There is a rather morbid tradition in Xhosa culture involving the funeral rites of twins. Where one twin dies before the other, the surviving twin must enter the casket before his or her sibling is buried. It is said to continue the connection that the twins had in life, and there are those who believe that if the practice isn’t carried out, the remaining twin will pass away shortly afterwards. But the Xhosa are not alone in believing in this deep connection between twins. In carrying out research on twins last year one of our field workers reported how if a twin dies in childhood it is believed that the child’s body should be buried close to the house of the surviving twin, affirming this strong connection that most cultures perceive to be true of twins. In fact the connection is deemed to be so strong that according to traditional Zulu culture twins are viewed as one person. When one twin dies before the other no animal is sacrificed at the funeral – the belief is that the death will only be complete after both twins are dead, so the spirit of the animal can’t accompany the first twin, but must wait until the journey of both twins is completed.
To read more about how Zulu culture perceive twins, and advice on how to care for twins, visit the Ulwazi wiki and read about Nqobile’s findings from her interview with Mama Ndlovu, a mother of twin girls.
Photograph courtesy of hornblend.com