The Origin Of Zombies Is More Horrific Than You Think

A zombie in a sugar cane field/Jean Lafargue/Wikimedia/Free Art License 1.3

January 16, 2018

For years, the zombie trope has entranced audiences. Shows and movies like The Walking Dead, Zombieland and 28 Days Later put a fantasy spin on zombies that has attracted viewers of all races.

However, Zombies are actually originally part of Haitian folklore. In the 17th and 18th centuries, when Haiti was called Saint Domingue and ruled by France, enslaved Haitians were literally worked to death.

Enslaved Haitians believed when they died, they were released to lan guinée – Guinea ­– in the afterlife to forever roam free.

Many committed suicide, presumably, to have freedom in the afterlife, but there was a caveat to this belief. If an enslaved Haitian took their own life, they wouldn’t go back to lan guinée. Instead, they were condemned to roam the Hispaniola plantations for eternity.

The zombie was born out of this belief and thought to be a manifestation of enslaved Haitians’ relentless misery. After the Haitian Revolution, the newly freed Haitians feared slavery would be reinstated, and the zombie came to represent the agony of enslaved Haitians.

The zombie evolved and made its way into Vodou religion. Shamans and Vodou priests were said to have the power to reanimate corpses.

Pop culture has romanticized zombies, portraying them as a carnal escape from the mundaneness of life. While audiences escape to a world where survival can be played like a game, the zombie trope is actually a reminder of dehumanization and shackled existence.

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