Now, I know I usually do Wolf Wednesday, but since it’s almost October and I’m preparing for the release of my zombie-themed book, I thought we might do something a little spookier for the next few weeks 🙂 We all know about zombies from books, movies and tv (anyone else anxiously waiting on the return of The Walking Dead?) but there’s a lot we don’t know – such as where the legends came from and some extra facts on the best way to survive in a zombie outbreak (hey, there was a blood moon this week – end of the world is apparently coming doncha know!). So, let’s start at the beginning 🙂
The modern idea of zombies is thought to have started in West African tribes and then traveled with captured slaves to Haiti, where it grew in belief. In Haitian folklore, zombies were classed as being dead people who were revived by dark magic (or necromancy) by bokors. These were dark sorcerers or priests and the raised corpse was completely under their control, their own personal slave, and could have been raised for various reasons such as revenge, power, or even cheap labour.
There is also a Haitian legend of an ‘astral zombie’, which was an incorporeal being considered to be a part of the human soul that was captured by the bokor in order to enhance their powers. They would even sell ‘bottled’ spirits to people for things such as luck or healing. It was believed that eventually God would take back the soul so the entrapment was only a temporary effect.
The Haitians also believe that feeding salt to a zombie would free it (possibly linked to the belief that salt could protect against dark magic). This didn’t mean the zombie would come back to life, but that it would be free from the bokor’s control and return to its grave.
The Haitians also had laws against the making of zombies, including one that states that if someone is drugged, buried alive and then dug up and revived, it is still classed as murder.
Haitian beliefs on zombies first came to notice in the Western world with William Seabrook’s book, The Magic Island (1929), which later inspired the first zombie movie, White Zombie (1932). This was also the first independent horror film to star horror icon Bela Lugosi.