Search
×

Sign up

Use your Facebook account for quick registration

OR

Create a Shvoong account from scratch

Already a Member? Sign In!
×

Sign In

Sign in using your Facebook account

OR

Not a Member? Sign up!
×

Sign up

Use your Facebook account for quick registration

OR

Sign In

Sign in using your Facebook account

Shvoong Home>Arts & Humanities>THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW Summary

THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW

Book Summary   by:GIGAU2BYTE     Original Author: WADE DAVIS
ª
 
This book should have been entitled the "Flower And The Rainbow," with some mention of "serpent." The snake is used in the Voodoo religious rituals, but plant poisons are administered to those Haitian villagers caught breaking the Napoleonic Code. Villagers deliberately stealing another man's property such as the man's wife, land or money, or resorting to killing the man, must partake in a ceremony predicated at getting the truth, and to administer or mete-out appropriate punishment for all "code-breakers." One connection between the Voodoo religion and the supposed "Voodoo Death" is predicated on parables. For example, a village elder may tell a village youth that it is wrongful to take another man's wife under the Napoleonic Code. He might explain it using a Voodoo-religious parable--kind of like the "ant and the grasshopper"--so that the youngster hopefully realizes that although he may enjoy the "fruits" of another man's woman for now, once the "winter" of village law sets-in the youth will be punished! The boy is probably never told that he will be forced to swallow the plant poisons if he violates the code. He may have never witnessed the burial of a plant-extract-drugged or comatose code-breaker! A second connection linking the Voodoo religion with the Voodoo Death, happens I think if or when the offending previously comatose code-breaker wakes up. Loosely-packed fresh "fill" dirt or soil has a greater volume of air per cubic foot than in-place, in-situ dirt or soil that has settled for a while, and has either been compacted and or rained-on! Also, the sleeping code-breaker, covered in a shallow grave of such loosely-packed soil, does not breathe heavily at rest. Hence, his body, like ours, tends to "shut-down" during the sleep (since he's not exerting himself by walking, running or working, etcetera.) Thus, the Voodoo religious "faithful" rely on prayer to protect themselves from the village "offender" after he awakens, pushes the dirt aside, and begins walking back into the village. (What's worse is that this formerly encrypted village "sinner" may have even experienced brain-damage by not breathing "enough" air while he was buried under dirt!) In the book, Davis mentions a mulatto or a white shopkeeper who jokes that these walking "zombies" sometimes try to reclaim the land they previously had stolen!!! On the one hand, all of these things sound plausible, like the penniless defendant in olden-day New England accused of a serious crime. The defendant, unable to afford a good lawyer nor having much wealth or real or personal property, was cast under water and restrained there for a length of time. As the story goes--whether true or not--if the defendant doesn't perish from drowning after he's removed out of the watery grave, the defendant is deemed "innocent" and may continue on his way!!! Similarly, there is apparently no "double-jeopardy" as regards the "Voodoo" death. In other words, once you're judged, poisoned and buried--the matter's finished! The violating code-breaker cannot be retried for the same "crime.
" Instead, he will likely be tried again later for a new crime--such as regaining his stolen property under his former "living" name! (Since he's supposed to be "dead," isn't that fraud?) The "Haitian" Napoleonic Code, is sort of like the one used in New Orlean's "French Quarter." It says that their's is a male-dominated society, including the part about property of the female spouse belonging to the male spouse. Still, probably because the per-capita income in U.S. dollars of the average black underemployed Haitian worker is around $450 a year, if a property crime is commited against one Haitian or his family or his land by another, nobody can afford a lawyer. Furthermore, statistically this average black Haitian worker is poorly educated, as is most of his countrymen! Therefore, the only recourse a violated Haitian has is to go to his village council and arrange a confrontation with the offendr outsider. A former college friend of mine said that in Africa, if someone from village "A" wanders into village "B" even by mistake, villager "A" may be killed and thus never found or heard from again! Getting back to this Voodoo religion, it was under the Duvalier Rule in Haiti that Voodoo became important originally, it seems. Moreover, there's no basis for Voodoo "dolls" pricked with pins unless we imagine the judge's "blind scales of justice." As the scales "weigh" the evidence in a courtroom (without prejudice) either for or against some defendant, the judge decides if he's guilty or innocent. Similarly, the greater the number of property-stealing infractions against an offending Haitian villager, the more "pins" are stuck into a doll-like effigy of this villager! Finally, after enough pins are thrust into the doll, it's time to administer the plant poisons and bury the offending villager, I guess. Don't forget that in certain world theologies, we are actually asleep during our lifetimes, but that when we die we actually "wake up!" Could this be why the village councils, in concert with their religion which (likely) holds that "thou shalt not kill," "thou shalt not covet another man's property," --poisons these village violators to the point of death? Hopefully, when they awaken after death they'll realize their error and change for the better? Davis doesn't address that kind of "logic" in his book. Finally, does the "rainbow" with its spectrum of different colors symbolize the hallucinogenic effect that these plant poisons have on an individual?
Published: July 02, 2006   
Please Rate this Summary : 1 2 3 4 5
Translate Send Link Print
  1. 2. Batzenkatz

    The last word (literally!)

    The last sentence of my comment ought to read "With this in mind, 'The Serpent and the Rainbow' is fitting title." Sorry about that!

    0 Rating Thursday, June 25, 2009
  2. 1. Batzenkatz

    A bit of clarification

    To say that the title should have been "The Flower and the Rainbow" is to overlook an important premise of both the book and the movie. The serpent and the rainbow respectively represent Earth and Heaven (or the heavens) in Voodoo. This belief system literally has one foot in the grave -- it's as deeply rooted in the world of the dead as it is in that of the living. Both the book and the movie focus on the search for the "zombie powder" reknowned in Voodoo, the plunge into Voodoo and Haitian culture, and the spiritual perils of inquiring about deep Voodoo secrets. With this in mind, "T

    0 Rating Thursday, June 25, 2009
X

.