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Zombie-Like Creatures in Middle Eastern Folklore

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Golem and Loew

A rabbi creating a Golem

Golem by Philippe Semeria

A depiction of a Golem

Although the particular term “zombie” does not exist among ancient Middle Eastern folklore, there are still other creatures which originate in the Middle East that resemble zombies. For example, stories about zombie-like spirits known as the Ekiminu [1]circulated thousands of years ago in Assyrian lore. These spirits were created if somebody was improperly buried [2]. The Ekiminu would come out of their graves during the night and eat the living, much like a zombie. Ekiminu were referred as “ghosts of the dead” and existed among Babylonian mythology . These were creatures known to go after loved ones and take their souls.

In comparison, vampire-like creatures in Albania also take on zombie behavior. These vampires were called Sampiro and they would emerge from their graves shortly after burial and go after living humans. The Sampiro would walk slowly and clumsily due to the high heeled shoes they were said to wear. Albanians believed that those who possessed Turkish blood had the potential to become Sampiro so they would decapitate the dead before burial to prevent reanimation.

Another type of zombie-like folklore in the Middle East includes the Golem. The Golem [3] stems from Jewish folklore and is told to be a large, brainless man made of clay who does the biddings of his master. The word “Golem” translates into “clumsy” or “slow” and this reminds one of a zombie’s sluggish mobility. Golems were said to be created by rabbis and made to defend the Jewish people. Golems cannot talk and do not have a soul, such as zombies.

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