The Story Of Zombi In Haiti

| Friday, August 27, 2010 | |
The Story Of Zombi In Haiti Cover The island of Haiti located in the Caribbean Sea attracts tourists for many reasons. Perhaps the beliefs and cultural institutions of the Haitian people are of greater interest to visitors than the charm of the physical aspects of the country. Tourists believe that they will be able to see Zombis roaming through the villages and watch the people perform superhuman feats during what are called the vodu dances.

Haiti has often been called the vodu or mysterious island. Many people believe that there are to' be found some unusual facts which modern science has not yet been able to explain: -for example, the phenomenon of magic and the existence of Zombis.

In Dahomey, West Africa, the word vodu refers to both the worshipping of the spirits and the, spirits themselves. In Haiti, the term vodu has the same meaning. In worshipping the vodus the Haitian peasants pay their tribute to those supernatural beings who are the source of good and bad, life and death, disease and health. Those spirits live in the woods,. lakes, rivers, and every corner of the earth. They are the intermediaries between God and his creatures. God is too far away to take care of us ; he has therefore conferred power upon those spirits to guide us, to give us the spiritual assistance which we want in our every-day life.

Very often it is through the phenomenon -of possession that a spirit manifests itself to the devotees during the ceremonies held in the cult-house. Every peasant has a cult-house or an altar in his own home. The ceremonies are performed according to the religious needs of each follower. He consults a priest or houngan, paying a certain amount of money to the latter. The group is then gathered and the appropriate service takes place.

It is a very serious matter for the Haitian peasant, who sometimes spends more money in the worship of his gods than he does for the necessities of life.

The peasant himself distinguishes between vodu and Zombi. The term Zombi means different things (1) when a person who has never been possessed 12y a spirit, a vodu, dies, his soul cannot go to heaven; it wanders on the earth ; Heaven is not opened to this kind of soul; (2) when a farmer is successful in his business, that means he is thought to have many Zombis working for him.

As a government medical officer and psychiatrist, I have had occasion to handle many patients who, for some reason, were considered to be mysterious human beings.

The theory on which the belief in Zombis is based is that some Haitian medicine-men (Nganga) have the power to bring dead and buried people back to life again. These resurrected human beings are the Zombis, the living dead. It is also believed that during the night some people have the power to fly through the air with a big red flame under their arms: these are the werewolves. In the vodu dances, the Haitian peasants become furious and are supposed to be possessed of spirits. When one falls into this state, the medicine-man is said to be able to predict the incidence of catastrophe, birth, or death ; to tell how a person can win immense fortunes; to describe what happens in his home when a man is away from his family, and many other things which a person may always have been eager to know. The medicine-man is also supposed to have power over fate and to avert any ill fortune that the future holds in store for a victim.

Let me examine the assumption on which the belief is based.

In the remote areas of the country, the belief is prevalent that some rich peasants are fortunate in their undertakings because they are helped by mysterious beings who work on their farms; who go and steal money for them; who travel at a fantastic speed faster than automobiles, and who fly through the air as planes do. These are supposed to be former dead men and women who were brought back to life through the application of some potent drugs (Wanga).

The Zombis are supposed to eat no salt. If they do, they become conscious of the state of their abnormal existence and are therefore likely to desert their masters. Originally these beliefs came from Africa.

I have never met anyone in Haiti who was able to testify to me that he had seen a Zombi. However, I used to hear occasionally that a Zombi was living in a village. In two instances, I discovered afterwards that the hapless persons who were thought to be Zombis were, in fact, insane wanderers who could not identify themselves nor give any information with regard to their past life or their present condition.

The unusual circumstances under which they appeared in the village, their queer behavior and their unintelligible manner of speech, induced the people, whose minds were already conditioned to superstition, to believe that Zombis were in town.

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William Phelon - Our Story Of Atlantis
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Don Karr - The Study Of Solomonic Magic In English