THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW by Wade Davis

THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This book defies simple characterization, which is in keeping with its subject, the all-encompassing philosophy known as voodoo, or vodoun, as Davis here calls it. Haitian vodoun, properly understood, is concerned not merely with what is called witchcraft, but with a broad system of traditional wisdom and practical knowledge with its roots in Africa--among the peoples of the Guinea coast, all the way from the bolongs of the Senegal, the Gambia, and the Casamance to the lagoons of Togo and Benin (formerly Dahomey), down to the towering rain forests of the Congo and beyond. The author begins his story and quest as a student at Harvard. His assignment is to determine the precise nature of the powerful anaesthetic which creates the state of suspended animation in a ""zombi""--one who is to all appearances dead, but is revived with an antidote and brought under the spiritual domination of another. But what starts out as a scientific quest for pharmacological data concludes as a spiritual confrontation with the immense unknown. Behind the ancient traditions of Africa reside millenia of profound reflection upon and analysis of the human psyche, society, and the world around us. As Davis penetrates the mysteries of vodoun, he pushes beyond the limits of material knowledge. In fact, his symbolic title refers to an ancient creation myth in which the serpent, identified with water and earth, merges with the rainbow, identified with light and air; the result is life. The reader who follows Davis on his search leaves the confident citadels of Cambridge and New York, enters the eerie mountains of Haiti and the world of African tradition, and finally comes in touch with a powerful, living cosmic view that questions and challenges the basic premises of western society and thought. A provocative look beyond the ""black-magic"" clich‚.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1985
ISBN: 0684839296
Publisher: Simon & Schuster