Dancing with Zombies 

 

The popularity of movies like Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Resident Evil shows how very interested in zombies the public has grown.  Each one that comes out seems to acquire a cult following no matter how good or bad the acting or effects are done.

What we see on the movies is hardly the real story about zombies.  No armies of the moldy dead dragging lame legs down some dusty path toward your window.  Not the stuff of horror movies at all.  They are, however, the stuff of real life horror.  

Whether it’s the West Indian term jumbie, for ghost; or nzambi, which is Kongo for “dead person’s spirit”, it’s clear that the meaning is one that involves the dead.  

Zombies are reanimated corpses, without the ability to speak or make decisions or judgments.  It is believed they have been used by a Sorcerer as an army of darkness.  Many in the practice of Vodou claim to be able to raise zombies, but other than stories from the shadows and stories to keep kids in their beds, not too much is actually know n factually about zombies.  

Some believe the raising of dead tissue and muscle to be one of magic and superstition.  The other school of thought considers the theory that an old recipe or formula has survived down through the generations…a formula with the result of reanimating tissue that has already started the decaying process.  Whichever one might believe, the fact that we believe it’s “possible” is what boggles the mind.  Another theory is that the victim’s beliefs and convictions push him/herself to near-catatonia, following all direction without question.  (consider the “hypnotists” who put on shows and have people bark like dogs) 

Still others believe that a zombie is made before the body fully dies, the blood stream still moving, albeit slow.  It’s thought that between a powder potion formula and a particular chemical change, the body is brought back from the brink to use for whatever nefarious errands a sorcerer may have in mind.

 

From the Epic of Gilgamesh – 

Father give me the Bull of Heaven,
So he can kill Gilgamesh in his dwelling.
If you do not give me the Bull of Heaven,
I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,
I will smash the doorposts, and leave the doors flat down,
and will let the dead go up to eat the living!
And the dead will outnumber the living!

 

This passage shows the common belief of the middle ages that “revenants” walked the earth in the form of skeletons.  Warriors returned to avenge theirs or their kings’ deaths. The concept of zombification is world wide and culture-common.  Nearly all cultures have dark myths and folklore and most include the walking dead.  

Not too long ago George A. Romero brought zombies back to the mainstream attention with the Dead Series (night, dawn, day, land, diary)  Zombies have become one of the biggest box  office breakers in Hollywood.  Films like 28 Days Later and Resident Evil continue the zombie theme but with the twist of epidemics and viruses as a premise for the zombie-like habits of eating flesh and tearing humans apart. 

Ultimately, the idea of zombies leaves us feeling like we need to suspend our disbelief, because of so many occasions through history where zombies rise from their dead state.  Like all myth or folklore, somewhere it has some grain of a mote of truth.  Like it or not, zombies are a part of our history, creepy as that thought may be.

 

 © 2008  J Thompson


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