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Twins have played a prominent role in the creation stories we have read. They are either significantly similar, or completely opposite; comparable to the aspects of fraternal and identical. For example, Erebos (darkness) and Nyx (night), Hemera (day) and Aether (brightness), Anshar (sky) and Kishar (earth), Hsi Wang Mu (yin) and Dongwanggong (yang), Hunahpu and Xbalanque, etc.   

In mythology, twins are portrayed as a multitude of things: lovers, friends, rivals, and heroes, etc.

But what I am wondering is why were people so fascinated by them? And why were they often associated to traits of similarity and/or opposition?

Was it because of their appearance, or their profound ability to understand and/or relate to each other?

I am not really sure myself; maybe it is because the function of genetics was still a mystery to ancient peoples.

In any case, I believe that the way in which twins have been portrayed in mythology has greatly contributed to the interest researchers have in them today.

– A.P

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4 thoughts on “Twinsies

  1. That is an interesting question, I’m not sure myself, but I think twins were believed to be special because they are a somewhat rare and could be seen as a miracle, a two for one special. It could go back further to when populations where much smaller and infant mortality rates were higher, by having two children you have a higher chance of at least one surviving, making twins a great commodity to the people.

  2. Throughout the myths we have examined, many of the earthly characteristics are represented as human figures. Considering this prior to your question, it may be possible that the concept of twins comes up so frequently only because earthly elements are often represented in more than one way, or rather thought of together. Using your example of darkness and night, we see that they are technically the same thing, like twins, so they are just easily described of as twins. Also considering yin and yang as a prime example, we see contrary forces are interconnected in the natural world. Concepts like night and day, hot and cold exhibit opposites/balance and therefore both sides of one concept. By thinking of these concepts as twins, we do not separate them as two ideas and therefore grasp more in their meaning.

  3. It is very interesting to see how the twins were such a frequent appearance within so many versions of myths as you pointed out. I also think it probably had something to do with the function of myth as they used myth to explain different things they otherwise found difficult to understand. Things like genetics that would have been hard for people to otherwise explain so by including twins we have an excellent example of the types of things myths were used for explaining.

  4. I agree, there is definitely an interest in twins throughout almost all myths and cultures. I think that this is because if you ever see twins together they do have some kind of special bond that cannot be explained or duplicated. Coming from a family where twins are very common it is easy to understand the ancients fascination with them; they are unique and yet the same. In myths however, I believe they are portrayed as opposites because they are seen as two sides of the same coins if that makes sense. In cases where they are seen as rivals how could they not be rivals at some point? Twins can be so similar that it must be frustrating at some times. Also, agreeing with Sarah Noble’s point that infant mortality rates were extremely high back then so having two children at once was an amazing feat; but also surviving the child birth experience of having two children at the same time would have been miraculous back then. Twins must have been seen as some sort of magical beings.

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