The Black Art of Corpse magic Part II : Stealing the Soul and Zombi making

zombi 1Another variation of Corpse magic is the Ritual of capturing a Human Spirit. In Taoist Magic, this technique was popular among sorcerers who practiced black magic, and it required the Wu to use Five Deadly Poisons in
order to cause a chosen victim to fall into a coma.This is very similar to the Vodoun process of creating a zombie and from what I’ve read, they do exist in Haiti in the present day. Thousands of people in Haiti are considered to be zombies, some of which lead normal everyday lives with families, jobs and are respected citizens. It’s even considered to be a crime to make a zombie in Haiti.

Haitian Penal Code:

Article 249. It shall also be qualified as attempted murder the employment which may be made against any person of substances which, without causing actual death, produce a lethargic coma more or less prolonged. If, after the person had been buried, the act shall be considered murder no matter what result follows.


First and foremost (Vodoun) Voodoo is a religion, so please respect it. It is the dominant religion of Haiti. Many of the practices and descriptions of Voodoo belief may sound to like rank superstition, but then, imagine the beliefs of Christianity to people who know nothing about it. Thus I urge you to recognize that Voodoo is Haiti’s religion, it is taken very seriously not merely by unlettered peasants, but many intelligent and learned members of the Haitian society believe as sincerely in Voodoo as theology professors in their Christianity.

To make a zombie,The Bokor (sorcerers or houngan (priests) for hire who are said to ‘serve the loa with both hands’, meaning that they can both practice dark magic and benevolent magic.) makes a potion that consists of mainly the poison of the pufferfish (one of the strongest nerve poisons known to man, the clinical drug norcuron has similar effects and is used during surgery) that is given to the intended victim. This causes severe neurological damage, primarily effecting the left side of the brain (the left side of the brain controls speech, memory and motor skills). The victim suddenly becomes lethargic, then slowly seems to die. In reality, the victim’s respiration and pulse becomes so slow that it is nearly impossible to detect. The victim retains full awareness as he is taken to the hospital, then perhaps to the morgue and finally as they are buried alive.Then, at the Bokor’s leisure does he come to retrieve the victim, now become a slave, as a commodity.This is known to us in the USA mainly from popular films such as the  The Serpent and the Rainbow.

sp r 1

The History of zombies in Haiti goes much deeper than the Walking Dead of today’s american TV watching.At one time it was said that most of the slaves who worked in the sugar cane plantations of Haiti were zombies. One case in 1918 had a voodoo priest named Ti Joseph who ran a gang of laborers for the American Sugar Corporation, who took the money they received and fed the workers only unsalted porridge. A zombie will remain in a robot-like state indefinitely, until he tastes either salt or meat. Then the zombie becomes aware of their state, immediately returning to the grave. The reality behind the zombie has only been taken seriously by medical science within the last ten years, since the use of CAT scans of the brain, along with the confessions of Bokors, explaining their methods. Previous to that, zombies were considered mental defective by science or explained as stunts to try to confuse scientists.

zombi 2

There are many examples of zombies in modern day Haiti. Papa Doc Duvallier the dictator of Haiti from 1957 to 1971 had a private army that was said to consist of zombies, called tonton macoutes. These people were said to be in trances and they followed every command that Duvallier gave them. Duvallier was also a devout voodooist, as are many people in Haiti, who lead a voodoo church with many followers. He also claimed that he was immortal and he would rule Haiti forever, promising to return after his death to rule again. After his death (a heart attack), he did not come back, although a guard was placed at his tomb, to insure that he would not try to escape, or so someone wouldn’t try to steal the body (this is a common practice in Haiti, along with the padlocking of tombs, for the same reason). There are also many stories of people that die, then many years later return to the shock and surprise of relatives. A man named Caesar returned 18 years after he died to marry, have three children and die again, 30 years after he was originally buried. Another case involved a student from a village Port-au-Prince who had been shot in a robbery attempt. Six months later, the student returned to his parent’s house as a zombie. At first it was possible to talk with the man, and he related the story of his murder, a voodoo witch doctor stealing his body from the ambulance before he reached hospital and his transformation into a zombie. As time went on, he became unable to communicate, he grew more and more lethargic and died.

bokers 1

A case reported a writer named Stephen Bonsal described a zombie he witnessed in 1912 in this way:A man had at intervals a high fever he had joined a foreign mission church and the head of the mission saw the patient die. He assisted at the funeral and saw the dead man buried. Some days later the supposedly dead man was found dressed in grave clothes, tied to a tree, moaning. The poor wretch soon recovered his voice but not his mind. He was identified by his wife, by the physician who pronounced him dead, and by the clergyman. The victim recognized no-one, and his days were spent moaning inarticulate words no-one could understand.
In China, this form of black magic was one of the most feared techniques used by sorcerers. It was initiated through the deadly assault of using a particular virulent poison placed in an intended victim’s food or drink. This infamous poison was known as the dreaded “Wudu” (Five Poisons). There are two main formula used in the construction of the Wudu prescription. These two formula are described as follows:

The Five Deadly Poisons Formula #1: This poisonous prescription consists of the centipede, viper, scorpion, toad, and gecko. Because the gecko’s energetic properties are neutral, it is used as a medium for the other poisons to mix. However, the gecko is also salty in taste and can therefore be used to draw the poison to attack the victim’s Kidney
Yang, Jing, and blood.
• The Five Deadly Poisons Formula #2: Other schools of Daoist sorcery contend that the “true” magical formula for the Five Deadly Poisons consist of the poisonous centipede, poisonous viper, poisonous scorpion, poisonous toad, and poisonous spider .

We find an interesting similarity when comparing The Five Deadly Poisons Formula to the white, powdery compound called coupe poudre that the Bokor uses to make a Zombi. Though different bokor used different ingredients in their powders, Harvard ethnobotanist Wade Davis found that “there are five constant animal ingredients: burned and ground-up human remains [usually bone], a small tree frog, a polychaete [segmented] worm, a large New World toad, and one or more species of pufferfish. The most potent ingredients are the pufferfish, which contain deadly nerve toxins known as tetrodotoxin,”
One of the earliest mentions of this ancient poisonous formula occurs in the discussion of a feudal Prince and a physician dating back to 540 B.C. It is said that this poisonous formula also appears in the Yi Jing. So terrifying was the effect of the Wudu poison, that on the 5th day of the 5th Moon the ancient Chinese commonly suspended magical charms and talismans from their roofs, doors, and doorposts, to ward off the evil influences of the
“Five Poisonous Animals”. In 91 B.C., a witch hunt occurred in the Palace of Han Wudi, wherein large numbers of people were put to death on suspicion of being involved in the preparation of Wudu poison. In 598 A.D., there was even an Imperial decree officially forbidding its use.

According to Professor Jerry Alan Johnson,in order to prepare this potion, a sorcerer places all five poisonous creatures into a clay jar. While reciting a specific incantation over the jar, it is sealed with a lid (containing small air holes). The jar is then kept out of sight, in a cold dark place. The primary goal is not to feed the five poisonous creatures, but to force them to feed off of each other. After a year, the sorcerer removes the remnants from the clay jar and begins the process of refining its contents, mixing the cultivated remains along with specific herbs. It was
believed that the corpse that was found when the clay pot was opened was supposed to contain the combined poisons of all five creatures.  One common practice (after refining the formula with additional
herbs and grinding them into a fine power), the sorcerer would place the powder into the food of the intended victim. Once the victim ingested the poison, he or she would immediately fall into a coma. As the life of the victim began to fade into darkness, and the spirit body separated from the physical body, the sorcerer would snare and imprison the victim’s soul, which could then be used as a spirit servant. At this point the sorcerer was free to use the victim’s soul for his or her own personal intentions (i.e., imprisoning it into a specific charm, talisman, ring, or weapon;dispatching it in order to torment another victim; or using it to gather secret information). As long as the body of the victim remained in the coma, his or her soul could be controlled by the magical power of the sorcerer. When not in service, the victim’s soul was traditionally kept imprisoned within the Daoist sorcerer’s magical
gourd. This magical gourd was either hung on a specific type of walking stick or kept on the sorcerer’s altar.

tao 1

We find once again a Parallel with the Methodology of the Daoist sorcerer and the Haitian Bokor,  the bokor performs a rite where he or she captures the victim’s ti bon ange, which is the part of the soul directly connected to an individual. He or she can do this by capturing it within seven days immediately following the death of the corps cadavre, while it is still hovering over the corpse, or by spreading poisons in the form of a cross on the threshold of the victim’s doorway. Either way, this affects a split in the spiritual parts of the victim and produces two complementary types of zombies: the spirit zombi (the zombie of the ti bon ange alone) and the zombi cadavre (the zombi of the flesh, which is composed of the n’ame, the gros bon ange, and the z’etoile). Then he traps the spirit zombi part of the soul (or zombi astral) in a small clay jar or some other commonplace container, and replaces it with the loa that the bokor controls. This container is hidden in a secret place known only to the bokor and is finally wrapped in a piece of the victim’s clothing or some other personal possession.

I hope everyone has enjoyed this series on Corpse magic, all most as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. Till next time, I leave you with these words:

“Something coming back from the dead was almost always bad news. Movies taught me that. For every one Jesus you get a million zombies.”
― David Wong, John Dies at the End

Sources:Davis, Wade. “The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombi.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 9.1 (1983),Davis, Wade. Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1988.,Professor Jerry Alan Johnson 2006 , The art of Magical Transformation,Kagan, Richard C., ed. 1980. “The Chinese Approach to Shamanism”, Chinese Sociology and Anthropology,Zombies, by James Dilworth,The Haitian Penal Code 1998.INTRODUCTION TO VOODOO IN HAITI: By Bob Corbett March 1988.

All Art done by: Vincent Piazza Copyright 2015, The Serpent and the Rainbow is a reimage done by me, original Copyright 1988 directed by Wes Craven.

The Black Art of Corpse magic Part II : Stealing the Soul and Zombi making was originally published on The Hidden Left Hand