<%BANNER%>

DLOC




PAGE 1

1 A Brief Overview of the Origins and Practice of Zonbi in Vodou Megan Raitano University of Florida Despite Hollywoods perpetuation of zombies, or zonbi in Haitian Creole, as horde s of recently deceased flesh eaters swarming together to knock down buildings and hunt the living this concept has no basis in reality. Instead, many Vodouists live in fear of being turned into a soul less shell of their former selves. Even within Haiti and the Haitian Vodo u culture, beliefs on what zombies do, how they a re made, and what happens to people who use them vary. The goal of this paper is to explore the origins of the zombie discuss what a zombie is and why they exist, examin e the relationship between zombies and the secret societies of Haiti, and hypothesize on why the zonbi story resonates so strongly with Haitians. Nzambi in Kikongo, a language spoken in Central Africa, is related to the Haitian word zonbi (Hebblethwaite 2012: 303). According to Hebblethwaite (2012: 303) in Kikongo mythology, Nzambi is a detached s upreme being who was angered by the acts of the first man he created A s a result, he buried him and raised another human in his place. The relationship between the Kikongo and Haitian terms indicates that the zonbi traditions originated in Central Africa. Central Africa melded with the Petro rite in the Haitian Vodou construct. Anthony Pinn (1998: 24) suggests that in general, Petw o lwa or spirits, are more aggressive than their West African counterpart the Rada lwa and the Petwo rite is focused more on hot magic. Central African traditions are known to include more charms, spells, and sorcery than those from West Africa (Fandrich 2005: 41). Central African tradition, specifically from Kongo, uses a container calle d nkisi that holds a spirit an d allows humans to use it (McAl ister 1995: 310). They are used to fulfill the desires of the maker, called ngangankisi (McA lister 1995: 311). Nkisi is comparable to one of the two types of zonbi used in Haiti. This type of zo nbi is essentially a spirit in a bottle. It is called a zonbi astral. Zonbi astral are the spirits of people who have died at the hand of someone other than God and are then captured and used to do magical works and heat up (McA lister 1995: 314). These z ombies are chosen by their occupation to achieve the wants of the person using them (Smith 2010: 147148). Smith (2010: 149) writes about witnessing a prostitute having a zonbi astral placed in her vagina to make more money. The woman bathes herself in the ounf ( temple ) to admi ni ster the spirit into her body. In Haiti, priests called bk deal in both hot and cool magic that they sell to clients for both good and bad deeds (Hebblethwaite 2012: 220). These are the priests that one goes to for a zonbi McAl ister (1995: 305) was given a zonbi astal by a bk in Haiti that she describes as an expert in supernatural matters. Hebblethwaite (2012: 220) notes that bk are often criticized for their work. McAlister (1995: 320) explains that because bk work outside of the morality of the ancestors, they are subject to repercussions for their actions and sometimes that means death. The second type of zonbi is a zonbi kadav This is the type of zonbi that has been modified and made in famous by Hollywood. It i s considered to be magic and outside of the realm of Vodou (Smith 2010: 152). These z ombies are bodies without souls. In Wade Daviss book The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985) he describes going to a cemetery with a bk to take a body that has received the zonbi poison. Daviss research indicates that a combination of toxins is used topically to paralyze the victim into a state of near death that is indiscernible from actual death. During this state of paralysis, the victim is declared dead although they are purportedly still fully conscious. After their burial, they are retrieved from the grave by the bk and given another dose of the poison. Many scientific critiques have been written in response to Daviss

PAGE 2

2 work. Most fail to account for the psychological components of this zonbi treatment. In Haiti, zombification is highly stigmatized and people will refuse to become involved once a family member or friend has turned into a zombie for fear of the bk. Davi s, McAlister, Smith, and Brown all reference secret societies in Haiti in their discussions of zonbi and Vodou. The biggest secret society in Haiti, Bizango is thought to descend from the secret societies that originated in Benin (Hebblethwaite 2012: 219) The societies are rooted in Haitian folklore and are associated with zombies. They usually meet at night and because of the stories about the dastardly things they do to people that cross them, many Haitians do not go out at night for fear of running int o the Bizango, or their subgroup the Sanpwl (Hebblethwaite 2012: 288). McAlister (1995: 320) reports that the bk Saint Jean died from seeking a fast acting Bizango spirit instead of waiting for a Ginen spirit. Smith (2010: 138) calls the priest she interacts with oungan, but she describes his work as dwelling in both hot and cold magic and she uses both bk and oungan to refer to him. In addition, she describes his ounf (temple) as having Bizango baroque styled designs (Smith 2010: 142). Accordi ng to Hebblethwaite (2012: 219) secret societies stand to protect Vodou, but this information indicates that the protectors of Vodou use powers outside of the realm of general Vodou practice to do so. McAlister (1995: 314) asserts that z ombies are a metap hor for slavery to Haitians. She suggests that this explains the prevalence of beliefs about zonbi to Haitians since the lasting effects of slavery are present. With the zonbi kadav one risks having a zonbi regain consciousness and then revolting (McAlister 1995: 314). This illustrates the dual concerns of people who own zombies and people who are scared to become one. Smith (2010: 129) refers to zombies as a virtual working class of pure, abstract labor p ower since they are helpless to obeying their master. As evidenced here, there is much more to zonbi in Haiti than meets the stereotypes. Although this paper is only able to touch briefly of a general overview of the origins and practice of zonbi making it has been shown that there is still much to be learned.

PAGE 3

3 Bibliography Brown, Karen McCarthy. 1991. Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn. Berkeley: University of California Press. Davis, Wade, 1985. The Serpent and the Rainbow: A Harvard Scientists Astonishing Journey into the Secret Societies of Haitian Voodoo, Zombies, and Magic New York: Touchstone. Fandrich, Ina Johanna. 2005. The Mysterious Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveaux: A Study of Powerful Female Leadership in NineteenthCentury New Orleans New York: Routledge. Hebblethwaite, Benjamin. 2012. Vodou Songs in Haitian Creole and English. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. McAlister, Elizabeth. 1995. A Sorcerer's Bottle: The Visual Art of M agic in Haiti. In The Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou, edited by Donald J. Cosentino, 30521. Los Angeles: UCLA Fo wler Museum of Cultural History. Pinn, Anthony B. 1998. Varieties of African American Religious Experience Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Smith, Katherine Marie. 2010. Gede Risin g: Haiti in the Age of Vagabondaj. PhD diss., University of California Los Angeles.


PRIVATE ITEM
Digitization of this item is currently in progress.
A Brief Overview of the Origins and Practice of Zonbi in Vodou, Megan Raitano
ALL VOLUMES CITATION THUMBNAILS PDF VIEWER PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00001362/00025
 Material Information
Title: A Brief Overview of the Origins and Practice of Zonbi in Vodou, Megan Raitano
Series Title: HAI3930, ANT3930, LAS3930, REL3938
Physical Description: Course Material
Creator: Raitano, Megan
Publisher: Hebblethwaite, Benjamin
Raitano, Megan
Felima, Crystal
Place of Publication: University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
 Subjects
Subjects / Keywords: Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
 Notes
Acquisition: Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Megan Raitano.
Publication Status: Unpublished
General Note: This is a collection of student essays from the Haitian Vodou class offered at the Universtiy of Florida. These essays are the results of a combination of in class material and independent research on individually chosen topics. The writing styles, citation styles, and views expressed in the essays are established by the students and do not necessarily reflect those of the professor or the Archive.
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the submitter.
System ID: IR00001362:00025

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:

( PDF )


Full Text





A Brief Overview of the Origins and Practice of Zonbi in Vodou
Megan Raitano, University of Florida

Despite Hollywood's perpetuation of zombies, or zonbi in Haitian Creole, as hordes of
recently-deceased flesh eaters swarming together to knock down buildings and hunt the living,
this concept has no basis in reality. Instead, many Vodouists live in fear of being turned into a
soul-less shell of their former selves. Even within Haiti and the Haitian Vodou culture, beliefs on
what zombies do, how they are made, and what happens to people who use them vary. The goal
of this paper is to explore the origins of the zombie, discuss what a zombie is and why they exist,
examine the relationship between zombies and the secret societies of Haiti, and hypothesize on
why the zonbi story resonates so strongly with Haitians.
Nzambi in Kikongo, a language spoken in Central Africa, is related to the Haitian word
zonbi (Hebblethwaite 2012: 303). According to Hebblethwaite (2012: 303) in Kikongo
mythology, Nzambi is a detached supreme being who was angered by the acts of the first man he
created. As a result, he buried him and raised another human in his place. The relationship
between the Kikongo and Haitian terms indicates that the zonbi traditions originated in Central
Africa. Central Africa melded with the Petro rite in the Haitian Vodou construct. Anthony Pinn
(1998: 24) suggests that in general, Petwo lwa, or spirits, are more aggressive than their West
African counterpart, the Rada lwa, and the Petwo rite is focused more on "hot magic." Central
African traditions are known to include more charms, spells, and sorcery than those from West
Africa (Fandrich 2005: 41).
Central African tradition, specifically from Kongo, uses a container called nkisi that holds
a spirit and allows humans to use it (McAlister 1995: 310). They are used to fulfill the desires of
the maker, called nganga-nkisi (McAlister 1995: 311). Nkisi is comparable to one of the two
types of zonbi used in Haiti. This type of zonbi is essentially a spirit in a bottle. It is called a
zonbi astral. Zonbi astral are the spirits of people who have died at the hand of someone other
than God and are then captured and used to do magical works and "heat up" (McAlister 1995:
314). These zombies are chosen by their occupation to achieve the wants of the person using
them (Smith 2010: 147-148). Smith (2010: 149) writes about witnessing a prostitute having a
zonbi astral placed in her vagina to make more money. The woman bathes herself in the ounf6
(temple) to administer the spirit into her body.
In Haiti, priests called b6dk deal in both "hot" and "cool" magic that they sell to clients
for both good and bad deeds (Hebblethwaite 2012: 220). These are the priests that one goes to
for a zonbi. McAlister (1995: 305) was given a zonbi astal by a b6dk in Haiti that she describes
as an "expert in supernatural matters." Hebblethwaite (2012: 220) notes that b6dk are often
criticized for their work. McAlister (1995: 320) explains that because b6dk work outside of the
morality of the ancestors, they are subject to repercussions for their actions and sometimes that
means death.
The second type of zonbi is a zonbi kadav. This is the type of zonbi that has been
modified and made infamous by Hollywood. It is considered to be magic and outside of the
realm of Vodou (Smith 2010: 152). These zombies are bodies without souls. In Wade Davis's
book The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985) he describes going to a cemetery with a b6dk to take a
body that has received the zonbi poison. Davis's research indicates that a combination of toxins
is used topically to paralyze the victim into a state of near-death that is indiscernible from actual
death. During this state of paralysis, the victim is declared dead although they are purportedly
still fully conscious. After their burial, they are retrieved from the grave by the b6dk and given
another dose of the poison. Many scientific critiques have been written in response to Davis's









work. Most fail to account for the psychological components of this zonbi treatment. In Haiti,
zombification is highly stigmatized and people will refuse to become involved once a family
member or friend has turned into a zombie for fear of the bMkd.
Davis, McAlister, Smith, and Brown all reference secret societies in Haiti in their
discussions of zonbi and Vodou. The biggest secret society in Haiti, Bizango, is thought to
descend from the secret societies that originated in Benin (Hebblethwaite 2012: 219). The
societies are rooted in Haitian folklore and are associated with zombies. They usually meet at
night and because of the stories about the dastardly things they do to people that cross them,
many Haitians do not go out at night for fear of running into the Bizango, or their sub-group the
Sanpwel (Hebblethwaite 2012: 288). McAlister (1995: 320) reports that the bdkM Saint Jean died
from seeking a fast-acting Bizango spirit instead of waiting for a Ginen spirit. Smith (2010: 138)
calls the priest she interacts with oungan, but she describes his work as dwelling in both "hot"
and "cold" magic and she uses both bdkM and oungan to refer to him. In addition, she describes
his ounf6 (temple) as having "Bizango baroque" styled designs (Smith 2010: 142). According to
Hebblethwaite (2012: 219) secret societies stand to protect Vodou, but this information indicates
that the protectors of Vodou use powers outside of the realm of general Vodou practice to do so.
McAlister (1995: 314) asserts that zombies are a metaphor for slavery to Haitians. She
suggests that this explains the prevalence of beliefs about zonbi to Haitians since the "lasting
effects of slavery" are present. With the zonbi kadav, one risks having a zonbi regain
consciousness and then revolting (McAlister 1995: 314). This illustrates the dual concerns of
people who own zombies and people who are scared to become one. Smith (2010: 129) refers to
zombies as a "virtual working class-of pure, abstract labor power" since they are helpless to
obeying their master.
As evidenced here, there is much more to zonbi in Haiti than meets the stereotypes.
Although this paper is only able to touch briefly of a general overview of the origins and practice
of zonbi making, it has been shown that there is still much to be learned.









Bibliography


Brown, Karen McCarthy. 1991. Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn. Berkeley:
University of California Press.

Davis, Wade, 1985. The Serpent and the Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist's Astonishing Journey
into the Secret Societies ofHaitian Voodoo, Zombies, and Magic. New York:
Touchstone.

Fandrich, Ina Johanna. 2005. The Mysterious Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveaux: A Study of
Powerful Female Leadership in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans. New York: Routledge.

Hebblethwaite, Benjamin. 2012. Vodou Songs in Haitian Creole and English. Philadelphia:
Temple University Press.

McAlister, Elizabeth. 1995. "A Sorcerer's Bottle: The Visual Art of Magic in Haiti." In The
SacredArts ofHaitian Vodou, edited by Donald J. Cosentino, 305-21. Los Angeles:
UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History.

Pinn, Anthony B. 1998. Varieties of African American Religious Experience. Minneapolis:
Fortress Press.

Smith, Katherine Marie. 2010. "Gede Rising: Haiti in the Age of Vagabondaj." PhD diss.,
University of California Los Angeles.