Haitian Vodun or Voodoo Zombie:
In Haiti “Zombie” (Hatian Creole: zonbi; North Mbundu: nzumbe) is a term to describe an animated corpse that has been brought back to life through mystical means, such as witchcraft.
According to the tenets of Vodoun, a deceased person can be revived by a bokor, or sorcerer. The “reanimated” person becomes a Zombie, and remains under the control and command of the bokor for the remainder of their life. There are rumors in Vodoun legend that state: “feeding a Zombie salt will make it return to the grave”, but this is only legend.
Harvard ethnobotanist, Wade Davis, presented a pharmacological case for the existence of Zombies in his book, The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985). Davis traveled to Haiti in 1982 and, as a result of his intense investigations, claimed that a living person can be turned into a zombie by using two special powders. These powders include tetrodotoxin, a powerful and often fatal neurotoxin found in pufferfish, and dissociative drugs such as datura. The powders, once introduced to the bloodstream, spread quickly through the body and create a death-like state. But sometimes the poisons prove too much, and the victims body fails.
The initial state of Zombie poisoning (as we’ll call it from here on) is a death-like suspended animation, followed by a re-awakening – often after being buried alive – into a psychotic state. Combined with the psychosis induced by the drug, the psychological trauma of being buried alive and strong cultural beliefs; the victim often reconstructs their identity as that of a Zombie. Social reinforcement of their beliefs “confirm” for the victim their Zombie state. Vodun Zombies are often found meandering through graveyards, one of the only places they know to call “home”.
Scottish psychiatrist, R. D. Laing, highlighted the link between social and cultural expectations and compulsion, in the context of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, suggesting that schizogenesis may account for some of the psychological aspects of zombification.
Vodun Zombie poisoning is often used as a tool for revenge, slavery, extortion, and experimentation, but the most frightening thing about the Vodun Zombie isn’t the “Zombie” itself, it’s the fact that people have been and are continuing to be poisoned, buried alive, and then shunned from society as though they are the reanimated dead.