Vampires have been popular figures in horror since Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897. The root of werewolf folklore can be traced all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Zombies, in their current form, however, have only shuffled their stiff-legged corpses onto the silver screen in the last few decades. Where did the zombie myth come from and why are they now so popular?
The term itself, zombie, actually goes back many centuries before Hollywood appropriated it for horror films. The root of the word comes from the language ofKikongo spoken by the Bakongo and Bandundu people living in the African Congo. Linguists think the expression comes from the related term nzambi which means “god.” The religion in this region of the world was Vodun.When captured and forced into slavery in the New World, West Africans brought their religion with them. There it was mixed with other African traditions and Christianity. The result was the folk religion of Vodou(sometimes spelled Voodoo). Vodou eventually became a major faith on the island of Hispaniola and in the two countries that share that land, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
In Vodou a zombie is a person who has died and then been raised from the dead by bokor (a Vodou priest). The zombie’s soul is removed and he is rendered into an almost robotic state following the orders of his bokor without question or self-awareness. Often the bokor will put the zombie to work as a form of free labor.
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