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Some Bizarre Ritual Practices Associated with Twin Birth in Uganda

Ugandans generally treat twins with awe and hence, as soon as a twin birth surfaces in the family, everything gets deeply affected.

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Having a twin birth has for long been regarded as a super natural feat for which the parents involved get social accolades and reverence. Among the Ugandan cultures, twins are considered spiritual gifts of life deserving special rituals and ceremonies to appease the spirits and to guarantee their survival.There are many bizarre twin ceremonies conducted by the different cultures in my country and most of the rituals focus on the parents and the twins themselves.

 As far as the parents are concerned, one of the most notable things that happen to the parents of twins is the nomenclature that multiple births bring about. The parents instantly begin to be called either as the “Mother of the spirits” or “the father of the spirits”. In Central Uganda, the Mother of twins become automatically known as Nnalongo while the father becomes Ssalongo.These new naming for the parents are so powerful that the concerned parents gradually lose the original names they were hitherto known by in that community before the twin birth. When time to name the twins arrives, parents of these spiritual beings are subjected to twin rituals, which require that they lie openly on the same papyrus mat completely naked in full view of the relatives and friends invited to the ritual ceremony and go further to behave as if they were attempting to have a Mock sexual act. They then get up and walk gently to their huts. For as long as the twins live, the parents of twins will be required to make sacrifices of chicken with a specified color to the gods of life. This is also accompanied by some salt less guinea peas, boiled and mixed in shea butter oils or simsim pest for the consumption of the gods. These sacrificial items are then delivered to the spirits at dawn by the parents in the presence of a Spiritual Medium. Experience has shown that parents who neglect these rituals generally lose one or both of their twin children.

On the part of the twins, the most significant ritual is naming. In my country, twins share common names depending on who was born first. Among the Nilotic ethnic groups of Northern Uganda, the first of the twin children to be born takes the automatic name, Opio for a male and Apio for a female while the one that follows becomes Ocen for male and/or Acen for a female. Among the Bantus, such names as Wasswa and Kato or Nakato for females are very common twin specific names.  Because of the belief that twins are some kind of special children, parents treat them with the highest degree of distinction. They wear the same fabrics and they are allowed to live and grow together. Twins study in the same schools and every effort is usually taken to ensure that they are not separated.

 In my country, there are stories that recount how identical twins share opportunities and threats in the societies that they live just because they are difficult to distinguish from each other by the people they interact with. In Eastern Uganda, a long serving Roman Catholic Bishop is known to have been crowned as a Bishop mistakenly because he was earlier at the coronation pavilion than his brother who got held up enroute the venue by a mechanical fault on his car. His Priest brother took this very serious incident comically because both were very close to each other and were above all Reverend Fathers sharing the same calling. 

In some other secular areas of life, identical twins are prone to sharing girl friends and boy friends because of their identical looks. This is something that creates many passionate feelings against twins especially among the parties in their network of relationships that appear to be victims of this kind of mix up. In most cases, it is the twins that get blamed because they know each other but still encourage the mix up with the people they relate.  

 Twins therefore, affect not only the lives of their immediate family, but they indeed affect the lives of their entire communities and significant social networks.

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