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Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie Paperback – May 27, 1988

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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  • Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie
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  • The Serpent and the Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist's Astonishing Journey into the Secret Societies of Haitian Voodoo, Zombis, and Magic
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Haitian zombification, a subject that has provoked a great deal of sensational reporting in the popular press and skepticism in anthropological circles, is analyzed in this fascinating work. The author delves into its physiological, social, and psychological impact, the result of two years of on-site study of the structure and function of the Bizango secret societies. He presents an extensive analysis of the chemical composition of various poisons reputed to induce a physiological state that could simulate death. To transform a person so affected into a zombie through antidotes is part of the pharmacopoeia of the Bizango societies. Of interest both to social scientists and the medical profession. Winnie Lambrecht, Brown Univ., Providence, R.I.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

[A] fascinating book.

"American Scientist"

A remarkable journey into the natural and supernatural world of the zombie.

"Brittonia"

Davis manages to demystify the concepts 'voodoo' and 'zombie.'

"New York Times Book Review"

Davis offers the only firsthand account of the structure and functions of clandestine Bizango societies.

"Choice"

Moves far beyond formula or sensationalism and directly confronts the 'why' of the zombie phenomenon.

"Western Folklore"

ÝA¨ fascinating book.

"American Scientist"

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 365 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1st New edition edition (May 27, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807842109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807842102
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #704,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback
Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie by Dr. Wade Davis, 1988.

Preface by Dr. Richard Evens Schultes (Harvard).

We have all seen the stereo-typical archetypes of the zombie portrayed on TV, in the movies, in video games, etc. But what if zombies are real? Dr. Wade Davis has given us the science of fact behind the mythological tales of the Haitian zombie.

Dr. Davis provides evidence beyond reasonable doubt for documented cases of zombies. As a student of the famed Dr. Richard Evens Schultes of Harvard's Botanical Museum, Dr. Davis sets out to uncover the mysterious history, pharmacology, anthropology (enthobiology) and socio-political motivations behind zombies.

As it turns out, the history of creating zombies is a political one. The slaves brought with them from Africa to Haiti their shamanic knowledge of powerful poisons as well as their systems of punishment, law, politics, government and secret societies (Bizango) that formed from the maroons. It is herein revealed that the Vodoun religion of Haiti is as much a political structure as it is a religious one. Part of the magic dealt by bokers and houngan of the Bizango societies of that of law and order, and sometimes punishment is dealt to the guilty in the form of zombification.

However, in Haiti, and juxtaposed to foreign concepts of zombies, the people actually fear becoming zombies, not being attacked by them. This is because the pariahs of society, the criminals, repeat thieves, rapists, those who take advantage of others for their own gain, those who don't properly share land with kin according to need and family size, are those who will be targeted for zombification. Zombification is not dealt out on a whim by evil sorcerers.
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4 Comments 27 of 27 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
I actually met Wade Davis when he came to Haiti to do his research on his book, and I know personnaly manny of the characters in the book. Wade did an excellent job in portraying what goes on in the underworld of Haiti.
The chapter when he talks about the driver of the commandant of St Marc who was actually a secret society leader and actually had more power and influence than his boss is really key point in the balance of power in Haiti. Those who seem to be nobodies sometimes have more power than presidents
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Format: Paperback
Passage of Darkness seems to be the technical book of Wade Davis's findings after the field research was complete. SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW was the more popular version of the same material.

For anyone interested in this field, the work bears up under multiple readings. As to why "no followup"... take a look at Wade Davis's collected essays: the man is a polyglot in a marvelous sense. His current projects are absolutely essential, and he documents some cultures that are dying out. He has laid the groundwork for probably a number of Phd theses.

Check out :

Haiti: Guide to the Periodical Literature in English, 1800-1990 (Bibliographies and Indexes in Latin American and Caribbean Studies)

by Frantz Pratt (Compiler)

for more source material on Haiti. Wade Davis's Books including this one, PASSAGE OF DARKNESS, provide a great list of material to study a very significant culture.
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By A Customer on February 22, 1997
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent well written and well researched book that gripped my like few non-fiction books ever have, yet, it leaves science minded people hanging. After all the research Davis conducted it makes no sense that he failed to follow up with experimentation using tetrodotoxin in a laboratory setting. It seems that he comes so close to finding a new use for this sodium blocking drug but fails to follow up. Maybe he has and I just haven't been able to find it despite extensive efforts. If you know of any follow-up please e-mail me
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Dr. Davis has written an excellent and in depth account of the ethnology, biology, chemistry, and psychology of the Haitian zombie phenomenon. While some of the material is a repeat of what already exists in his book The Serpent and the Rainbow, he goes much deeper in describing the cultural and social elements present in Haiti that support the success of the Bokor in creating the zombie. Much more than the mere folk chemistry required to make the poison, the processes of social conditioning, cultural belief, neural biology, and a host of other factors are described as part of an elaborate process of zombification that must have taken centuries, if not millennia for these sorcerers to perfect.

Not written in the personal narrative style indicative of The Serpent and the Rainbow or One River, Passage of Darkness is more of a focused anthropological textbook. The process of zombification is described in scientific detail. A wonderful addition to the literature on Haiti, diaspora studies, psychology, social sciences, botany, chemistry, or those interested in the zombie phenomenon generally.
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I really enjoy this book , as a diamond this book have multiple shiny sides, the cultural background of Vodo, and its role in today Haiti's society, the botanics analisis of all different plants species involved and finally, better than anything the crafty details about what take to engineer a Zombie.
Is hard to imagine a way or expanded topics to improve this book, but I could enjoy more info about the magic rituals.I recommend look for Lydia Cabrera books (spanish mostly) in magic and plants involve in Vodo near cousin, Santeria from Cuba.
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