The Bavenda


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In peculiar contrast to the Bavenda attitude towards twin children is their treatment of twin calves. A cow which gives birth to twin calves becomes the property of the chief; it is often given a separate kraal and all its milk is left for the calves; it is regarded as being favored and blessed beyond the ordinary cow. Amongst many of the northern Bantu, such as the Baganda and the Bakitara, the advent of twin calves is considered a great blessing, but among these peoples twin children are regarded in the same way. On the other hand, the Akamba used to kill one of their twins and they still regard twin births with apprehension and dislike, but this attitude is reflected in their treatment of twin calves, which, with the mother, are always killed. Among the Bomvana of the Transkei twin children and twin calves are allowed to live and are treated with special ritual.1

Stayt points out that the custom of killing twin children in this group is apparently rather recent, and seems to suggest that they borrowed the custom from the neighboring Bakaranga, who borrowed it from some other source, neither of them relinquishing the appreciation of twin calves. Borrowing may, indeed, be involved, but this does not explain the origin of the difference. In some group at some time misfortune may have followed the birth of twin children and good fortune the birth of twin calves, and this may have happened more than once. The instance recorded by Wessmann above (which happens to be also from the Bavenda), where the woman killed the children in spite of his remonstrance, may have been a repetition of an earlier type of experience which had fixed the tribal habit. The borrowing could then begin.

1Stayt, H.A.n/an/an/an/a, , 92–93 (Oxford University Press. By permission).


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Chicago: "The Bavenda," The Bavenda in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed July 21, 2024,

MLA: . "The Bavenda." The Bavenda, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 21 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: , 'The Bavenda' in The Bavenda. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 21 July 2024, from