Touched by a Zombie: the Tibetan Ro-Langs

In the past, Zombie possession was typically presented in Western media as a function of sorcery, often tied to Africa or Haiti. While these Zombies were mind controlled slaves, who could in theory be dangerous, they weren’t spreading a disease.

The modern media trope has moved well past that: the source of the outbreak isn’t as relevant as the fact that there is a widespread outbreak. At least some blame goes to George Romero’s modern Zombie classic, Night of the Living Dead.

But back to old school Zombies…

And not the African kind.

No, we’re going around the globe, to find a different group of Zombies:

We’re going to Tibet.

Here, we’ll find two subgroups of Zombies: one that spreads its disease, like our modern Zombies, and another that are just slaves, more akin to the African Diaspora model…


In Tibetan, the word Ro means ‘corpse’.

And Langs means to ‘rise up’.

You can do the math:

A Ro-Langs is not something you want to run into…


How do you make a Ro-Langs?

A) become a Gdon Spirit.

Okay, what does that mean?

According to Erik Pema Kunsang, translator and former director of Rangjung Yeshe Publications, a Gdon Spirit is a:

malevolent influence; demon, demonic / negative force, harmful / evil spirit / influence, madness. ‘don; demon/ certainty; a demon

This is a form of corpse possession; it also can spread its contamination by touching you on the head.

Beware of kindly grandmas who stroke you on the head…

You can never be too careful…

B) become a Sorcerer.

You’ll need a lot of fancy words, books and accessories.

A hat and cape can’t hurt either.

Don’t worry, you can get everything you’ll need at©


So how do you spot a Ro-Langs?

Unlike contemporary Zombies, Ro-Langs don’t moan, groan or gasp.

Instead, they wag their tongues silently, back and forth.

Also, there are no Zombie Yoga classes. The Ro-Langs are rigor mortis stiff; they lurch, never bending their knees or elbows.

Some Tibetan houses have low doorways, just to keep the Ro-Langs out…


Okay, I ran into/made a Ro-Langs and need to get rid of it before my partner gets home. What do I do?

Well, first of all, you can’t kill something that’s already dead, right?

However, they do have vulnerabilities…

Things that make them ‘brgyal-ba’.

In case you’ve forgotten your Tibetan, that means ‘fall over’.

Good as dead.


There are Skin Zombies (lpags-langs). You’ve got to break their flesh open to kill them.

There are Blood Zombies (khrag-langs). You’ve got to make them bleed.

There are Flesh Zombies (sha-langs). You have to cut them deep, down to the bone, and strip the muscles away.

There are Bone Zombies (rus-langs). You have to shatter their bones.

And then, finally there are the Mole Zombies.

Yes, the Mole Zombies.

The rme-langs.

Its only weak spot is a mole.

Not just any mole.

One specific mole.

Good luck finding that without getting close…


So, what’s the take-away?

Well, certainly have a wonderful and safe Halloween this year.

Also, remember the warning about Grandmas who like to pet you on the head.

Especially the ones who can’t bend at the joints…


Additional Resources:

Ro – Langs: The Tibetan Zombie, Turrell Wylie, published in the History of Religions,
Vol. 4, No. 1 (Summer, 1964), pp. 69-80, The University of Chicago Press

Definition of Gdon:

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