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What is a Zombi?

Updated on December 26, 2016

Zombi or Zombie is a a term, originally from West Africa, with several meanings. In Dahomey and the Congo zumbi or zombi means "god" or "fetish"; in Haiti and Louisiana the related deity is a python or other snake. A "conjure man" of the Haitian voodoo cult is said to have the power to steal a living man's soul, or to reanimate a corpse; the resulting monster is called a zombi. Emptied of the soul, the carcass may be sold for food; the walking corpse, dead in features and mechanical in action, may be hired out as a drudge. Stabbing the newly dead is a preventive, and feeding salt to the zombi a cure or quietus to the corpse; the former is an obvious precaution like spiking the heart of a Balkan vampire, and the latter may reflect the place of salt in Christian burial and baptismal services. Though the separable soul is also a European or even universal concept, the details of zombi magic are clearly American importations from Africa. American slang has seized the vivid notion of the walking dead and uses the term to mean either a disagreeable and unwanted human being whom the "ingroup" wishes to ostracize, or a powerful rum drink which threatens to
paralyze one's vital spirits.


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