Haitian zombie
What do you think of when you envision the word "zombie?" Is it a snapping, ravenous flesh-hungry beast? An aimless, lost soul wandering about, yet still a ravenous beast? These are all images that Hollywood has implanted in your head, the end result of decades of spooky lore and fictionalization, yet you may not be aware that the modern zombie as we know it has its origins in something every bit as strange, and if you believe the locals, far more real. Here actual zombies have a long tradition, with many odd accounts of their existence encompassing many aspects of the bizarre, and remaining largely unsolved.

On the island nation of Haiti, the religion of Vodou, also commonly spelled "Voodoo" in the west is estimated to be practiced or at least believed by some 80 to 90 percent of the population. It is a unique faith in that it is comprised of an eclectic mix of various African folk beliefs brought over by slaves by the French, as well as a pinch of Catholicism thrown into the fray, which was largely the result of trying to camouflage Voodoo customs when efforts were made to stamp out the more traditional practices in a drive to convert these people. The Voodoo religion places great emphasis on the nature of spirits and their interaction with the world around them, with earthbound spirits supposedly being capable of bringing good fortune and luck, or conversely misfortune, madness, and misery, and it is in this particular belief where we can find the origins of the zombies.

It is believed that there are two basic types of death in Voodoo, and that each generates a different type of spirit. One is death by natural means, such as old age or illness, which is seen as the body coming full circle in the natural cycle of life and death. These spirits are not typically imprisoned on earth, and are free to move on. However, there are also those who have died abruptly from unnatural causes, which are considered to be things such as murder or accidents, in which case they have not yet reached the end of their predetermined cycle and their spirit becomes fettered to the earthly realm, doomed to wander without a body until their preordained date of death, the day they were supposed to die, arrives. It is these spirits that are the most vulnerable, and which are the main targets for the process of zombification.
A line of Haitian zombies
A line of Haitian zombies
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