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Issue 42
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Twins' souls: Folk beliefs in Upper Egypt
Issue 42

By Nahla Imam, writer, Egypt


A review of field studies and academic studies into the Upper Egyptian belief that the souls of twins enter the bodies of cats to wander around revealed the following conclusions:


  1. The historical origin of this belief is still unknown; although there are references to ancient Egypt, there is no strong evidence to support them.
  2. The religious belief in the spirit supports the folk belief and helps it to spread. People rely on religion to legitimise their beliefs. If religious beliefs do not confirm their perceptions, they legitimise these perceptions by looking to the society’s deep-rooted folk culture.
  3. It is necessary to conduct an intercultural study of folk beliefs incorporating psychology, anthropology and folklore. One must refer to psychology when studying folk beliefs, because psychology helps in the exploration and analysis of folk beliefs.
  4. Many beliefs, including the belief about twins' souls, are common to all the African countries.
  5. In Upper Egypt, the belief that twins' souls wander are not limited to a particular social class, educational level, religion or gender; in Egyptian society, people of different social classes and educational levels who belong to the two dominant religions believe in the phenomenon of twins' souls wandering. Many consider it a disease that should be treated and prevented.
  6. Rural communities have a similar view of animals. It is remarkable that they believe that cats have seven lives and supernatural abilities and that cats contain spirits, or that the light that emits from a cat’s eyes in the dark is supernatural. They also have myths about the sounds that cats make. Black cats are considered bad luck.