The Serpent and the Rainbow

Posted by on Wednesday, April 20th, 2005

Wade Davis’s The Serpent and the Rainbow is, of course, nothing like the movie. Thank god. Davis, an ethnobotanist, travels to Haiti to learn the medical truths about zombification and becomes enamored of voodoo society and its practitioners. No one attacks him, no one kills his pals, and he isn’t, as far as we know, in a sexual relationship with the young Rachel, his young Haitian escort. I’m not a biologist, so I won’t critique Davis’s explanation of the chemicals that make up the zombie powders. I would, however, love to know how accurate his descriptions of the pharmacology of zombification are. I particularly appreciated his exploration of Haitian history, one of the most complex and fascinating stories of the Americas. Moreover, his refusal to demonize Duvalier and the Ton Ton Macoute is refreshing. We all know Duvalier was a baddie, and I think it’s important to explore how he came to power through embracing voodoo and its symbols.

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