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TitleTwins in the World: The Legends They Inspire and the Lives They Lead
File Size1.9 MB
Total Pages266
Table of Contents
List of Figures
Introduction: A Personal Journey
1 Our Twins
2 Voodoo Twins
3 Stone Idols
4 The Big Shock
5 Keepers and Outcasts
6 Forced Adoption and the Sex Trade
7 Let Nature Take Its Course
8 The Hold of Superstition
9 Heart of Darkness
10 One Gender and One Only
11 Abuse and Neglect
12 Till Death Us Do Part
Conclusion: Bringing It All Back Home
Document Text Contents
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Twins in the World

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Twins in the World120

the children to earn a decent living once they reached adolescence. I
worked with infants and young children in a spacious, spotless, well-lit,
well-equipped building, and I got on very well with the nuns presiding
over the institution.

Twins abounded here too. The head of the dioceses, whom I shall call
Father Bruno, an unassuming pleasant man in his fifties, explained that in
Madagascar being born even 300 kilometers apart made all the difference.
The country being fragmented into many ethnic groups, each had its own
beliefs about and conduct toward twins. In the north of the country, where
the capital was located, twins were accepted; in the center, where the
dioceses was located and I was working, superstition against twins was
beginning to be felt strongly.3 One twin, generally the second to be born,
was believed to possibly embody some evil spirit of the dead. In order to
prove its innocence, the second twin was often submitted to a terrible trial,
the so-called “test of the oxen.” The poor baby was placed near the entrance
to a cattle pen, then the gate was opened and the herd allowed to rush out.
If the baby was trampled, its atrocious death meant that he or she was truly
evil and rightly done away with.

During my stay Father Bruno took me to visit three “lone twins” whose
co-twin had not passed the trial. Because the oxen tests were performed in
the open, everyone in the area knew about them, and looked upon them
favorably. I was stunned by the openness of the mothers in declaring their
crime of slaughtering one twin and by their bold and unwavering conviction
in having done the right thing. No pity showed in their faces or words, and
they seemed to feel no guilt or shame. It just had to be done and society
supported them. On our way back to the mission Father Bruno com-
mented, “These customs are hard to die. We seldom manage to convince
these women to let us have the doomed twin.”

A few days later Father Bruno told me, “I have a special surprise for
you.” We called on a high-ranking priest in the main diocese of the region.
The archbishop, an imposing man in his seventies, was particularly affable.
He shook hands with me and said, “I know of your interest in twins. Father
Bruno told me about it. Well I was born a twin. Apparently I was the evil
one, but God must have been merciful to me, and I survived the ‘test of the
oxen.’ Perhaps I was not such a bad soul after all.”

Toward the end of my stay Father Bruno prepared yet another surprise,
when he summoned me and said, “Now you should go and see for yourself
where most of our twins come from. In a large region in the south both
twins are killed at birth by the two main ethnic groups.” The slaughter of
the twins was so evident and so openly acknowledged by everyone that I
had almost forgotten about the two “missionaries” mentioned in the article
and had not even planned to visit them. Father Bruno had arranged for one

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The Hold of Superstition 121

of the young locals working with him, whom I shall call Christopher, to
drive me to them in a jeep. Christopher was very knowledgeable about the
customs of the country and spoke most dialects, so that people easily
opened up to him.

In a minute I was in the jeep and we set off toward the south. The road
was in appalling condition. In former times it used to be a tarmac road,
which could be covered in six hours. Now it was full of big holes and mud,
and it took at least 20 hours to reach our destination. In the rainy season
the south was completely cut off.

Our trip, however, lasted three days, since Christopher stopped
frequently along the way to show me features of Malagasy life especially
linked with maternity and twins.

In the south of the country both twins were considered evil forces, who
could harm the entire community if they were allowed to live. Even their
mothers, however, were tainted and often excluded from their community.
One morning we spotted a pretty young girl breastfeeding newborn twins
along the road and Christopher stopped the car. The girl immediately
covered her breasts. The girl did not cover her breast out of shyness or
modesty, because many women went bare breasted in the region. She
seemed to fear my looking at her breasts.

Yet when I approached the girl and complimented her on her twins, she
smiled. This teenage mother, like all mothers of twins belonging to the
same ethnic group, had been abandoned by her husband and was obliged
to live the rest of her life on the outskirts of her village. Nobody wanted
twins in the community, nor would any other man ever again dare to
touch this poor girl. That the girl had harbored twins in her womb tainted
her body forever, and her presence was forever to be avoided. Passersby not
only ignored her but also turned their faces in the opposite direction, as if
malevolent forces could be transferred to them by the look of this frail,
innocent girl and her twin infants. See figure 8.1.

Fear of the “infection,” of malevolent forces which could be transmitted
by “contagion,” was widespread in Madagascar. This sort of transmission
was described by Sir James George Frazer in 1922 in his book “The Golden
Bough.”4 This theory, though oversimplified, still had a relevance for me
in Madagascar where, just as Frazer described, twins were thought to
transmit their evil to their mothers, and these in turn had the power to
infect the entire community.

When the poor girl covered up her breasts upon seeing me, she was
dreading another malevolent force, the so-called evil eye. My allegedly
envious eyes looking at her full breasts could make her milk disappear.

A superstitious belief in the so-called “evil eye” or “envious eye” is
ancient and widespread. Such a belief possibly originated in ancient

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projection, 154–5
prostitution, 138–9, 143–4, 166, 212
psychoanalysts, See Bick, Esther;

Bowlby, John; Freud Sigmund;
Klein, Melanie

psychology, 17–19, 34, 61–3, 190
See also prenatal psychology

quadruplets, 171

racism, 2, 7
Rajasthan, 163–7, 190–1
Ramon, 138, 140–1, 145
Raphael, Dana, 60
relationship warning signs, 14–15
Rich, Adrienne, 97–8, 207
rites of passage, 49
reproductive revolution, 13, 216
romantic love, 1, 5, 220
Ruby, 96–7
Ruddick, Sara, 175, 181, 209

sacrifice, 32, 36–7, 40, 153–7
human, 153–7

Salvy, Claire, 190–1
same-sex twins, 191–2, 194–8, 219

child-raising practices, 192
and marriage, 194–8

scapegoats, 156–8, 215
“secret language,” 18–19
secret societies, 49
Segal, Nancy, 191
selling twins, 90–1, 94–7, 144–5, 168–9
Sen, Amartya, 163
Sepik River, 111
“shadow” twin, 72–4
shamans, 8, 78–81, 97, 101, 131,

Sheper-Huges, Nancy, 183
Shostak, Marjorie, 101–2, 106
Siamese twins, 54, 65, 135–6, 214–15
The Silent Twins, 18–19
Silvicula, 146–8

See also Umna

singletons, 14, 16, 17–18, 22, 53, 55,
60, 66, 68, 135, 152, 170–1, 204,
207, 209

Sky, 155–8
soul mates, 1–5, 16, 18, 83, 185–6, 220
South America, 137–49, 179–80, 187

See also El Chaco
South Korea, 162
Spencer, Herbert, 106
Spitz, Rene, 50
Sri Lanka, 5, 57–9, 90–1
Sudan, 185
Sumer, 121–2
superstition, 102, 111, 119–27, 130–6,

148–9, 152, 154, 160–1, 214–15
explained, 133–6, 160, 214–15
See also evil eye; fadi

Sweden, 210–11
Switzerland, 138

Taiwan, 162
Tamberna tribe, Togo, 34–5
Taylor, Edward Burnett, 25–6
teddy bears, 94–6
television, 144
“test of the oxen,” 120, 135
Thailand, 94, 97, 129

See also Bangkok
Togo, West Africa, 25–35, 39–40, 43,

86, 196, 218
See also kings; Tamberna tribe

traditional healers, 111
transgenerational transmission, 205
transitional object, 94
triplets, 31–2, 113–15, 129, 151–2,

twin carrying, 72–4
twin gestation, 53
“twin-spotting,” 11
twin stories

Adrian and Anthony, 70
Dana and Mulji, 75–7
Esau and Jacob, 68–9
Jacob, 2–3

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Index 253

Jamison twins, 21
Jim twins, 17
Lee family, 167–8
Lena and Lina, 36–8
Licia and Louise, 71–2
Rabayan twins, 90–1
Romulus and Remus, 191–2
Shango twins, 39–40
Wang family, 169–70

54, 70, 160, 183

twin units, 56, 96, 149
Twinsburg Twins Days festival, 23

Ukraine, 138
ultrasounds, 3, 53, 56, 60, 63, 66, 70,

135, 162, 164–6, 170–1, 205,
211–12, 216

umbilical chord, 56
Umna, 146–9
unfaithfulness, 58–9
UNICEF, 151, 163
United Nations, 137
United Nations Population Fund

(UNPF), 209
United States, 11, 25, 54, 109, 173–5

See also Central Park, New York

urbanization, 210

van Gennep, Arno, 49
“vanishing twin syndrome,” 63

varicose veins, 4, 134, 177
Venezuela, 77–9
Viagra, 45, 66
victimization, 216–17
Vientiane, Laos, 129
villages, 93–4, 102–3, 210

See also outcast village
virginity, 6, 166
virility, 57–8, 197
Voodoo, 25–40, 42, 53, 84, 218

ceremony, 36–8
and healing, 34–6
kings, 28–30
and twins, 33, 38–40
See also effigies; fetishism;

voyeurism, 20, 145

Warner, Judith, 204
West Africa, See Benin; Guinea Bissau;

Mali; Togo
Winnicott, Donald, 62, 94
Wolf, Naomi, 206
women, 97–8, 132–3, 143, 203–4,

Woodward, Joan, 198
World War I, 138, 215
World War II, 138, 158
World of Twins Association, 17

Zazzo, Renè, 190
Zen Buddhism, 64

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