Wade Davis - The Serpent and the Rainbow

Wade Davis

The Serpent and the Rainbow. A Harvard Scientist’s Astonishing Journey into the Secret Societies of Haitian Voodoo, Zombis, and Magic

Simon & Schuster 1985, 267 pages


I can’t even remember how this book got onto my to-read list. I’m certainly not a fan of zombie books or movies. World War Zis the only one I’ve watched - that I can think of.

Standing in front of the Fiskars Gardening Tools at the local hardware store with my younger son a few years ago, I did get a lesson in how useful these high-quality axes, hedge shears, garden forks, spades and so forth would be in the face of a zombie apocalypse, though…

At any rate, Wade Davis is an explorer, ethnobotanist, and author of numerous books. This one was not only absolutely fascinating, but also very informative. 


In April 1982, ethnobotanist Wade Davis arrived in Haiti to investigate two documented cases of zombies – people who had reappeared in Haitian society years after they had been officially declared dead and had been buried. Drawn into a netherworld of rituals and celebrations, Davis penetrated the vodoun mystique deeply enough to place zombification in its proper context within vodoun culture. In the course of his investigation, Davis came to realize that the story of vodoun is the history of Haiti – from the African origins of its people to the successful Haitian independence movement, down to the present day, where vodoun culture is, in effect, the government of Haiti’s countryside. (back cover)


Wade Davis is certainly no armchair scientist, formulating theories next to a cozy fireplace, but rather one who has seen and explored the world in depth. In Haiti he seems to have researched everything, from culture and history – including harrowing accounts of what life for slaves was like – to poisonous substances which might induce a death-like state and vodoun ceremonies.


Quote from the Wall Street Journal on the cover: “Exotic and far-reaching…a corker of a read, just the way Indiana Jones would tell it.”


I couldn’t agree more, and would like to read more of his work.


(And no – he does not include recipes for making zombies!)


Wade Davis Website: http://www.daviswade.com/


Write a comment

Comments: 0