Zomby, a Pharmacological Phenomenon Clairvius Narcisse

The Haitian belief system of Voodoo is an inherent part of Haiti's cultural ethos. It co-exists alongside the dominant religion of the island, Catholicism, and has even adopted some of its practices. Traditionally, Voodoo has relied on animal sacrifice and percussion-driven dancing to induce deep trance states in order to receive the Lwa.


A peripheral phenomenon of Voodoo is the belief in Zombies, the living dead. To illustrate how a Zombie is created, Clairvius Narcisse is a prime example of how zombies originated as a cultural force in Haiti.

Clairvius Narcisse had been taken for dead around 1960. But unbeknownst to his family, a Voodoo priest had transformed Narcisse into a Zombie with the help of potent drugs. The priest exhumed Narcisse's body and in addition to Tetrodotoxin, which put Narcisse into a death-like state, the priest injected Clairvius Narcisse with Jimson weed, a powerful hallucinogen. This impaired Narcisse's brain function. He became a victim of forced labor until the priest died. Regaining his cognitive abilities, he drifted off, returning to his birth place to recount his agonizing experience.

Haitian belief in Zombies predisposes believers to surrender to the effects of hallucinogens and believe they are Zombies. The rarely practiced though still viable threat of Zombie-ism is used as a punishment for those who would break cultural taboos. Used as a tool to force victims into degrading conditions, it creates fear and dread in those, who do not understand the nature of psychotropic drugs, and their ability to alter normal perceptual capacity.

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