The notion of twinship between the dream ego and the conscious ego,which is the decisive element and an essential constituent in my reflections on psychosis, is not reducible to the projection of a physiological experience on a symbological plane.Twins have been and still are.major complex indicators for the human psyche. Exposure or murder by violence was a common fate of one or both twins. Their untoward fate has been lightened among many peoples, but they are still regarded as uncanny.Ceremonies are performed to ward off evil.From the point of view of analytical psychology, the worldwide superstitions and taboos against twins reveal a tremendous resistance to the radical manifestation of dioscuri,due to its disintegrating psychic effect. We find activation of various unconscious complexes with the birth of twins, such as infidelity,regression to the level of beasts, fear of drought,fear of incest,etc. Warding off the twins must have served for both soothing the activated unconscious complexes,and the repression of the psychological dioscuri within the human psyche as a protection against psychosis and a crucial step for the development of consciousness. Yet, twins have a peculiar function in the field of ontology. Archetypally, the superstitions and taboos against twins and their functions in ontology are related to the creation myth,both cosmogenic and antropogenic, which involves twin and man and the sacrificing of twins in the process of creation.

The birth of twins once evoked emotions of extreme terror,repugnance, suspicion, anxiety and perplexity. It has been taboo in Australia, the East Indian Archipelago, nearly the whole of Africa, the greater part of the aboriginal population of America, the population of North-East Asia,the non-Aryan tribes of India, and in some populations of Europe. In ancient times,taboos and superstitions against twins were reported among the Assyrians and Babylonians,the Aryan population of India,and the Egyptians. Where the taboo and superstition had the strongest power,both mother and children were put to death at once. In the Niger Delta,even when the mother was allowed to live, she became an outcast and had to pass the rest of her days in the forest. In West Africa,among the Ibo,the birth of twins defiled the whole quarter. The inhabitants had to throw away all the cooked food and the water brought in the previous night. At Arebo in Benin,a wealthy man whose wife gave birth to twins could redeem her with another victim.There were cities of refuge,to which the mothers of twins could escape and hide for a time to be purified.
The Ibibions did not perform the customary funeral rite for the mother of the twins who died during delivery. The Bassari of Togoland preserved the stronger twin and buried the other alive in a big pot. A fowl was offered and cut in two. Half of it was buried with the condemned twin to prevent the spirit of the buried child taking revenge on the survivor.The mother was not allowed to take part in agricultural labour until the dead twin reappeared asa later child.On the Lower Congo,one of the twins was often neglected. After it starved to death,it was buried at crossroads, like a suicide or a man struck by lightening. A piece of wood was carved into an image of a child and put with the living twin so that he was not lonely ,and if the second child died,the image was buried with it. Among the Zulus, twins were not counted in the number of children in a family. The Kafirs regarded twins as scarcely human. One of them was killed without having received a name; the other was given a name after he was sixteen.

If the survivor died he was not allowed to be mourned for fear of angering the ancestral spirits. In the South Lake of Victoria Nyanza, the birth of twins was a calamity foretelling drought. When other means failed to produce rain, the twins were put to death. For the people of the river Amazon, giving birth to twins was seen as descending to the level of beasts. The mother had to leave one child in a lonely spot. The husband believed that the second twin was the offspring of adultery. The birth of twins demanded sacrifice and ceremonies lasting many days.

The North-Eastern Maiudu of California regarded the birth of twins as an exceptionally bad omen; the mother was killed and the newly born children were buried alive. Among the Arunta of Australia,twins were attributed to spirit individuals entering the mother’s body at one and the same time. In the province of West Nias, it was believed that they would grow up to become evil doers. The younger used to be hung on a tree in a sack to perish miserably.

In India and neighbouring countries, twins are generally held to be inauspicious. The birth of twins of different sexes is serious because it is held that their close connection in the womb amounts to prenatal incest. In India, at Ukhrul,the father of twins was regarded as a descendant of some cannibal tigers. On the island of Celebes,one of the twins was often a crocodile. In New Guinea, a story is told of a woman who gave birth to twins, one of them an iguana. The Ewe of Togoland in West Africa thought that twins were fetish-children, so they would not live for a long time and go back to the fetish. In Madagascar, when twins were put to death the excuse was that they would die in any case or they would go mad of aner or later make an attempt on their parents life. On the Micronesian island of Yap and among the Igorots of the Philippine Islands,one of the twins was given to a relative to avert the evil omen of their birth. In ancient Assyria,the birth of twins is a calamity for all but the royal family.

According to moderm Egyptians near Karnak,one of the twins may be a wild cat whose soul goes out on a nocturnal prowl when the owner is asleep.To the Bulgarians,twins are a mistortune and has to be averted through the mothers of bride and bridegroom simultaneously drinking brandy at the wedding. In the north-east of Scotland, twins are regarded as unlucky insofar as one of them,even though married,will be childless. The famous mythical story about twins in Zoroastrian religion is the birth of Ohrmazd and Ahriman.Zurwan,the personification of time,performed a sacrifice in order to generate Ohrmazd,the potential creator of all good things.But Zurwan doubted the efficacy of his sacrifice,and as a result of this sacrifice,gave birth to twin sons,Ohrmazd and Ahriman. The former was a result of his sacrifice and the later a consequence of his doubt.Since Zurwan had pledged to concede royal privilege to the first son who appeared before him,perverse Ahriman broke out of the maternal womb prematurely and demanded fulfilment of his father’s promise. He declared that Ahriman would be king for nine thousand years, but that Ohrmazd would be king forever.According to this myth, time is the only power that generates twins and that can decide which twin will be king. In a Zoroastrian poem, two spirits, Spenta Mainyu and Angra Mainyu, who were seen in sleep as twins, are mentioned. They are respectively good and bad in thought,word and action and foundations of life and its opposite. These two spirits as opposite principles existed prior to any manifestation of their existence and are accountable for the existence of good and bad,and of life and death. In both these myths, twins have a horizontal existence.

A different use of the theme of twins is present in Manichaeism. Mani was said to have a counterpart in the celestial realm, a twin who was both a protecting agency and his alter ego.The terrestrial element waits to be reunited with the celestial,pneumatic element. The perfect consubstantiality of Mani and his twin has a vertical structure. In Zoroastriuanism,the horizontal existence of twins is characterized by a radical opposition,whereas in Manichaeism the vertical existence is characterized by unity and consubstantiality.

The opposing and destroying agency should be defeated but not annihilated, in order that the equilibrium of the universe remain unchanged,In the Iroquois twin myth,the bad Tawiskaron breaks out of the maternal womb and calls into ex. istence a gigantic frog who absorbs all the water in the world,causing aridity.His twin Iouskeha calls the good creatures of the world into existence;he triumphs. Among the Tuscarora,an Iroquois tribe,the bad twin came violently to light,and in so doing killed his mother. The good twin tried to create plants and animals,but the other,trying to imitate him,succeeded only in bringing desert lands and reptiles into existence. The bad twin also created the bodies of human beings,while his brother gave them souls. In the end the bad twin was vanquished but not annihi.
lated; he became king of the dead. Another character from the Iroquois myths,the Grand Bosse,a double of Tawiskeron who fought against the creator and introduced sickness and other evils into the world,was finally defeated,but was given the task of curing and helping people.The bad entities or spirits that are guilty of homicide are endowed with the capacity to heal. In some American Indian myths, twins are conceived as sons of the sun.

The difference between them is sometimes attested to by the difference in their respective destiny: one of them experiences death but is resurrected by the other,like in the classical myth of the Dioscuri. Castor and Pollux are the dioscuri of Greek Mythology.Pollux was immortal. He was the son of Zeus and Leda. Castor was mortal; he was the son of Tyndareus, who was Leda’s human husband. The immortal Pollux renounced half of his immortality in favour of his mortal brother when the latter was fatally wounded by common enemies. As a consequence of this, Castor and Pollux lived alternatively in the heavens and in the netherworld. Among the Caribean population of Kalina, the first twin, Tanusi, is a kind of high god and ancestor,the creator of all good things; he lives in the “land without evening” (waking ego). Yolokantamalu, his twin brother (dream ego), is connected with obscurity and the pains of humanity and lives in the “land without morning”. Caribbean Kalinas claim that things existing on earth have their spiritual counterpart in heaven. The principle of twinship is fundamental to the ideology of the Dogon Mali. Nommo,one of the main characters of their cosmology and cosmogony, has a personality which is equivalent to a pair of twins representing the ideal couple. Nommo, as a spiritual entity, is a married couple which, because married, is perfect. Yurugu, Nommo’s older brother, is single, imperfect and unhappy.

Yurugu did not find his twin Soul because of his lack of belief or because of his inbom deficiency;therefore,he cohabited incestuously with his mother,the Earth.This created certain male volent entities.One of the twins that compose Nommo’s doubie personality was sacrificed,and some cosmic entities were derived from him.He later resurrected. In India,Yam,whose name means “twin”, is accompanied by a female counterpart,Yami,the feminine form of his name.He transformed and became the king of the dead.In Iran,Yima with his female twin Yimak,remained a prototype of humanity. Yima later became the inhabitant of a subterranean world in which different categories of living beings await final rehabilitation.Mashya and Mahyane were other prototypes,primordial twins and human progenitors. In the legend of Romulus and Remus, the former kills the latter immediately, following the marking of the sacred pomerium which was intended to separate the domestic soil of the city from all external territory. The Remus and Romulus legend reflects a Roman historicization of the twin creation myth and Romulus’ dismemberment is a transferred trace of the primeval cosmogenic cutting of the twins.


Murat Kemaloğlu, MD

Diploma Thesis – C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich


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