Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Eternal Question, Or, Two Of Them Actually

When something bad happens to people, "Why me?" is a common thing to ask. When something good happens to people, "Why me?" is also asked. I am sure that there are very few people who can (truthfully) claim never to have asked themselves this question.

And so it is with Baby A and I. "Why us?" Why our zygote? Why are we lucky enough that our split was even and clean? Why? Parents of multiples ask similar questions, as Pam mentioned in a comment on my last post. One baby turned into three sweet boys. Oh, the chances!

We have jokingly said "We were too much person for one person!" But really, chance favored us, and we are not sure why.

Another eternal question: what happens after we die? Oh, don't worry, I won't wax philosophical on you here. Here I introduce to you the idea of an ibeji. The Yoruba in western Africa have the highest rate of dizygotic twinning in the world. Their word for "twin" is "ibeji."

The meaning of "ibeji" I want to talk about is the wooden statues they carve to house the souls of twins who have died. They are formally known as "ere ibeji," where "ere" means "sacred image," "ibi" means "born," and "eji" means "two."

The Yoruba believe that twins share a soul, and thus if one passes away in infancy, that part of the soul must remain on earth so the other twin can live. The statue houses that part of the soul. Even if both twins die, ere ibeji are made and kept. The statues are cared for as if they were living, and are kept in a special place in the family's home.

Interestingly enough, apparently twins are descended from the colobus monkey, whose flesh is forbidden to the Yoruba. During festivals where mothers dance with their ere ibeji, they sing songs honoring twins, many of which emphasize this connection. Sometimes, twins are even referred to as "children of the monkey." Our parents used to call us "monkeys" because we were climbers as toddlers (we climbed EVERYTHING). Coincidence? Maybe not.

Here's where I got all this information:
Yoruba Customs and Beliefs Pertaining to Twins
Wikipedia article: Yoruba People
Wikipedia article: Ibeji
Ere Ibejis: Yoruba Twin Figures from the Bryn Mawr College Collection


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