Twins in mythology

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A pair of Female ere ibeji twin figures (early 20th-century) in the permanent collection of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Twins appear in the mythologies of many cultures around the world. In some they are seen as ominous and in others they are seen as auspicious. Twins in mythology are often cast as two halves of the same whole, sharing a bond deeper than that of ordinary siblings, or seen as fierce rivals. They can represent another aspect of the self, a doppelgänger, or a shadow. However, twins can also reflect a complete opposition of the other, such as the "civilized" Gilgamesh, and the "wild" Enkidu; or in the commonly known instance of good and evil twin identities.


Twins can also be shown as having special powers and deep bonds. In Greek mythology, Castor and Pollux share a bond so strong that when Castor dies, Pollux gives up half of his immortality to be with his brother. This etiologically explains why their constellation, the Dioskouroi or Gemini, is only seen during one half of the year, as the twins split their time between the underworld and Mount Olympus. In an aboriginal tale, the same constellation represents the twin lizards who created the plants and animals and saved women from evil spirits. Another example of this strong bond shared between twins would be the Ibeji twins within African mythology. Ibeji twins are viewed as one soul shared between two bodies. If one of the twins die, the parents then create a doll that portrays the body of the deceased child, so the soul of the deceased can remain intact for the living twin. Without the creation of the doll, the living twin is almost destined for death because it is believed to be missing half of its soul.[1]

By culture[edit]

African (Nigerian)[edit]

  • Mawu-Lisa - Twins representing moon and sun, respectively.
  • Yemaja - Mother of all life on earth.
  • Aganju - Twin and husband of Yemaja[1]
  • Ibeji - Twins of joy and happiness. Children of Chango and Oshun.[2]

Greek and Roman mythology[edit]

African (Egyptian)[edit]

  • Nut and Geb, Dualistic twins. God of Earth (Geb) and Goddess of the sky (Nut)
  • Osiris - Isis’ twin and husband. Lord of the underworld. First born of Geb and Nut. One of the most important gods of ancient Egypt.
  • Isis - Daughter of Geb and Nut; twin of Osiris.
  • Ausar - [also known by Macedonian Greeks as Osiris] twin of [Set]. [Set] tricked his brother at a banquet he organized so as to take his life.

Ancient Syria[edit]

Norse mythology[edit]

Hinduism[edit]

Jewish[edit]

Zoroastrian[edit]

Native American[edit]

Central American mythologies[edit]

Afro-Caribbean cosmologies[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Flatley, Robert. "Kanopy". doi:10.5260/cca.199204. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ Flatley, Robert. "Kanopy". doi:10.5260/cca.199204. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ a b c d e C. Scott Littleton, ed. (2005). Gods, Goddesses, and Mythology, Volume 4. Marshall Cavendish Corporation. ISBN 978-0-7614-7559-0.
  4. ^ Vivienne., Lewin (2017). Twin enigma. Karnac Books. ISBN 9781782415336. OCLC 954223952.
  5. ^ "Encyclopedia.com | Free Online Encyclopedia". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2018-12-15.
  • Jobes, Gertrude (1962). Dictionary of Mythology, Part 2. New York: Scarecrow Press, Inc. pp. 1614–1615.
  • Maria Leach, ed. (1972). Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. pp. 1134–1136.
  • John M. Wickersham, ed. (2000). Myths and Legends of the World, vol 4. New York: Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 76–79. ISBN 978-0-02-865438-6.
  • "Ahura Mazda (Ohrmazd) and Ahriman." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com.12 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.
  • “ISIS.” Egyptian Mythology for Smart People, egyptianmythology.org/gods-and-goddesses/isis/.
  • Lewin, Vivienne. Twin Enigma. Karnac Books, 2017.
  • Myers, Bethany. “Southern Illinois University Carbondale OpenSIUC.” Southern Illinois University Carbondale OpenSIUC, 2002, opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1005&context=uhp_theses.
  • Voth, Grant, et al., directors. The Beauty of African Mythology. Welcome to Virginia Commonwealth University | Kanopy, 2015, vcu.kanopy.com/s?query=african+mythology.