“Most people have it wrong. Zombies are not the thing to fear. The thing to fear is what humans are capable of doing when they’re afraid.”
This 2 hour special on The History channel was one part legend, one part ‘holy crap we are all going to die.’ The actual word Zombie comes from Haitian voodoo, meaning animated corpse.
Let’s go over the players, starting with our own culture, then checking in around the world.
The American modern Zombie is 100% based on the George Romero zombie of 1968’s Night Of The Living Dead. Slow moving, ravenous, wandering without any real intent, these zombies are what we think of at Halloween or at the jest of a Zombie Apocalypse.
The first mention of Zombies in any type of literature was contained in the Epic Poem Of Gilgamesh written during the 7th century B.C.
“I will raise up the dead and they will eat the living. And the dead will outnumber the living.”
In China Zombies are known as Jiang Shi, hungry ghosts who return to attack the living including family members. This happens when the body is not buried properly. To be buried properly the bodies were to be tied down and pinned into their coffins.
In Arabia, Zombies are known as Ghouls. A female demon that fell out of grace with God/lived a sinful life. These creatures hide in the desert summoning men to their death, similar to Greek Sirens.
In Scandinavia they are known as Draugr’s. Vikings of Norse myth that can come back from the dead. The Draugr was an unstoppable machine. They differ from the aforementioned Zombies in that Draugr’s were considered intelligent. The only way to kill them was to lure them back into the ground.
England has its own, and first, Zombie hunter. Zombies were referred to as Revenants. A cleric named William of Nuburgh wrote about these creatures and ways to kill them. His writings were considered extremely important to the church at the time.
In the Nordic tradition, their tactic was to confuse the Zombies. (This has to be my favorite part of the entire special) They carried the body of the dead out of a door, feet first. However, in case the Zombie had time to look back and see where it came from, they then bricked the door shut, and created a new door. Therefore, the Zombie did not recognize the home/door.
Even today in the US and Europe, the dead are carried out of buildings/churches feet first. There is no legal reason for coffins to be bolted shut before being laid to rest 6 feet under, but we do it anyway.
Christians recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday in church. Speaking of the day of the Resurrection of the Dead. To fans of Zombie lore, Christ is considered the Anti-Zombie. His resurrection and the possibility of resurrecting the dead is considered a good thing.
The other obvious attribute of Zombies aside from trying to attack is cannibalism. Some tribes in Papua New Guinea still eat brains of both enemies, and family. It is commonplace to be a sign of respect or a sign of dominance. However, eating a human brain can lead to a disease called Kuru. Kuru causes pockets of air to form in the brain, this disease can bring on a Zombie like state.
That is where the legend bit ends.
As far as our chances of surviving a Zombie Apocalypse, it is not looking good. A study done by the mathematics department at the CDC stated that unless a Zombie threat was wiped out almost immediately, human beings would die out quickly. Zombies have the power to reproduce in large numbers, are relentless, they siege attack, and are unlikely to back off.
The most likely scenario of a Zombie Apocalypse, is perhaps the most disturbing. We make them, either through bio-warfare gone wrong, or an accident in a government lab. Every day scientists are messing with radiation, bioengineering, and superbugs. Often times creating threats, they have no cure for.
In conclusion, should Z-Day come, it will all be about survival. People’s first instinct will be to load up on weapons, but it is clear that the person with the most guns will not come out victorious. Skills such as tracking, making camp, catching food, purifying water, knowing how to care for the sick and injured, will really be the most valuable assets.
So when it comes to getting ready, grab a gun, but getting some book smarts in won’t kill you.