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Origins of the Walking Dead

Zombies. The mischievous, man-eating monsters of mainstream media working their way into our modern culture and rapidly becoming a cult craze among the masses. How we love them, how hate them, how we fear them. But can we beat them?

Merriam-Webster defines zombie as ‘a will-less and speechless human (as in voodoo belief and in fictional stories) held to have died and been supernaturally reanimated.’

Dictionary.com uses, ‘the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, but mute and will-less, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose.’

The second seems presumptuous unless someone went so far into Haiti hoodoo ritualism to make that claim zombies were used for evil purposes but as they would have been risen from black magic, it may go without saying. Notice though, neither definition use rotting corpse in their description, opening a different perspective on what the zombie apocalypse would look like. It may not be the Return of the Living Dead ideal we have come to accept from Hollywood standards, rather, we could be looking more like 28 Days Later or Resident Evil – without the demon looking monstrosities.

While science will always endure to find the scientific logic on how such a thing could happen, it’s equally interesting to note there are top scientific minds already trying to make it a reality. Really, for all we know they already succeeded and the world is just waiting for the outbreak. Controlled conditions are a temporary illusion of power after all.

That there is something to ponder.

But where did it all start? Zombies have been around for much longer than George A. Romero, a quick search on Wikipedia, followed by several more articles and research, enlightened us to some interesting facts.

The term ‘zombie’ was first recorded in 1819 by poet Robert Southey, derived from various African terms, ‘nzambi’, zumbi, as well as Haitian words, ‘zombi’ and ‘zonbi’. They were even officially recognized in Article 246 of the Haitian criminal code in 1864, adding to the reality of their existence. Zombies were a ritualistic practice by voodoo priests to bring the dead back to life through magic or summoning the power of the spirits. Which raises questions unto itself… like the existence of vampires, werewolves and such. If such a ‘magic’ exists, as there are many recorded occurrences of astounding spiritual feats, one cannot help but wonder just how much truth we are yet blinded to.

This newly revived creature, having no will of its own, becomes the property of the priest, or Bokor, who conjured it and used it largely for slave labour or other tasks of presumed darker nature. According to one legend, a Bokor was hired by a family to zombifiy a relative who fell into such disrepute they could no longer live with the person. As part of the ritual, the person was given a toxin derived from the pufferfish which would slow the metabolism to a faint crawl. The townsfolk would believe the person had actually died and so buried them. The Bokor would later exhume the person – still alive – but without memory or conscious thought.

Though zombies were thought to have existed long before that. Archaeologists discovered graves uncovered from the Stone Age having bodies with heads smashed in and completely removed. A ritual with only theory to provide reason – it was believed even then that the world of the dead threatened the world of the living. Such believe may have founded the ceremonial stones and eventually gravestones to be placed on graves so the dead couldn’t dig their way out. A practice found also in Greece and Egypt.

But what of the flesh eating monsters we have grown accustomed to? Oh yes, they live – so to speak. There are many beliefs that the Mayans were wiped out by cannibalism. Graves were discovered where bones were violently ripped from their bodies and chewed, more evidence was found of children eating their parents and whole villages who ate each other in days. The Norse mythology believed in draugr, which means ‘again walker’ and popularized by the game Skyrim. They believed draugr were condemned to their tombs but would escape in search of living victims to crush or eat alive. Once bitten, the individual would become draugr themselves.

Both China and Romania have their own versions as well, the Jiang Shi and the Strigoi. Each more a vampire-like creature, drinking the blood of the living and causing general malcontent. The Romanians have gone so far as marrying someone off to a corpse because they believe dying while unwed runs the risk of the deceased becoming a strigoi. Sure would hate to kiss that bride!

The only question we need to ask ourselves now is how it will come to be and how will these zombies act toward us? Some theorize viral outbreak, which seems the most logical point of origin. Perhaps a particular strain attacks the mind, reducing a human being into a basic instinct creature of habit where food is the only thought for self-preservation. A strain of rabies may turn us into mad, ravenous animals with a thirst for destruction and blood as in 28 Days Later. Or the end may come without knowledge or evidence of anything but divine interference reanimating rotting corpses to wreak havoc and violently tear apart human existence.

We can’t help but dissect the logic behind zombie behaviour. The rage virus zombie logic speaks for itself. The human being is still alive, the body is still functioning, only the mind has been greatly affected and reduced to a less than primitive set of actions and needs. Yet in the rotting corpse type of zombie, one can speculate a large range of tissue damage to the body, including the brain. Would a zombie of this sort actually be able to move around if the electrical discharge from the brain is not telling the muscle to work? Wouldn’t the lack of bodily fluids restrict motion? Would the muscles themselves not deteriorate to the point of being non-functional? They wouldn’t have the strength to cause damage if they could bite you. Any comments, facts or theories to these questions would be much appreciated below. This is knowledge that should be shared.

Besides all that, regardless of the logic behind zombie mobility and ability, should we also not be questioning why so many scientists are studying the scientific credibility to a zombie outbreak? Should we also question why the CDC has a zombie preparedness plan or why the Pentagon already has a plan to stop the zombie Armageddon that hasn’t yet started? Look up Conplan 8888.

What do they already know that we have so far only speculated?

Rest assured, zombie fans, the number who believe a zombie apocalypse is staggeringly high and constantly growing. Be it through science mishap or biblical cleansing, the reality of our doom is creeping upon us at a steady rate. Being prepared for one is no longer outside of reasonable or rational thinking, it is becoming a normal part of the preparing process with serious training underway.

Really, with strong, supportive evidence like the Miami face-eating attack, or that guy on the bus who ripped another man’s head off and started chewing on it; we need to consider an important factor when it comes to the human mindset of this threat – does the fear promote the thing, or does the thing promote the fear?

How will you survive?

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