Zombies are on the rise in pop culture with everything from insanely, surreal motion pictures to graphic video games, page-turning novels and even high-grossing TV series. There’s no questioning societies dead-ication to these bloodthirsty flesh eaters, but the real question is, where did the idea for the cannibalistic outbreak come from? Let’s take a dive into zombie history and find out why these supernatural beings possess a rather impressive connection to historic ancient cultures and their beliefs after death.
What is the origin of zombies?
The idea of zombies didn’t just spring to life during a very disturbed brainstorming session, it has actually existed historically and dates back to the 8th century.
The word ‘zombie’ is not an original abstraction. It’s said to have come from nzambi — a religion in Africa that speaks Kongo — and is directly translated to ‘spirit of a dead person. While the Louisiana Creole and Haitian Creole people used the word ‘zonbi’ to describe a person who has died but was brought back to life without speech or free will.
What ties zombies to voodoo folklore?
Voodoo priests, also known as Bokors, were historically connected to the idea of black magic. It was believed that they possessed the ability to resurrect the dead using a deadly substance found inside a porcupine fish. According to the folklore, a zombie is a person who has annoyed their family or community to a degree that is no longer tolerable. That said person was then taken to a Bokor where they were given the poison, which increasingly lowered their heart rate and body temperature. The public would then bury them, thinking they were dead, only later to be exhumed by the Bokor. Still physically intact, but lacking internal memories, the person would walk around like a mindless vegetable.
Human remains tell their own story
Archaeology sites have dug up human remains that anthropologists believed to be the skeletal remains of zombie history. Decapitated bodies, brains removed from their skulls and human teeth marks found on many of the remains suggest that these bodies were either ‘zombies’ or the people buried there practiced cannibalism.
Why do zombies rise from their graves?
Many ancient civilizations, including the Greeks, feared the undead. The act of putting gravestones to mark a site of a human burial actually derived from their fear of reanimated corpses breaking through the soil and coming back to life. Many archaeology sites, found in Greece and Italy, have excavated bodies that were pinned down to their grave sites through the use of rocks.
So, what is it about the undead that fascinates western culture? Yes, the ancient history of the world may have a role to play when it comes to our utter preparation for the zombie apocalypse, or maybe we just possess this underlying fear of the unknown — a disease leading to our own bitter demise. But, regardless of the inspiration behind our love for zombies, it’s clear that with enough money, motivation and a dead-icated aficionados, zombie’s will continue to rise up and slay the pop culture world for generations to come.
Was there anything about zombie history that you found surprising? Tell us in the comments section below.