Friday, June 12, 2015

Supernatural Friday: Truth on the Living Dead


I want to set some records straight, as I noticed more and more people consider zombies to be flesh eaters, thanks to "Night of the Living Dead," and zombie horror flicks after that. In reality all undead is living dead. 

This goes back to Gilgamesh and maybe even back to caveman times. Vampires in Eastern Europe did not begin just drinking blood, but flesh too. They were also mindless like zombies, coming from their graves to attack their relatives, not everybody. Later this changed to any person could be a victim of the vampire.  Watching an episode of  "Game of Thrones," they had white walkers, but they di not bit or eat the living to change them. Those people died. It took the head walker with a crown on its head and do something--obviously magic--for the new dead to arise. So not all dead eat flesh, but all dead that rise from death are the living dead, or undead.
Zombie was a term a reporter called the ghouls of Night of the Living Dead. Romero thought of them as ghouls, not zombies. A zombie is supposed to be the living dead: people who die and are resurrected, but without their souls. According to legend, a zombi is someone who has annoyed his or her family and community to the degree that they can no longer stand to live with this person. They respond by hiring a Bokor who turns that person into a zombie. They can take orders, and they're supposed to never be tired, and to do what the master says.
Zombies are the product of spells by a voodoo sorcerer called a bokor. The word is believed to be of West African origin and was brought to Haiti by slaves from that region. Slavery was hard and cruel and it coud even be thought that maybe zombies was developed to keep a slave from killing themselves to escape slavery.  To become a zombie was the slave's worst nightmare: to be dead and still a slave, an eternal field hand. There are several ways to destroy zombies in fiction or movies and TV shows (decapitations or gunshots to the head are popular), though according to Haitian folklore the goal is to release the person from his or her zombie state, not to outright kill the person. There are several ways to free a zombie; feed the zombie salt; others say that if a zombie sees the ocean its mind will return and it will become self-aware and angry, trying to return to its grave.
The word "zombi" —spelled for years without the "e"— first appeared in print in an American newspaper in a reprinted short story called "The Unknown Painter" in 1838.  Then William Seabrook wrote about seeing "voodoo" cults in Haiti and the concept of the zombi to many readers. Several film scholars believe the book was the basis of the classic 1932 horror film White Zombie. The most famous studies of Haitian zombies was ethnobotanist Wade Davis' 1985 book The Serpent and the Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist's Astonishing Journey into the Secret Societies of Haitian Voodoo, Zombies, and Magic. Wade studied the case of Clairvius Narcisse, a man believed to have been turned into an actual zombie through a combination of drugs (including puffer fish venom and toad venom) in order to mimic death. Then they gave him the hallucinogenic drug tetrodotoxin to keep him in a zombie-like state.

So zombie does not mean the undead person is a flesh eater. Let's call the undead what it is-undead, living dead, walking dead. Because that is what they all are.

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