In Haitian and West African folk belief, a soulless corpse reanimated by a Voodoo priest, known as a Bocor.
A zombie moves listlessly in a trancelike state and does the bidding of the Bocor.
The word zombie is apparently derived from Nzambi, a West African deity.
Generally, a zombie is any animated corpse brought back to life by mystical means such as voodoo, magic, and/or witchcraft. In contemporary popular culture, cannibal or brain-eating zombies can be brought back to life or transformed from normal humans by viruses, planetary phenomena, alien contamination, and other outlandish catastrophic scenarios, and be transmitted by bites and/or wounds caused by an infected victim or zombie.
Most cultural anthropologists working in Haiti discount stories about zombies. Some researchers, however, claim that the stories are true and that a Bocor's victims are administered a powder containing a powerful neurotoxin derived from the puffer fish, a deadly inhabitant of Earth's oceans and fresh water bodies.
The powder is alleged to paralyze the victim into a deathlike state. The Bocor later revives the victim. Pharmacologists who have tested samples of the alleged powder found little or no poison in them.
Zombie was originally a python god of certain West African tribes, and its worship was carried to the West Indies with the slave trade.
Today, this tradition still somewhat survives in Voodoo ceremonies in Haiti, as well as in some of the southern states of the USA.
As mentioned above, in modern popular culture the zombie is a dead human that, either by a zombie plague, virus, alien manipulation, or any other incredible and outlandish reason, has been reanimated and is beset by an acute hunger for human flesh and/or brains. This condition is also spread to other healthy humans by their infectious bite. They themselves are a plague, and humanity is their host. The lucky victims are devoured, their bones scraped clean and their flesh consumed. The unfortunate ones join the ranks of their attackers, transformed into putrid, carnivorous ghouls.
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Sources: (1) Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing; (2) Turner and Coulter, Patricia and Charles R., Dictionary of Ancient Deities, Oxford University Press; (3) Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group.
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