The Inspiration behind “The Bokor”

Posted: June 16, 2012 in Writing, Zombies

Hello everyone! Today I will be talking about what led me to write my latest story, “The Bokor,” and the voodoo background in it.

It is curious how events transpire. The last three posts I had wrote on this blog were about what weapons I would use in the Zombie Apocalypse. (Part I, Part II, Part III). Then, on May 27th, 2012, a naked man attacked a homeless man and ate his face off. This behavior was described by many as similar to a zombie, and that led some to half-jokingly suggest that the zombie apocalypse was upon us. Indeed, several other stories that had people with zombie-like behavior seemed to confirm this. The CDC actually had to announce that the zombie apocalypse was not upon us. But hey, who trusts the government anyway? (I don’t.)

But anyway, zombies were on my mind after those incidents, and I did a little bit of preparing; I filled up all the water bottles we had (we don’t have extra water stored) and I found an old, rusty hatchet in my basement. No guns & ammo though; I don’t think my parents would have approved. Anyway, I had that on my mind.

The Clever Fiction challenge came around, and I thought, “Well, why not write a zombie story?” So, that’s what I set out to do. I decided to use the voodoo zombies (since that was where zombies originally came from) for my story, and thus I began plotting out “The Bokor.”

The story you read was not the one I had originally planned, although many of the elements in it are the same. Originally, the plot was the same; a man approches a bokor and hires him to bring his dead wife back to life. The differences started around the time of the twist. Originally, I had planned to bring the wife back to life, but because the Bokor screwed up, she came back as an undead zombie, bit the other two, and ended up starting the zombie apocalypse.

I had to help out my mom with coloring in stuff, so it gave me a lot of time to think about the story. During the coloring, I realized that the ending that I had described to you wasn’t that great, and furthermore wasn’t how Bokors worked. Fortunately, I came up with a better idea, so I got my laptop, wrote the idea on the plot outline I was constructing, and went back to work coloring. That idea is the twist I came up with that is currently in “The Bokor.”

So, that’s how I came up with the idea for “The Bokor.” Now, I did some research on the voodoo religion before writing the story, so that way it would be more authentic. Since most people don’t know much about voodoo, I will share with you what I learned about it, and what parts of it are specifically related to “The Bokor.”

Voodoo

There are several different types of Voodoo: West African Voodoo, Haitian Voodoo, and Louisiana (sometimes known as New Orleans) Voodoo. In the story I used the Haitian Voodoo (or Vodou.)

In Voodoo, there is one supreme, creator god known as Bondye. While he created everything, he is distant and aloof from his creation and its everyday affairs. Those who adhere to voodoo do not believe they can contact him for help, so they direct their prayers and worship to lesser spiritual entities, the loa.

There are many loa, but in “The Bokor” I mentioned only two of them, Papa Legba and Baron Samedi. I will explain the two below:

Papa Legba: The intermediary between humanity and the loa. He is a gate-keeper of sorts; his permission is needed to speak with any loa. That’s why the Bokor couldn’t just speak to Baron Samedi only; he had to go to Papa Legba first.

Baron Samedi: The loa of the dead. He has the power of resurrection; since only he can accept people in the realm of the dead, he is called upon to heal those near or approaching death.

Now you know a little bit about the loa. But what are the Bokors?

The Bokor are voodoo priest/priestesses who serve the loa. They are hired to perform various sorcery, and are said to “serve the loa with both hands.” That means the Bokor use both light and dark magic. The Dark magic the Bokors use revolve around the creation of zombies.

In order to create the zombies, the Bokors use powerful poisons (mainly from puffer fish) and use them on their target. This causes the victim to fall into a deep coma, which in the days before modern technology, was mistaken for death. The target is then buried, but then wakes up inside the coffin, typically getting brain damage from hypoxia. The bokor then digs him up and forces him to do his bidding. The bokor usually given some sort of delirious drug, which causes them to be alive, but in a state where they cannot control what they say or do.

Terrifying stuff.

In some Haitian tales, the Bokors raise zombies from dead bodies whose souls have departed. That, coupled with the poisons that put a person in a deep coma, can lead some to believe that the Bokors can resurrect the dead. They cannot. If Andrew Wyatt had known that, well… well, I won’t spoil the story for you if you hadn’t read it; you can read it here. (It is also on my portfolio page.) If you have read it, you know what I’m talking about.

So, that concludes what inspired me to write “The Bokor.” If you hadn’t read it yet, I hope you enjoy it.

-Scott

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