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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great work - He also did the leg work, April 28, 2000
This review is from: Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (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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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revealing the truth behind zombies and voodoo!, February 15, 2006
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This review is from: Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (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. It is only dealt after and public tribunal and hearing in which a member of the group is found guilty.

Davis here lays down the foundation of exactly how these zombies are created. A houngan or boker is appointed executioner by the Bizango society. These are people who have great knowledge of plant irritants and animal poisons such as tetrodotoxin of various puffer fish species (also known as fugu), frogs, etc. The guilty person is then, and often unknowingly slowly poisoned with a mixture of these deadly toxins. Depending on the sentence dealt by Bizango, if the sentence isn't death by poisoning, then it's often zombification. The poison places the victim in a catatonic state where heart rate slows, breath is almost non-existent, and to the best medical experts, the victim eventually appears dead. Due to the warm tropical climate of Haiti, the dead are normally buried within 24 hours. The victim in his catatonic state is buried (while fully conscious) in a coffin where the houngan who "killed" him will dig him up within a few days. He will cart the victim off while dazed to another location where the victim is forced to eat Datura for long periods to further confuse, disorientate, and scramble the mind of the victim who will then typically be enslaved - a true zombie.

The practice of the Vodoun religion is here shown as a sound, practical and important part of Haitian society and political self determination. Vodoun is here proven as a practice that has brought these people their well earned freedom and self determination for over 200 years, and will hopefully continue to do so with the present onslaught of colonialist invaders.

An important side note here is the fantastic information within this book on the secret societies themselves. This information is certainly important for anthropological examination of the origins of other secret societies.

Five stars!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Works; Good Groundwork, May 6, 2005
This review is from: Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (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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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, but why no follow up, February 22, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (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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5.0 out of 5 stars I hope no one uses this to make a zombi... because they could!, January 17, 2015
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This review is from: Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (Paperback)
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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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding thesis work based book.., January 20, 2008
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ExcaliburBrief (Tampa, Fl United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars The science of Zombies, December 15, 2013
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An excellent sequel to Serpent and the Rainbow that goes into more detail about the world of the zombies, and a scientific explanation of the zombie phenomenon.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie, May 21, 2008
This review is from: Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (Paperback)
Wade Davis is an initiate of the Bizango and a reputable Anthropologist. He's work seems to be the only one that gives any accurate information on the Bizango. Most other books portray the Bizango in a fanciful light that has more to do with rumor and superstition.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, informative, March 26, 1999
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eupraxis "eupraxis" (New Orleans, LA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (Paperback)
While the information in the book can be gotten elsewhere these days, Davis' text holds together quite well, and without caving in to any commercial artiface. The term "ethnobiology" seems a little much, however -- I am not sure that any new theoretical ground has been surveyed.
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Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie
Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie by Wade Davis (Paperback - May 27, 1988)
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