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The Serpent and the Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist's Astonishing Journey into the Secret Society of Haitian Voodoo, Zombis and Magic Hardcover – January 1, 1985


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 297 pages
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster; 1st edition (January 1, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671502476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671502478
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #459,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Haitians believe that the world is full of spirits, and accept spirit possession as part of life and of their African-derived vodoun religion, notes Harvard ethnobotanist Davis. This booka combination of travelogue, scientific report and mysteryis an arresting account of his search for poisons and antidotes presumably used to create zombis, the victims usually selected by a secret society tribunal. Analysis revealed that the poisons contain a substance that lowers the metabolic rate almost to the point of clinical death, from which, with the help of sorcerers, bodies may be raised from the grave. Vodoun priests, witnesses and alleged zombisone of whom Davis metmaintained that the victims of such unnatural deaths are often turned into robot-like slaves. How Davis gained access to the all-powerful network of secret societies similar to those of West Africa, witnessed and even participated in their meetings provides the final key to the zombi mystery. First serial to Omni. January 6
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The book is an anecdotal and personal account by Davis, an ethnobotanist who pursued research on zombification in Haiti. During the course of several field trips, Davis discovered the neuropharmacological properties of plant and animal substances that explain how zombies are made. Davis also became enmeshed in the social web of Haitian society and depicts the historical forces that led to the intertwined relationships between cults and secret societies on the one hand, and the government on the other. The book lacks the kind of completeness that might be of interest to anthropologists, ethnobotanists, and medical specialists; it is more of a personal narrative, a diary of discovery, interesting to the public at large, but leaving specialists with a number of unanswered questions. Preferred Choice Book Plan main selection. Winifred Lambrecht, Anthropology Dept., Brown Univ., Providence, R.I.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book details the adventures of an ethnobotanist as he tries to uncover the mystery behind zombies in Haiti. In the beginning of the book, Davis describes how a New York psychologist named Nate Klein described to him the odd story of Clairvius Narcisse, who was pronounced dead and buried, yet showed up 18 years later back in the market place of his hometown claiming that he had been made a zombi and made to work as a slave until he escaped with some other zombies. Klein was completely convinced of the veracity of Narcisse's story, and wanted Davis to travel to Haiti to discover which herbs and other toxins were used to "kill" Narcisse and then bring him back to life again. Davis accepts the mission, and then travels to Haiti to investigate zombies and Haitian Voodoo. But in order to discover how people are changed into zombies, he has to first gain the confidence and respect of the Voodoo leaders. Davis eventually accomplishes most of what he set out to do, along the way relating much about Haitian history and culture as well as Voodoo beliefs. The book is very compelling and well documented, including an extensive annotated bibliography, as well as a glossary and index.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Engaging topic- focuses on ethnobotany and the search for specific "zombie poison"- was hard for me to put it down. Interesting integration of historical and cultural aspects that few people are aware of- unless they have actually been to Haiti.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had previously owned a copy of this book, which I had read cover to cover. After moving across the world, I decided my library was not complete without a non-fiction account of the search for the zombie-making ingredients.

Wade Davis, an ethnobotanist, wound up looking for the juice to make a zombie. Even today, many people are skeptical about the reality of a zombie's existence. But if you live in places like Haiti, you'd be aware that they are real. There's no magic behind the phenomena. Just a lot of dedication to perfecting the ingredients that create a zombie. Tetrodotoxin.

For weird history and knowledge, I recommend this for both reading, to expand the mind, and also as part of the essential strange-but-true section of your personal library. After all, often the truth is much stranger than fiction. And a lot of myth has its roots planted in fact - just disregard the brain eating part.
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By DCLXVI on March 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I am actually working on a book of my own on zombies. I had seen the movie on numerous occasions but I had always heard of Davis' contempt towards the movie and had often wondered what about the book was so much different and I have to say that this is another example of how Hollywood should just leave books alone...

This is one of those books that I don't have the words to describe that would really do it justice... The thing to keep in mind when reading this is that this all true (according to the author at least)and that aside from Davis' accounts about Voodoo zombiism there are numerous other sources that explain the phenomenon in much the same way.

I recommend that everyone read this particularly if you are a fan of all things zombies!
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