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The Ibeji Cult of the Yoruba

The Yorubaland has the highest twin birthrate in the world, about 45 out of every 1000 births (4). Yoruba oral traditions say that twins, ibeji, can bring either joy or despair to their family. In earlier times, twins were feared and infanticide was a common practice. The Yoruba people could not understand why a woman gave birth to more than one child.  However, over time the practice and beliefs changed. People began to praise the twins and believed they could bring a family wealth. Through Yoruba oral traditions we can try to recall the history of this tradition. Because of this change in  practice and the high infant death rate, the people of Yoruba began to carve wooden figures, ere ibeji. The figures are meant to honor the deceased twin or twins. Today, some people in Yoruba still practice this tradition. However, it has been further altered due to the strong presence of other religions (1).