“Behold Twins, Children Of The Monkey Do Not Die”
Nothing embodies the spirit of cultural transcendence that is the legacy of the African Diaspora quite so poignantly as the exquisitely carved Twin figures, called Ibeji. These figures represent an African tradition that was so heartfelt and deeply ingrained that it was able to survive the Middle Passage.
For the Yoruba, a mother of Twins is indeed doubly blessed. With the birth of her Twins, comes the family’s ability to attain a better life through the aid of these special children who are considered close to the gods. As is often the case in Africa, and in life, good fortune can turn to disaster if it is not handled properly. The Yoruba believe that special ceremonies must be performed, praise songs sung, and special foods be served to Twins so that they can maintain their favor with the gods and hence that of their family.
The Yoruba people are widely known as having the highest naturally occurring rates of Twinning in the world. Unfortunately, the mortality rate for Twins is also high. If the birth of Twins is cause for great celebration, the passing of a Twin is cause for great mourning. If one or both of a pair of Twins dies, the family will consult a diviner who may say that a small wooden figure must be carved to contain the spirit of the lost child. The figure resembles what the child might have looked like in the prime of life had the full promise of its birth been realized.
Twins double the financial burden of the family; at the same time they are considered to be extremely beneficial in bringing about blessings to the family. Often, Twins of poor families were put to death to ease the family’s financial burdens. Through divination, Ifa discovered the killing of the Twins was offending Shango, the God of Thunder. The oracle informed Ifa that the mother of Twins must dance to Ibeji, the spirit of the Twins, every five days.
“You are the ones who open doors on Earth. You are the ones who open doors in Heaven. When you awaken, you provide money; You provide children; you provide long life; You, who are dual spirits.”
The Wonder Twins powers are activated when they touch each other and speak the phrase, “Wonder Twin powers activate!” Physical contact is required. If the two are out of reach of each other, they are unable to activate their powers. As they are about to transform, they would each announce their intended form.
The association of twins with health-giving powers is widespread in mythology, folklore, and religion. A characteristic set of attributes of twins recurs in different mythologies of wide distribution. In addition to healing, divine twins are often empowered with the ability to revive the dead, increase the fertility of man, animals, and crops, influence the weather, predict the future, and insure victory in battle. In some traditional societies these special attributes are thought to extend to all of the twins and their parents in the tribe.
Ibeji re, omo edun ibeji re, omo edun kere-kere-yan “Behold twins, children of the monkey. They do not die”
The last line of the song above is true in that the Yoruba people believe Twins share the same Soul. Upon the death of a Twin, the mother commissions an ere figure. This figure is thought to provide a resting place for the deceased Twin’s Soul. If the ere figure is not provided, the Yoruba people believe the Soul of the deceased will seek vengeance by bringing terrible misfortune to the other Twin, or the entire family. Ere figures are carved as the same sex of the deceased Twin, but as an adult.
The Ere Ibeji are placed on the household altar. There they are fed and clothed just as the surviving twin is fed and clothed. This is thought to placate Shango. Ere Ibeji figures are dedicated to Shango by the application of cam powder. Shango is also known as Oko Ibeji, (husband of twins.)
The first born Twin, whether a boy or a girl, is always called Taiwo, meaning “having the first taste of the world”, whereas the second is named Kehinde, meaning “arriving after the other”. Although being born first Taiwo is considered as the younger Twin. His senior Kehinde is supposed to send out his partner to see what the outside world looks like. As soon as Taiwo has given a signal by crying, Kehinde will follow. Kehinde is supposed to be more careful, more intelligent and more reflective, while Taiwo is believed to be more curious and adventurous, but also more nonchalant.
In the event that one or both Twins dies in infancy, precautions must be taken immediately, to counteract the danger implicit in such an event. After consultation with the Ifa priest, the Ere Ibeji Twin figurine, is made. A commissioned sculptor carves the small wooden figurine which will serve as a symbolic substitute and dwelling place for the Soul of the departed. The Diviner will then perform the traditional ritual of transferring the Soul of the deceased to the ere Ibeji figurine.
Legend and Myth
Twins are also called Ejire, or “two who are one.” According to Yoruba tradition, everyone on earth has an Ancestral Guardian Spirit or Soul counterpart in the sky that duplicates his or her actions. This Soul is constantly and cyclically reborn. Twins are thought to have a double Soul. Because there is no way of distinguishing the Twin who is a divine being from the mortal Twin, both are treated as sacred.
*** The Ibeji are not simply the Yoruba “worship of twins.” It deals with the nature of Twins being born in pairs and how this Twin nature is the true nature of creation. Twins symbolize the pairing of two things from creation in order to perpetuate further dual creation. The Ibeji are depicted as Twins (usually Male and Female) because their symbolism transcends a married couple. They are Twin brother and sister. They reflect kinship, equality, and unity in accomplishment far beyond just marriage. This is why nothing we wish to achieve can be done alone. We must work in pairs. It is our true Twin nature. This is the metaphor behind the veneration of Ibeji and other West-Central African twinned divinities…
Ancient and primitive societies supposed that the birth of twins was associated with divine influence, the mother having been visited or otherwise affected by supernatural powers. A frequent explanation was that twins were the result of superfetation, a divine impregnation occurring along with that by the lawful husband. The specific powers of divine twins appear to be a reflection of the particular form of origin of twins through divine interference with the fertilization process. The twins thus share some of the powers of the divine parent, particularly those pertaining to fertility. Their dual paternity and its inherent competition is related to their martial interests as well as their ability to resolve ambivalent or ambiguous situations and predict outcomes.
Twins Do Not Have the Same Fingerprints. Identical twins share a lot of resemblance, and DNA. But one thing about them is always very different — their fingertips. Since fingertips are not only based on a person’s DNA, but on various factors such as nutrition, growth rate and hormonal levels in the womb, two identical twins will have unique sets of ridges and lines that construct their fingertips.
Twins Can Read Each Other’s Minds. Everyone knows that twins have a special connection between them, and can sometimes posses a supernatural bond. A twin can sense when their sibling is in pain, and they sometimes “share a brain” by reacting to the same situation in an identical way. Furthermore, twins can actually climb inside each other’s minds and gather information. So if twins are studying for the same exam, they can each learn only half of the material and simply share it with their minds afterwards to save time.
One Twin Is Always the Evil Twin of the Other Twin: The famous legend about everyone having an evil twin is not a completely fictional one. When a set of twins are born, one is always a meaner version of their twin. When an egg is fertilized, it always starts developing one single embryo. But sometimes the embryo starts having really dark thoughts that it, at such a young age, cannot contain. This dark mind separates itself from the embryo, to create a new, evil embryo. In early sonograms you can clearly tell one twin has horns and a pitchfork, which are absorbed into his body during the second trimester.
You might have noticed that if you have any friends who have twins, they usually rent or sublet their apartments. That’s because twins are afraid of the rumor that once twins legally own property, their siblings get the power to go through their walls. Much like vampires, who need to be invited in to get access to a house, twins have special abilities that require the permission of a legally binding contract.
If a Twin Dies, The Other Twin Gets His Life Force and Memories: Death is always tragic, but when it happens to someone who is completely similar to you in every way, it could be impossible to recover from. That’s why with twins, death is not the final chapter. If a twin dies prematurely, their soul will transform into the other twin, giving him dual souls. The living twin will gain all the knowledge and memories of their sibling, so that the dead twin could live on through them. Two souls could be a huge burden on one person, which is why most twins don’t die separately, but have a thoroughly planned out suicide pact.
During Sleep, Twins Roll Into Each Other’s Bodies and Merge Into One Kid, Who Is a Completely Different Being With Their Own Personality. You never see twins in a sleepover party, because that could traumatize the kids who wake up in the middle of the night to pee. A few hours after falling asleep, the twins will merge into one whole new person, that only lives for a few hours each night. Sadly, the twins never get to meet this being, as they can never be awake for it. But the being sometimes leaves them messages, so they’ll know to prepare its favorite midnight snack for it before they go to sleep. If you have a job where you work the night shift, or if you’re just a night-person, you might actually be that merged twins being.