Voodoo mysteries: The making of a zombie
Posted by mandyf on April 21, 2012
Zombies have been walking the earth as the undead for longer than anyone may ever know. Some people that have been classified as zombies in centuries past were actually the victims of physical or mental illness that couldn’t at that time be explained. In other cases however zombies were made. Actually zombies are still made today in certain regions of the world for a variety of reasons. The questions are why are they made, who makes them, and more specifically how are zombies made.
The easiest place to start with is why zombies are made. It is generally accepted that zombies are made as a means for a person to trap the soul of their enemy. With their soul trapped, the person “holding” it can then mentally control the zombie and and will them to do their bidding. In some cases it is a means of religious ritual as was, and to some degree, still is present in Haiti. Sometimes zombies are made as a means of revenge, or as a means to silence critics. Powerful politicians had long been known to keep a Voodoo Priest/Priestess on the payroll for such purposes. The reasons are as diverse as the parties involved, but the result is always the same. Even though it has been illegal to make zombies in Haiti since 1835, the practice still goes on.
Making is a zombie is no easy task. Most commonly zombies are made by using a highly toxic powder which is applied to skin of the intended victim. The face is generally considered the best point of entry as it can be breathed in, absorbed through the gums, and especially the eyes where it not only rapidly enters the system, but also causes vision impairment. Once the powder has has been applied it is generally less than ten seconds before symptoms appear which include uneven breathing, loss of balance, and general delirium. The powder may be used in other ways such as spiking a drink or food, however these are less reliable and tend to take longer work due to becoming dilute. Spiking is less reliable as a method of delivery because there are just too many variables. Furthermore should the full dose not be ingested it may not work.
While zombies have been documented throughout Africa as well as South and Central America, it is primarily the Haitian formula we are familiar with in the western world due to it’s acquisition and later application as an anesthetic in the medical industry, with a few changes of course. Zombie powders vary slightly by both region and maker as is evidenced by no two that have ever been acquired fully matching. There are however four key ingredients that all formulas share.
The main ingredient is tetradotoxin which is found in puffer fish, parrotfish, Atelopus genus frogs, blue ringed octopus, and the California newt. Tetradotoxin is a neurotoxin which can cause death in rather short order. Tetradotoxin is not found in the flesh of animals but rather the vital organs, most notably the liver. Tetradotoxin is believed to be derived from an as yet unidentified bacteria after being found in strains of Vibrionaceae. The tetradotoxin is what causes numbness, issues with balance, and respiratory distress. In too high of a dose death can be rapid, in a very small dose it is closer to what is used in medicine. Somewhere in between lies the perfect dose for making a zombie.
Other ingredients found in zombie powder are generally crushed lizards, and a variety of plants and fungi, one of which is generally a hallucinogen of some sort varying in strength depending on the desire of the maker. Ground glass is also a staple of zombie powder. Datura which is also known as Devil’s Weed, is the final key ingredient needed to make a true zombie powder. Datura contains atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine, and alkaloid poisons which when combined, as in Datur, act as a muscle relaxant and inhibitor to the parasympathetic nervous system. Beyond that it also causes the inability to differentiate reality from fantasy.
When these main ingredients of tetradotoxin, datura, an hallucinogen of varying strength, and local plants of varying properties are crushed and combined with ground glass, the effect is devastating. The ground glass serves as an irritant which allows quicker absorption, not that is truly needed. The ritual of making Zombie Powder varies by Priest/Priestess and location. Common threads however are that it is generally said the powder must be made at night and in a place of the dead such as a graveyard. Prayers are repeated, chants echoed, and in some cases the conjuring of spirits. It is all a nice touch for stories but really unnecessary.
Once applied the effects of a properly dosed Zombie Powder will render almost any victim (depending on weight) incapacitated within twenty minutes. Within four to six hours the dosed victim generally appears for all intents and purposes nearly dead. Usually within six hours a pulse cannot be detected (By manual means at least) nor does respiration appear to be present. The victim does not respond to any physical stimuli although they are fully aware of what is being said and can still see what is going on in their field of vision, although it may be distorted due to the hallucinogen used.
This however does not make a zombie really, it just makes a person that was dosed. What makes a zombie is the reinforcement of their soul owner that they are in fact dead and now serve them. This is where the hallucinogen and Datura are especially valuable as the zombie’s mind is not necessarily functioning properly and is highly open to suggestion. Traditionally the zombie is then buried. If the desire was to provide a torturous death they are left to awaken and then suffocate. If however the intent is to control them in the physical and mental plane they are dug up in usually about 96 hours and then continually dosed in smaller amounts while still in a state of delirium.
In short to make a zombie it takes plenty of chemicals in exact doses and a strong relentless mental assault that the person is in fact dead and now exists in some limbo like plane in which they serve an earthly master until released. It may sound unbelievable, but it is a well documented practice that has been used around he world for at least three millenia.