Royal Divination and Twins (The children of the Moon) in Luba culture


Keuzi is a Luba female diviner who recounts a ritual that unfolds every month the night of the new moon in Luba towns and villages throughout the Katanga province in the Democratic Republic of Congo

During the evening, the singing begins with the focus on mesmerising “songs of twins” the songs sung in chorus is refrain are dedicated to bavidye, the tutelary spirits of Luba kingship, who are described as twins. The bavidye play critically important roles in maintain social equilibrium and in sanctifying royal authority and prerogative. The “rising of the new moon” is a time of rejuvenation and hope, recognition and rebirth, and twins are conduits for the aspirations of the community as they challenge the forces of darkness that precede the tiny silver of newly emergent light every lunar cycle. 

Children of the Moon

One of the names assigned to Luba twins is “children of the moon” The moon is a complex metaphor for Luba, always ambivalent because appears and disappears, offers clarity and delivers obscurity. As Father Theodore Theuws write “The moon is ambiguous like life itself…To be and to become, to live and to die are but two faces of the same reality” The Luba have an expression for that which is unwanted, unaccustomed, or unusual and extraordinary: i bya malwa

Kapamba: The Mother of Twins

Kapamba is the name assigned to the wife of a diviner (only when the diviner is a man) The nae is an honorific and it is also associated with mothers of twins. The connection between the mother of twins and the diviner’s wife underscores the act the twins are considered spirits, both in ordinary life and in contexts of ritual and problem solving. During divination Kapamba is the one who calls the spirits through percussive rhythms and the songs for twins. She is also responsible for respecting the taboos taboos, translating the possessed diviner’s utterances and generally serving as the guardian of her husband’s spirits….In the context of the birth of twins the title Kapamba refers to a particular role. When it becomes that a pregnant coma will give birth to twins, a special wise woman is summoned. And it must be a woman who has already borne twins, and whose twins are still living. She is called by the title of Kapamba, just like the diviner’s wife. 

The Reification of the Twin Spirits 

The headrest is paired with female figures (may allude to the female spirit mediums who lived together at sacred sites to serve as intermediaries between humans and the twin tutelary spirits of Luba royal culture called bavidye.)

There are also many representation o double figures in corpus of Luba art that seem to be related to the importance of twins in Luba ontology. It s not uncommon to see two female figures arm in arm, side by side, back to back or entwined on the tops of staff of office and/or supporting the platform of stools and headrests.

Luba exegesis makes it clear that such depictions, though both females are embodiment of the bavidye, or twin spirits. Ngoi wa Nkulu the wife of a Luba titleholder in Kinkondia once explained that mothers and father of twins always wear strings of fiver diagonally across their chests. If one twin dies, then they remove one o the strings, leaving the other to drape diagonally across thr torso. It is very common to see members of the Mbudye association and other high Luba officials donning beaded bandoliers either crossed over their chest or diagonally across the torso. Where it is a literal reference to their being parents of twins or a symbolic allusion to the bavidye twin spirits of Luba kingship depends on the individual personal history. 

Why would the twin spirits be depicted as women when in oral narratives they seem to be male/female pairs? Luba explains that bavidye reside in sacred locales such as lakes, grottoes, forest groves, and the foothills of mountains. In order to gain access to them female spirit mediums would intercede on behalf of human propitiate them. Oftentimes these mediums lived in pairs as celibate priestesses, single women who never married or bore children, but who had a special connection to the spirits. The practice of two women living together at a sacred site and serving as intermediaries with the bavidye twinned spirits is linked to the role of a particularity female medium, known as Mwadi in some locales and Kifikwa in others (read more about them)

The Luba believe that only a woman’s strong enough to hold the spirit of a King. “The spirits responded above all to women: they were more ‘favourable’ to women”. It is often said that a man’s body would not be spiritually string enough to support the spirit of Ilunga Mwila (a King). Only a woman’s body could endure it…Until the advent of the white man the Kifikwa’s influence counted largely in the appointment of a new chief, and her word was never gainsaid. 

It is then logical that bavidye are mediated by women, who have more direct relationship to spirits. This applies in other situations, as when Luba explain that most diviners in the past were women because the women could embody the spirit directly without entering into a state of trance. Only in recent times has the profession become predominately male. Even now, when a Luba male diviner goes into trance, he must be assisted by his wife, Kapamba, who is responsible for calling the spirits by singing the songs of twins. It is through her intercession that he achieves altered consciousness and transformed identity. 

A similar distinction is made in non royal form of divination called kashekesheke, in which a diviner and a client hold a sculpted wooden figure and the diviner analyses its movements as responses to questions posed to the spirit. Women kashekesheke diviners have no need for any special preparation to serve in this role, whereas male practitioners must undergo lusalo which involves the insertion of medicinal substances into the surface of the skin of the hand where the sculpted figure makes contacts. 

Twins in African and Diaspora Cultures: Double Trouble, Twice Blessed
By Philip M. Peek

It’s world breastfeeding week!

Let’s normalize and support all of the nursing dyads (and triads and more!) out there. I know that when I was gearing up for breastfeeding round 2, not one single person recommended it. As soon as people found out about the twins I was advised to prepare to formula feed for reasons from potential prematurity to the insanity of getting in enough calories and water. Even my hippy crunchy doc told me to get bottles this time.

Here we are. 6 weeks nearly exclusive (zane had 20 ml of donor breastmilk supplement in the hospital for blood sugar issues, and the 12 ml of my preexpressed stash).
These babies nurse well and I provide enough. Nursing twins is totally possible. It can even be easy. We tandem nurse all over town.