Althea Hayton, womb twin survivor’s moving account of how she healed her relationship with her lost womb-twin which lead to her discovering her life work.
Sadly Althea died in 2014. She is an example of someone who used her own difficulties to bring hope and the end of suffering to thousands of people. She is the author of many books.
Wombtwin.com is now an international organisation – and her work continues to grow and spread.
But it all started here when she participated in a 9-month course I ran many years ago, the Ritual Theatre Group.
Transforming the Past
Althea Hayton 2003
Published in In Balance Magazine May/June 2003 and republished 2011
It started with the insight that I may have once been a twin, and that was why so many tiny details about my life that had always puzzled me were always on my mind. I was very concerned with the life of the unborn child, thought a lot about death and dying and was never happier than when I was with one other person engaged in deep intense conversation at an empathetic level.
I came to Claire over the Internet because I knew that talking therapies could not access the areas of my life that were pre-verbal, and indeed pre-birth. A drama approach it had to be. And it proved to be very helpful.
I was able to re-experience being small, being angry and very powerful in my anger, and finally after much planning to create a special ritual about my lost twin. This was not at the end of the course but in the middle of it, for after this ritual I had some important growing and healing activities to engage in. However, there has never been a more intensely emotional, cathartic and cleansing experience in my whole life than that day, which I will describe for you in detail now.
Planning the Ritual
I was unwell and unable to function normally for some days, as I planned this ritual. I lay in bed thinking and planning every detail until I had it clear in my mind. For two weeks before the day, I wore every day around my neck a chiffon turquoise scarf that I loved and had bought for myself. (Turquoise for me is the colour of dreams.) It felt warm and cosy around my neck and I began to develop a strong attachment to it.
I also took up a wide Indian cotton scarf, much larger and plain beige and made that ready. I made some white card labels with ” ideas,” ” strength,” dreams” and” creativity” written on them, to hang about the necks of the other group members. I thought for a long time about music, until I realised ( with some laughter) that my favourite piece of music was part of the Bach Double Violin concerto! I found a blindfold that I had once been given on a plane trip. I found a shallow meat tin and some matches. I was ready.
When it was time, (and the waiting was hard) I knew that this was a ritual I would do alone. I did involve the other group members a little, but it was a very personal experience. The group respected this.
In the Darkness of the Womb
I began with a “womb” shape on the floor made with cloth, in which I sat, barefoot and blindfolded with the two scarves. One of the group members was nominated by the group silently to touch me gently from time to time. There I was in the darkness of the womb with the tiny companion I knew only by touch. The strains of the violin concerto played as I reacted with great pleasure to the touches made by my little “companion.”
Then the group had percussion instruments and they made a terrible noise with them at an unexpected moment. This was the catastrophe that took my brother away. I reached out, taking control, and touched them one by one to make them quiet. They played on until they were touched. This was to heal within me a certain sense of helplessness that had haunted me all my life.
In the silence, the violin concerto played on.
I stepped out of the womb and took off the blindfold. I put the labels on the rest of the group, to represent the gifts that my little companion had left me, but it didn’t work very well. I had to do this alone. So to the strains of the music, I danced a dance of two scarves, intertwining them and playing with them, brushing them about my body.
Finally, as the music faded to silence I came to the meat tin I had placed on the floor. There was a picture that I had painted the previous day of Kali, representing my own negative anger, vengefulness and destructive power. I tore the picture into pieces but kissed every piece, forgiving and accepting all the negative qualities.
I laid the pieces with reverence and care into the meat tin, and folded thescarf on top of it ready for cremation. It was forbidden to light a fire in the room so we left the room in procession with me barefoot, carrying the tin. Outside we watched the paper and the scarf burn in silence.
I left the ashes outside as we returned to the room in silence and when it was time to go I tipped them into the dustbin: they held no power for me now.
A Final Act
I got home somehow, stunned by this experience and knew then what I must do as a final act of letting go. In a cleansing ritual in my own home I gathered up the piles of papers I had accumulated in the previous twenty years about the unborn child, and put then into a black sack for recycling.
After over fifty years, I have found peace, and also my life’s work. I am building a website to reach out to other womb twins throughout the world, so that they may experience the same peace that I now have. Wombtwin.com
This article by Althea “Tish” Hayton was published in In Balance Magazine May/June 2003 and republished 2011.
However, the story was not quite over. I made contact with Althea eight years later, asking her permission to use her story in the book I edited, Ritual Theatre. She wrote this addendum.
Althea Hayton 2011
My love of ritual brought me to the Ritual Theatre Group, and also the knowledge that over six months I would have a chance to explore in-depth my own inner process, with a view to discovering whether or not I may be a womb twin survivor. ( I had recently come to that conclusion, although little evidence could be found.) I needed to explore the wordless, prenatal area of my existence, as it was being expressed in my life and character. The story of my participation in that group is rich with learning experiences, many of which have informed my own practice today, as I lead workshops with womb twin survivors.
I was not aware of ritual space as a healing tool until I came into the large studio space where we were to work. In group and individual work, I witnessed that space become an extension of our inner minds in a multitude of commutations. Claire had provided two entire bolts of heavy cloth in rich golden colours, and these were used to delineate areas such as an inner circle around which we sat, or a performance/audience divide, or a no-go area. For me, I was able to create a womb space, within which I interacted with my invisible twin, and from which I could be born alone.
I now use cloths of different weights and textures in my work with womb twin survivors. I delineate a healing path with long lengths of delicate white tulle and have several lengths of black cloth available to create the Black Hole of despair. I can create two spaces with a boundary between, made out of a single length of cloth on the floor. I use this to work with the journey one may make from despair to hope, or from helplessness to power.
I provide these details here to illustrate how a formless and anonymous object such as a bolt of cloth can be used in conjunction with a large ritual space, to create different areas and provide a sense of movement forward over barriers. In the personal ritual (always the most profound experience) each participant can use the opportunity to command space and lay out firm personal boundaries – an experience not often available in normal life.
The ritual framework
The framework of ritual emerged as such as we worked systematically with various myths. Within this framework of symbolic movements, music and group interaction, inchoate feelings and ideas arising out of our deepest selves were able to find a place to settle and be processed. By the fifth session, I had learned how to make a ritual of my own to express my deepest feelings. The preparation at home was most of the work, as I sought out specific symbols, music and movement in order to eventually express the inexpressible in the group.
After my personal ritual was finished (a landmark experience for me, for it confirmed my status as a womb twin survivor) I knew deep down that my ritual was not over: there was more to be done. I had a large collection of papers in my study that represented a long-term, unhealthy obsession.
When I arrived home I immediately found a black bin bag, gathered up all those papers and put them out with the other garbage. Only then was my ritual over and I was ready to move on. Without the ritual theatre group, I would still be lost and searching, getting nowhere in life.
Eight years on, I am filled with fully-directed creative ideas and pioneering research work with womb twin survivors around the world. It is all thanks to an extraordinary shared experience many years ago – healing work through rituals.