Mirror, Mirror: when I look into a mirror it is her face I see. Her right is my left, double moles, dimple and all. My right is her left, unblemished- Unknown
The great bond twins hold that could either be psychological or emotional is viewed as a blessing or a curse in the Basotho (Lesotho inhabitants) culture. Reason being twins hold tremendous powers, and the disincentives and incentives they encounter will have to be shared between the two.
Dissimilar to traditional funerals whereby family and friends will gather for a burial ceremony, with twins an immensely traumatising event takes place. The night before the burial, the body of the deceased is brought home from the morgue whereby an all-night ritual is performed. A sheep is slaughtered, and hymns are sung so to guard the dead against witchcraft and negative energies. During the ceremony, the corpse is removed from the casket, and the living twin is ordered to sleep in the casket- wearing garments of the deceased twin. After a while, the body of the dead twin is put back in the coffin. Post the removal of the alive twin; the sheep slaughtered at the beginning will then be eaten by the people at the ritual.
On the day of the burial, a more psycho-social event takes place as the twin who is still alive is accompanied to the grave by a few family members, by dawn and is asked to lie down in the grave. Proceeding that a religious petition is passed by the priest such as “Lord God, in the resurrection of your son, you have shown us that life is stronger than death. Support us as we travel towards you on our pilgrim journey and bring us one day to a fullness of life” Shortly after the petition soil is poured into the grave and the twin is pulled out. A different route is then taken back home as the twin isn’t supposed to walk into his/her deceased partner anymore.
As they arrive home they will find a tub containing water with aloe in it paced at the gate- the water is used to wash hands and feet so to remove the omen of being at the graveyard. A burial ceremony isn’t held as the other twin is still alive; however the grave of the deceased is covered with soil, and a clay pot (i.e., lenyatane in Sesotho) is placed on top of the grave containing mainly pumpkin, maize, sorghum, and pumpkin seeds. Basotho have a firm belief that death isn’t annihilation but a stepping stone to eternity, the ‘pumpkin seeds’ are so that the deceased can grow in the next lifetime.
On the day of the burial, a cleansing ceremony takes place whereby family members shave their heads and wear a black cloth around their necks also known as ‘a black tie.’ The black-tie represents loss and a mourning period within the family; however, family members aren’t supposed to cry or show any heavy emotion towards the twin who is alive.
After the cleansing ceremony, clothes belonging to the deceased are taken to the river to be washed and dried before storage. Only after the mourning phase (during this time the home of the dead is a sacred place, there will be no slaughtering of animals. The house will be lit all times, and an honourable family member will be present at all times to guard the widow and the clothes of the departed): when the black tie is removed can the family decide if they burn the clothes or keep them.
For the removal of the terrible omen, the father then has to slaughter a cow which will be fed to the people present at the closing of the cleansing ceremony. A usual burial ceremony is only held when the second twin dies: reason being that when one twin dies, it doesn’t symbolize death as a whole as the other half is still alive and could also be a catastrophe for the living twin.
It’s crucial for Basotho to follow their culture and practice rituals performed in their homeland but to which extent could they be pushing the boundaries? Death already has a biological and psychological long-term effect on humans which leads to health deterioration: is it essential to put a burden on a human by placing them in a casket and grave of their loved ones all in the name of culture and tradition? Or could the indiscreet practice have a much more powerful meaning than what it resembles?