Ibeji, as an Orisha, represents a pair of twins that include a boy and a girl in the Yoruba people. They usually resemble a small boy but are really powerful spirits in the guise of children. According to Yoruba culture and spirituality, twins are believed to be magical and are granted protection by Shango. They are supposed to bring joy, vitality, prosperity, good health, and good fortune and are invoked to protect all children. In the diasporic Yoruba spirituality of Latin America, Ibeji is syncretized with Saints Cosmas and Damian. If one twin should die, it represents bad fortune for the parents and the society they belong to. They protect every child. Depending on the myth, Ibjei’s parents change and may be Oshun and Oshossi, Oshun and Shango, or Oya and Shango.
Story of the Ibeji Orisha
When Oshun gave birth to the Ibeji, she was disliked and shunned by the people in her village. During those days, only animals give birth to multiple babies. Hence, they branded Oshun a witch and chased her out of the village. In her short-sighted panic, Oshun threw the Ibeji out of her house and denied being their mother. This was the start of Oshun’s downward spiral, eventually leading to her loss of all wealth, stability, and even her sanity. The Ibeji was taken in by the Orisha Oya, who desperately wanted children her entire life as she had many stillborn children. Some lineages can vary, saying that Yemaya took the Ibeji in and raised them. The Ibeji is said to bless anyone who receives them with happiness, joy, abundance, and laughter. Even a Cuban Pataki says the Ibeji drove away “the devil” (misfortune) by driving him crazy by playing their enchanted drums.
Characteristics of Ibeji
The Ibeji represent the orishas of joy, abundance, mischief, and childish glee. They are also the children of Chango and Oshu, considered the first twins born on earth.
The Ibeji is considered the protector of anyone born a twin, including those who have lost their twin sibling. According to Yoruba society, when a mother gives birth to twins, Ibeji is consecrated and given to her and a set for her twin children. When one of the twins dies, a special doll is made to act as a body for that deceased child’s sibling to carry so that the two-bodied soul of the twins can remain intact. Otherwise, the surviving twin would quickly follow their sibling to death. The Ibeji orisha appears predominantly in red and blue colors.
Since they are spirits looking like children, toys and other fun stuff will work as offerings.
Additionally, the Ibeji eats anything fun, sweet, or things served in pairs. These include tiny bananas (manzanos), fruits of all types, candies, and their favorite dish of arroz con pollo. Ibeji animal sacrifices include chickens and pigeons.
They also like fruit juice, sugarcane, soda, okra, yellow rice, and black-eyed peas. If you offer them black-eyed peas, make sure to puree the beans and drizzle them with red palm oil before serving.
Ibeji are fascinating Orisha figures with rich histories in Yoruba culture. Ibeji is linked to twins and childbirth. They have long histories in Yoruba culture and continue to play essential roles in contemporary religious practice.