The Serpent and the Rainbow

by Wade Davis

Hardcover, 1985




New York : Simon and Schuster, 1985.


A scientific investigation and personal adventure story about zombis and the voudoun culture of Haiti by a Harvard scientist. In April 1982, ethnobotanist Wade Davis arrived in Haiti to investigate two documented cases of zombis--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. The Serpent and the Rainbow combines anthropological investigation with a remarkable personal adventure to illuminate and finally explain a phenomenon that has long fascinated Americans.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member satyridae
Fascinating account of Davis' journey to Haiti in search of the science behind the mystery and rumours surrounding zombification. Davis is an ethnobotanist with impeccable credentials, and he throws himself headlong into his research. I learned a lot about the history of Haiti. I learned about Voodoo, too, and the interesting rituals and beliefs surrounding this religion. Parts of the book were muddy and circuitous, but so too was the nature of Davis' search.… (more)
LibraryThing member aestrea
This book was not only a great and entertaining read, but packed full of wonderful, accurate first-hand information. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for an interesting fun read or looking to learn more about the culture of Haiti and the religion of Vodou.
LibraryThing member Eye_Gee
Too bad they made this wonderful book into a horror flick. The book is about a Harvard trained ethnobotanist who goes to Haiti to learn about some of the naturally occuring compounds used in the voudoun culture. The hope is that some of the active compounds may provide a safer alternative to general anaesthesia. What I found remarkable about the book was Wade Davis' ability to embrace and respect the voudoun culture (and it is a culture in the full sense of the word) without making western value judgements and assumptions about it. It is only through his understanding of the culture that he is able to learn what he came to find out. I don't want to include any spoilers here about the specific drugs or their effects, but I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in anthropology and/or biology.… (more)
LibraryThing member stacy_chambers
Moving portrait of voodooism and Haiti. Not at all like the movie, I'm sure.


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