A zombie (Haitian French: zombi, Haitian Creole: zonbi) is a fictional undead being created through the reanimation of a human corpse. Zombies are most commonly found in horror and fantasy genre works. The term comes from Haitian folklore , where a zombie is a dead body reanimated through various methods, most commonly magic. Modern depictions of zombies do not necessarily involve magic but often invoke science fictional methods such as carriers, radiation, mental diseases, vectors, viruses, scientific accidents, etc.
The English word "zombie" is first recorded in 1819, in a history of Brazil by the poet Robert Southey , in the form of "zombi".The Oxford English Dictionary gives the origin of the word as West African, and compares it to the Kongo words nzambi (god) and zumbi (fetish).
Zombies have a complex literary heritage, with antecedents ranging from Richard Matheson and H.P.Lovercafa to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein drawing on European folklore of the undead. In 1932, Victor Halperin directed White Zombie a horror film starring Bela Lugosi. Here zombies are depicted as mindless, unthinking henchmen under the spell of an evil magician. Zombies, often still using this voodoo-inspired rationale, were initially uncommon in cinema, but their appearances continued sporadically through the 1930s to the 1960s, with notable films including I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959).
Zombies are featured widely in Haitian rural folklore as dead persons physically revived by the act of necromancer of a bokor, a sorcerer or witch. The bokor is opposed by the houngan or priest and the mambo or priestess of the formal voodoo religion . A zombie remains under the control of the bokor as a personal slave, having no will of its own.
The Haitian tradition also includes an incorporeal type of zombie, the "zombie astral", which is a part of the human soul. A bokor can capture a zombie astral to enhance his spiritual power. A zombie astral can also be sealed inside a specially decorated bottle by a bokor and sold to a client to bring luck, healing or business success. It is believed that God eventually will reclaim the zombie's soul, so the zombie is a temporary spiritual entity.
The two types of zombie reflect soul dualism , a belief of Haitian voodoo. Each type of legendary zombie is therefore missing one half of its soul (the flesh or the spirit)
The zombie belief has its roots in traditions brought to Haiti by enslaved Africans, and their subsequent experiences in the New World. It was thought that the voodoo deity Baron Samedi would gather them from their grave to bring them to a heavenly afterlife in Africa ("Guinea"), unless they had offended him in some way, in which case they would be forever a slave after death, as a zombie. A zombie could also be saved by feeding them salt. A number of scholars have pointed out the significance of the zombie figure as a metaphor for the history of slavery in Haiti.
While most scholars have associated the Haitian zombie with African cultures, a connection has also been suggested to the island's indigenous Taíno people, partly based on an early account of native shamanist practices written by the Hieronymite monk Ramón Pané, a companion of Christopher Columbus
The Haitian zombie phenomenon first attracted widespread international attention during the United States occupation of Haiti (1915–1934), when a number of cases histories of purported "zombies" began to emerge. The first popular book covering the topics was William Seabrook The Magic Island (1929). Seabrooke cited Article 246 of the Haitian criminal code which was passed in 1864, asserting that it was an official recognition of zombies. This passage was later used in promotional materials for the 1932 film White Zombie.
Also shall be qualified as attempted murder the employment which may be made by any person of substances which, without causing actual death, produce a lethargic coma more or less prolonged. If, after the administering of such substances, the person has been buried, the act shall be considered murder no matter what result follows.