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 [En attente de traduction] zombie A dead person brought back to life by a magician,

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Date d'inscription : 14/04/2010

MessageSujet: [En attente de traduction] zombie A dead person brought back to life by a magician,   Dim 18 Avr - 11:22

zombie A dead person brought back to life by a magician,
but not to the life the person previously knew.
Believed dead by all who knew him, and by himself as
well, the zombie becomes more like a robot than a human
being, staring ahead and blindly following the magicianleader,
doing his every bidding.
The word zombie probably comes from the African
Congo word nzambi, which means “the spirit of a dead
person.” Yet a truly dead person—one who has lost bodily
functions, whose cells have decayed—cannot be returned
to life. To unlock the mystery of zombies Harvard ethnobotanist
Wade Davis went to Haiti in 1982. Davis reasoned
that the zombie (“zombi,” as he preferred to spell
it) was a person buried alive, who only seemed dead. Such
a person had to be drugged to appear dead, exhibiting no
life at all, but could come out of his trance and resume living.
He talked to two people who claimed to be zombies:
a man named Clairvius Narcisse and a woman known as
Ti Femme. They told how they died, how they witnessed
their burials and how the bokor, or black-magic Vodun
houngan (priest) lifted them from the grave.
After months of study and conversations with various
hougans, Davis confirmed his suspicions. The “zombies”
were created by the administration of a powerful poison
to an open wound or into the victim’s food, guaranteeing
its entrance into the bloodstream. The poison contains
various pharmacologically active plants and animals and
usually ground human remains, but the most important
ingredient is the puffer fish, which contains tetrodotoxin.
These fish, of the species Sphoeroides testudineus and Diodon
hystrix, are so poisonous that a tiny drop of tetrodotoxin
is fatal. Most importantly, tetrodotoxin exhibits
two very strange characteristics: the body becomes completely
paralyzed, the eyes glazing over and becoming
completely unresponsive, mimicking death; and one can
recover from a highly controlled dose without any aftereffects.
Even trained doctors cannot tell if the victim has
truly died from the poison.
The ingredients of zombie poison as determined by
Davis are as follows:
First a bouga toad (Bufo marinus) and a sea snake are
buried in a jar until they “die from rage,” say the Vodun
preparers; or in other words, the toad secretes venom from
its glands in its desperate state. Then ground millipeds
and tarantulas are mixed with plant products: tcha-tcha
seeds, or Albizzia lebbeck, which causes pulmonary swelling;
consigne seeds, from a tree in the mohagany family
with no known poisonous attributes; leaves from pomme
cajou, or the cashew nut (Anacardium occidentale); and
bresillet leaves (Comocladia glabra). The last two plants
are in the poison ivy family and cause severe dermatitis.
All of these plant and animal products are ground into a
powder, placed in a jar and buried for two days.
Next the preparer adds tremblador and desmembre,
plants that Davis was unable to identify botanically. At
the third stage, the preparer adds four more plants that
produce severe topical irritations. The itching from these
plants could cause the sufferer to break the skin while
scratching, making it easier for the applied “zombie powder”
to enter the bloodstream. To work, the poison must
enter through an open wound or be ingested into the
stomach. These plants are maman guepes (Urera baccifera)
and mashasha (Dalechampia scandens), both members of
the stinging nettle family. The hollow hairs on the plants’
surface act like syringes, injecting a chemical similar to
formic acid (the compound responsible for ant-bite stings)
into the skin.
Also included is Dieffenbachia seguine, known as “dumbcane,”
which contains oxalate needles that act like ground
glass. During the nineteenth century, masters forced slaves
to eat Dieffenbachia leaves, which irritated the larynx,
making breathing difficult and speaking impossible, hence
the appellation “dumb.” The fourth plant is bwa pine (Zanthoxylum
matinicense), used for its sharp spines.
The animals added at this point complete the poisonous
picture. Skins of the white tree-frog (Osteopilus
dominicencis) are ground with two species of tarantulas,
then added to another bouga toad and four species of the
deadly puffer fish: Sphoeroides testudineus, Sphoeroides
spengleri, Diodon hystrix and Diodon holacanthus. For dramatic
effect, the powder can be mixed with ground human
remains, preferably a skull.
Once the bokor raises the zombie from his tomb, the
victim is force-fed a concoction of cane sugar, sweet potato
and Datura stramonium, or “zombie’s cucumber,” which
causes hallucinations and disorientation. The bokor announces
the zombie’s new name and new “life,” and com-
404 zombie
pletely confused, the zombie follows the bokor wherever
he leads him. Tribal Africans believe that slothful persons
in life risk being made zombies after death, condemned to
work for the bokor into eternity.
Traditionally, zombies work the fields, although some
believe they are responsible for other work performed at
night, like baking bread. A few zombies reportedly have
served as bookkeepers, and even shopclerks. Becoming
a zombie was a slave’s worst nightmare, since death provided
no release from unremitting labor. Zombies require
little food, but care must be taken not to give them Salt.
Considered a magical, purifying substance since medieval
times, salt can give the zombie back his powers of speech
and taste, releasing a homing instinct that calls the zombie
back to his grave. Once there, he burrows deep into
the ground, away from the bokor’s influence, and resumes
his eternal rest.
There is no antidote to “zombie poison,” since too many
of its components have no recourse. But the Vodun preparers
make what they call an antidote, made of various
leaves from plants with no pharmacological properties,
the liquor clairin, ammonia and lemon juice. Other possible
ingredients include mothballs, seawater, perfume,
rock salt and a mysterious liquid available from Vodun
apothecaries known as magic noire, or “black magic.”
Although making a zombie requires detailed knowledge
of the poisons—and cannot work without tetrodotoxin’s
peculiar properties—the entire process requires
belief in magic and the faith that zombies are real. In Vodun,
zombies are made by sorcerers, who have captured
the soul—the ti bon ange (“little good angel”) of the deceased.
When a person dies, the Vodunist believes the ti
bon ange hovers about the cadaver for seven days, during
which time the soul is most vulnerable to sorcery. If the
bokor captures it, he can make not only a zombie of the
flesh, as described above, but a “zombie astral”: a ghost or
spirit who wanders at the command of the bokor.
Through sorcery, the bokor controls those who were
alive either in the body or the spirit. To guard against
such a fate, relatives of the deceased “kill” the body again,
stabbing a knife through the heart or decapitating it. Others
place a dagger in the deceased’s coffin to stab the bokor
or sew up the deceased’s mouth so he cannot answer
the bokor when he calls. Another trick is to place seeds in
the coffin, which the bokor must count before taking the
body. Such a tedious task can take too long, and dawn
could break before the bokor can remove the body. And
no black magic is performed during daylight.
Davis, who wrote The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985),
also found that zombification was no random act of evil
or criminality but a means of capital punishment. Dating
back to the secret Maroon societies—groups of escaped
slaves hiding in the mountains of Saint-Domingue—and
beyond to the secret tribal societies of Africa, blacks
have always established their own judicial tribunals for
keeping their communities under control. By means of
poisons, magic and extreme secrecy, these organizations
surrounded their neighbors with a cloak of fear, administering
swift retribution to any who broke the codes. In the
days of slavery, blacks used poisons to fight back against
their white masters. Poisons worked well, too, against any
black who betrayed his brother or sister slaves. Stories of
people who banded together to eat human flesh, to dance
in cemeteries and raise the dead inspired enough dread to
cause any lawbreaker to think twice.
Further reading:
Davis, Wade. The Serpent and the Rainbow. New York: Simon
& Schuster, 1985.
Hill, Douglas, and Pat Williams. The Supernatural. London:
Aldus Books, 1965.
Rigaud, Milo. Secrets of Voodoo. San Francisco: City Lights
Books, 1985.
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[En attente de traduction] zombie A dead person brought back to life by a magician,
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