Tracing the Development of the Doppelgänger

From ancient Egypt
to the Victorian era, an encounter with one’s double has proven inevitably
unsettling.

Before people
began taking photos with our twin strangers on social
media, meeting your doppelgänger was considered a bad omen. According to both
English and German folklore, seeing your own double three times could mean that
death would soon follow.

The German word translates to “double-goer,” a name given
to the specter of a human being seen while the one it resembles still lives.
While the term “doppelgänger” was coined in the late 18th century, myths of
spirit doubles have persisted for thousands of years. In ancient Egypt, the ka
was one aspect of the soul, depicted as a spirit identical to the body.
Throughout Europe and parts of Africa, changelings were thought to be
supernatural children left in place of human infants. The Norse vardøger was
less ominous in nature, simply appearing in a place before the person it
resembled, leading others to believe they had already arrived. English and
Irish literature of the 18th and 19th centuries speaks of the fetch, an
ethereal double whose appearance, like the doppelgänger, signaled death.

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