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1938 (pre): Invited to the Resurrection

In 1938, the following account was published that is told by a resident of the Artibonite Valley, near Gonaïves, Haiti. The storyteller had sewn the hem on the funerary dress of a dead woman. When they heard that this woman was to be raised from the dead, and ask the bokor [magician] who was to do this if they could attend. The bokor agreed, but required the storyteller to bring a galleon of clairin [a Haitian alcholic drink made from sugar cane]. The bokor stood on two graves, straddling a third between his legs, holding a rope; he called out the name of the dead woman and clapped. From the side of the cemetery came a woman that the storyteller recognized as the dead woman, wearing the very dress the storyteller had hemmed. The bokor had raised her to make a pwin -- magical force -- out of her.

Understanding the Tale

        In this case, the woman's spirit may be what was seen, as the bokor was not making a physical zombie; the word 'zombie' in Haiti is also used to reference to the ghostly figure of a dead person, especially near their grave, and that appears to be what is described here. Since houngans and bokors in Haiti both work with spirits to make things happen, this appears to be more a case of the dead woman's soul being resurrected to work for the bokor instead of her body.

My Source's Source

        I found this legend in Wade Davis' 1988 book Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie... Davis, in turn, claims his source to be a 1938 book by Edna Taft titled A Puritan in Voodooland. I've been unable to track this earlier book down yet; I've seen enough references to know it exists, but it appears to have been a small print run that was never republished... so I'll likely have to track it down in a university library. I need to check that the above story is actually in the 1938 book and is essentially the same.

        In addition, though the story is told as if a true event, we are not given enough details to double-check the account; for this reason, I'm marking this as 'Unreliable.' Nonetheless, it's still good evidence of what Haitian beliefs are regarding mystic and practical matters regarding death.