves imported from Africa in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Slavery was so brutal during this time period that many of the slaves died after only a few years of working in the fields. Many of the early Vodou practitioners believed that the loa of the dead, Baron Samedi, gathered slaves from their graves and brought them to the afterlife in Guinea. However if they had managed to offend Samedi in some way during their lifetime, they were doomed to remain a slave for eternity as a zombie.

While these may seem like dark fanciful tales that one might hear over a campfire, in Haiti the phenomenon of actual zombie cases began to emerge during the United States occupation (1915-1934). Case histories involving reported “zombies” were covered in a popular book by William Seabrook called The Magic Island in 1929. In his book Seabrook quotes the actual Haitian law that prohibits the making of zombies. However, it is believed by some people that the zombie phenomenon in these cases may be a result of a form of schizophrenia or induced by some unknown chemical substance.

Much like George Romero used zombies in his films to represent consumerism in modern culture, it has been suggested that the prevalence of the belief in zombies in Haiti is a reflection of the culture of slavery. However, while Romero’s flesh eaters represent our insatiable appetite for purchasing goods and services, the much more docile zombies of Haiti represent thousands upon thousands of slaves who have died as a result of horrific conditions and inexplicable cruelty. Though these realities may be worlds apart, there is a connection between the two, the zombie; a creature that has no will of its own.

So, the next time you catch an advertisement for The Walking Dead or pull a zombie t-shirt off the shelf to buy at your local Wal-mart, you might consider this article. Zombies have gone from representing consumerism to being the epitome of it. Now every time you drop some cash on the latest zombie movie or that piece of zombie merchandise that you couldn’t live without, think about it, does that make you a zombie too? Maybe, in some way, this capitalist society has turned us all into slaves, with voracious appetites for goods and no willpower to do anything about it. Perhaps the reason our culture loves zombies so much is because on some level we can relate to them.

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