200th Blog Post... "Dead Come Back to Life: Part One"

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It's been a year since the creation of The Modernist Son, come August 9, 2021. What that in mind, today's post will also be the 200th blog post here at the website. Prior to the one year anniversary, my team decided to take a break from producing content. Well, I guess it's an appropriate time to return with some creepy tales.

Part of the reason I wasn't writing was because my birthday was July 27, and I needed a few days to rest and relax. Much like my friend Hollis Porter says, you can't write without experience.

In today's blog post, we will be diving into a new series called "Dead Come Back to Life". More specifically, we will discuss the concept of the "living dead" in popular culture, as well as folk culture around that world.

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What are Zombies?

Let's take a look at Halloween 2007: I was in grade six and dressed as a zombie for the Halloween party at school, as well as trick or treating later that day.

When it comes to the Halloween experience, this provides kids (and even adults) the opportunity to cosplay as their favourite supernatural creatures, superheroes, or even create their own characters. Of course, dressing up for Halloween is not limited to those options.

©Make-up Effects Group

Although the version of a "zombie" most people will recognize comes from popular culture, this is not where the story begins. Following the film Night of the Living Dead (1968) from George A. Romero, what horror fans recognize as "zombies" are largely based on Romero's work.

Interestingly, the term "zombie" is not used to when referring to the army of the undead. Instead, characters in Romero's film often refer to the undead as "ghouls". Despite the issue of reanimated corpses, the term "Ghoul" draws from Arabic folklore as the term is used to describe demonic entities.

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The concept of being zombified, however, comes from Haitian folklore. In terms of defining what a zombie is, this refers to mythological undead vessels created through the corpse being reanimated.

With respect to popular culture, the reanimation of the dead often comes through some bizarre pathogen which turns victims into the living dead. By the 1800s, the concept of reanimation was thought to be the result of voodoo or other forms of black magic.

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Despite the controversies during his life time, poet Robert Southey first used the term "Zombi" in 1819. Southey wrote of the history of Brazil and used the term "Zombi" to refer to reanimated corpses. During the 1800s, people living in Haiti and other parts of Latin America had become obsessed with the occult.

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Following the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), the former slaves of Saint Domingo had successfully brought an end to slavery on the island. Furthermore, the nation has been called "Haiti" ever since.

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So, why did people believe in the concept of the dead coming back to life? Well, the island of Saint Domingo was run by plantation owners for over 100 years until the Haitian Revolution.


©Elder Scrolls Online

Unfortunately, there was no escape for some people living on the island- at least until 1791. As a means of preventing slaves from taking their own lives, plantation owners convinced slaves they would return as the "living dead" for committing such acts. Something to consider is slaves living in Saint Domingo were in a difficult position: they lacked power until 1791, as well as educational opportunity. Thus, it was easy to believe the claims plantation owners made about returning as a reanimated corpse.

©The Walking Dead

In terms of Haitian folklore, the concept of being zombified is heavily featured in rural parts of the island. More specifically, the dead are physically revived through necromancy. These vessels revived through necromancy have no will of their own, and are controlled by the "bokor" or wizard. Another form of necromancy refers to the concept of a "Zombi astral", in which the bokor takes part of the zombi's soul to enhance their own power.

In part two, we will focus more on zombies in popular culture...

Thank you, and don't forget to let us know your thoughts!


The Modernist Son, 2020-2021.

Further Reading:

Macek III, J. C. (June 15, 2012). "The Zombie Family Tree: Legacy of the Living Dead" in PopMatters

Deborah Christie, Sarah Juliet Lauro, Ed. (2011) Better Off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human. Fordham University Press.



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