Ayamma, as she was fondly called by her husband, was worried over her childlessness. Her husband’s family had called her barren, witch, outcast, all of the bad kinds of names you could think of. She made sacrifices as was the custom of anyone seeking a child from the goddess of the land—Eka Abasi; who was greatly revered and equally dreaded and was regarded as the goddess of fertility.
The people of Nsidung (now known as Henshaw town) in Calabar, practiced traditional worshipping of the deities; although the Christain movement had since been established in the land in 1846, more of the people still held on to the traditions of the land. It was only normal that in 1878, Ayamma still held a high prestige for the gods of her land. Two months after her last sacrifice to the goddess, Ayamma conceived and nine months later, gave birth to twin boys.
At a great moment after 15 years of marriage, she was finally blessed with children. Normally, this would have sparked big jubilation, but there was only desolation in her household.
At the time, twin child was considered taboo. Twins were seen as powerful beings, not humans. They were perceived as bad luck and mini-gods. It was believed that evil had befallen any community where they were born. Their parents and families weren’t spared either, they are sometimes also treated as outcasts. Sometimes it gets so bad that the mothers of the “forbidden twins” were banished from the land without any means of support.
Mary Slessor’s – The Twin Saviour
But Ayamma loved her children even though she had barely spent time with them. She didn’t mind if she died, she wanted her children to live. Sadly, her husband didn’t share the same idea with her; so he ordered them to be killed in the evil forest.
About this time, there was a 30-year lady; her name was Mary Slessor, she had bright glared blue eyes and was red-haired. She was a Scottish missionary assigned to the Efik land (Calabar), Nigeria in 1876; where she had started a mission of saving twins who faced death. Mary raised a lot of the ones left in the forest to die.
Ayamma had heard her name around in 1875, she knew Mary was the only one to save her children, and well she did. She not only saved Ayamma’s children, but she also saved many others.
Places Killing of Twins is Still Practiced…
With time and age, the killing of twins became lesser. Although, 9% of the people of Calabar still hold a taboo against twins; as babies derived from the devil, non-humans, and punishment from the gods for sinfulness. Consequently, 2.3% and 2.6% of the mothers would have their twins rejected and killed respectively. 6% of the twin mothers would be cast out but none were killed by their husbands’ families.
But the killing of twins or the taboo revered of twins wasn’t only common with the Calabar people. In Yoruba land, the killing of twins was abhorred by Shango (a Yoruba deity). Nonetheless, the mother of twins was required to dance to the spirit of Ibeji every five days. While in some parts of the Yoruba nation they were offered as a sacrifice to the gods. There were said to be known killings of twins in the Igbo land. There are also stories of twin killings in the Northern parts of Nigeria, Rivers, as well as some other countries in West Africa.
Till date, infanticide of twins is still practiced in some towns in Nigeria.