Bloodthirsty fictional zombies have become very popular in recent times, inhabiting everything from books, to TV shows, to movies, delighting and scaring many horror aficionados.
Yet many people may not realize that in some cultures, zombies are considered to be very real. In these societies, zombies are not the stuff of imagination or fiction, but rather real flesh and blood creations that shamble through the shadows and our nightmares.
However, how much truth is there behind these traditions of actual real-life zombies? Do real zombies actually exist somewhere out there in the dark corners of the world?
To find answers to this question, perhaps a good place to look is the island nation of Haiti, located in the Caribbean Sea on half of the island of Hispaniola, which has a long tradition of real zombies, also spelled as zombi.
The zombies of Haiti were said to be corpses that were reanimated through black magic by powerful voodoo priests or shamans, known as bokor, for various purposes but most commonly for manual labor. It was said that zombies were routinely employed to do slave labor on farms and sugarcane plantations.
In the voodoo religion, which is said to be practiced or believed by 80 to 90 percent of Haitians, it is said that there are two ways a person can die, either by natural means such as sickness, or by unnatural means such as murder. Those who died unnatural deaths were said to have souls that were particularly vulnerable to the witchcraft of voodoo sorcerers, who would entrap the souls in bottles or earthenware jars called zombi astral and use them to control the undead body, which was referred to as the zombi cadavre.
The bokor could use these reanimated corpses to do their bidding, either for benevolent purposes or for more nefarious things such as toiling mindlessly in slave labor, attacking enemies, or carrying out dark magic and curses. Sometimes a person was turned into a zombie merely as punishment or as retribution for crossing a bokor. On occasion, bokors would sell their zombie creations to other priests.
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