Religion Past and Present

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(457 words)

[German Version]

As a relatively rare and (at least in the past) unpredictable phenomenon, breaking with the natural course of pregnancy and birth, in traditional cultures twins are surrounded by an aura of the numinous. Attitudes toward them and their mothers (and occasionally their fathers) are ambivalent, a mixture of fear and fascination. The spectrum of ethnographic evidence regarding the social treatment of twins ranges from killing one or both through exposure or temporary, ritually constra…

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Vollmer, Ulrich, “Twins”, in: Religion Past and Present. Consulted online on 31 May 2023 <>
First published online: 2011
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004146662, 2006-2013

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