The Yoruba people who live in what is now modern Nigeria have the highest rate of multiple births on Earth. The Ibeji are the sacred twins of the Yoruba pantheon. The Ibeji bring joy, vitality, prosperity, good health, and good fortune to their devotees and to homes in which they are honoured. They may be invoked to protect all children. Parents of twins, triplets, or other multiple births may consider the Ibeji the guardian of their children and invoke them for all issues of health and protection.
The Ibeji’s names are usually given as Kainde and Taino. In Brazil, the Ibeji may be accompanied by a third child, named Doum. He may be the child born after the twins, or the twins may, in fact, be triplets. Depending on the version of the myth, the Ibeji’s parents are:
• Oshun and Shango
• Oya and Shango
The Ibeji are rambunctious, childlike spirits, full of fun. If bored, they may pull pranks, but these tend to resemble a small boy’s mischief,rather than the sometimes malicious practical jokes of tricksters like Loki, Eshu Elegbara, or Hermes. At worst, it is like having a house full of bored, energetic, and sometimes petulant little boys, potentially annoying, but not terrifying.
However, do not underestimate the Ibeji. They are not children. They are powerful spirits who appear in the guise of children and have fun playing at being children. The Ibeji’s oracles and advice are reputedly consistently reliable. They have a history of healing illness, especially mental disorders, and of rescuing endangered children. (To keep the Ibeji from entertaining themselves, keep the atmosphere in your home lively and interesting. Good food, good conversation, music, and entertainment should keep the Ibeji occupied and happy. Alternatively, if they’re giving you a hard time, threaten to tell their parents and do so, if necessary.) The Ibeji are syncretized to Saints Cosmas and Damian.
The Ibeji offer special comfort and protection to surviving twins who have lost a sibling.
Twins and their families; people whose families have a history of twins are considered automatic devotees; the Ibeji are also guardians of children in general.
Twin dolls represent the Ibeji; also images of Saints Cosmas and Damian
Monkeys in general, and especially Colobus monkeys. (Twins, their families, and devotees of the Ibeji are forbidden to eat monkey flesh or harm monkeys.)
27 September (Feast of Cosmas and Damian)
They’re kids! Give them toys, sweets, and fun stuff. Some construct doll houses for the Ibeji. The Ibeji traditionally enjoy sugarcane, fruit, yellow rice, okra, and black-eyed peas. Puree cooked black-eyed peas; drizzle with red palm oil and serve. Offer the Ibeji fizzy drinks or fruit juices.
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by: Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.