The term zombie refers to a dead body that has been brought back to life by a supernatural force. In Voodooism it refers to the supernatural force that converts the dead into living. These forces are worshipped by certain Voodoo communities, especially those in the West Indies.
According to Voodoo belief, zombies lack souls. It is believed that their souls were stolen and they have been forced to work as selfless slaves for zombie masters. Zombies are created by a Voodoo sorcerer known as the Bokor. Once the zombie is formed, it works under the direction of the Bokor.
The concept of zombie in Voodoo religion originated from the idea of duality of soul. It is said that the human soul consists of two parts: gro bonanj (big guardian angel) and ti bonanj (little guardian angel). It is the ti bonanj of the individual that is captured by the Bokor in order to transform them into a zombie.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
An important investigation into the possible causes of zombie formation was carried out by Wade Davis, a Canadian scientist. His findings suggested that there are certain drugs which can arouse a 'death-like' state in a living body for many days. He identified a medicine called tetrodotoxin which had this effect. It was found that ancient Haitian societies had also used a 'zombie drug' with similar properties, as a means of converting a human being into a zombie.
The popular modern image of a zombie is a macabre undead creature, possessing life by unnatural means and eating the flesh of human beings. They have been a staple part of horror movies, especially B-grade movies of the 1950s and 1960s. One of the most famous and influential zombie movies was Night of the Living Dead (1968), directed by George A. Romero.