Dead Love: Zombie, Zumbi, Nzambi …

Just in case you were wondering … the word “zombie” is very possibly of West African origin. In Kikongo “zumbi” means “fetish” and “nzambi” means “god.” The snake god was “Kimbundu nzambi,” though the name later came to mean “reanimated corpse” in some of the spiritual/shamanic religions of Africa. It has been associated with the West African Vodun tradition that claims that a part of the human soul—the zombi astral—can be separated from a body and kept by a witchdoctor or bokor to enhance his power.

Many of these beliefs came to the New World with the slaves who were often captives of the power- and war-focused Kingdom of Dahomey. “Vodu” is a Fon word that means “spirit, demon or deity” and also a “fetish connected with snake worship” in Dahomey. The Dahomey conqueror Wegbaja and his successors, who came to dominate the area, emphasized the importance of human sacrifice to gods and king. They were ruthless in maintaining power. Thousands were sacrificed and sold into slavery and many of these customs and fear-based beliefs were transported across the Atlantic with their victims.

There is also a zombie connection, lyrical or real, through Louisiana Creole culture and the Spanish word “sombra,” which means “shade or ghost.”

—Erin Orison, DEAD LOVE/The Daily Slice


  • jlmcferrin

    Fascinating, real-time history ( contradiction? ) tid bits. Speaking of La. Creole culture, are there any Zombie references in the new hit series ' Treme ' about New Orleans after Katrina? Perhaps ” sombra, ” best describes the US and how we behave.
    Zombizise 'em in NYC with a screeching, gaping, ear to ear Zombie Smile.

  • deadlovebook

    It's called a corncob grin … really cheesy.

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