Many link the spread of Rastafarianism back to Bob Marley. The religion was spread globally after he incorporated it into some of his music in the 1970s. Since this time, Rastafarians have become trademarked by their use of marijuana, their dreadlocks and the Rastafarian colors.
Rastafarians go by a variety of names, including Rastafarians, Rastas, Sufferers, Locksmen, Dreads or Dreadlocks. Rastafari is an African centered developed in Jamaica by Marcus Garvey, a political activist. This religions follows Haile Selassie I and believe that he is their God. Rastafaris believe that Haile Selassie will bring back black people back to Africa who have been displaced from their home due to colonization and slave trade. Haile Selassie was never a Rastafarian and did not think of himself as God, but to Rastafarians he is considered the God of the black race. Rastafarians believe blacks are the chosen people of God and that it is their concern to bring them all back to Africa. There are about one million followers worldwide.
Rastafarians don’t have a religious building, but they usually meet weekly in a community center or someone’s house. These meetings are called Reasoning sessions or Nyabingi meetings. Usually, the people gathered chant, say prayers, sing and discuss community issues. Marijuana is usually used during these meetings and there is a large feast. Marijuana has religious significance to Rastafarians who usually call it “wisdom weed” or the “holy herb.” They believe that it increases the feeling of community and that it produces visions of religious and calming nature. Rastafarians are identified by the rasta colors: red, green, gold and black.
Green: signifies Jamaica’s vegetation and the hope for the end of suppression
Gold: symbolizes the wealth of Ethiopia
Black: symbolizes the Africans who initiated Rastafari
There is no uniform Rastafari creed, but there is a list from “The Rastafarians, The Dreadlocks of Jamaica” by Leonard Barrett who lists the six basic principles of Rastafarianism. However, the following list is about 30 years old and many of these beliefs are either no longer practiced or viewed differently by modern Rastafarians.
- Haile Selassie is the Living God
- The Black person is the reincarnation of ancient Israel, who, at the hand of the White person, has been in exile in Jamaica
- The White person is inferior to the Black person
- Jamaica is hell; Ethiopia is heaven: believe Ethiopia is their homeland and they want to return
- The Invincible Emperor of Ethiopia is now arranging for expatriated persons of African origin to return to Ethiopia
- In the near future Blacks shall rule the world
A more modern version was published by Joseph Owens in 1973 and was revised in 1991. The follow are the key ideas of contemporary Rastafarians:
- The humanity of God and the divinity of man: Haile Selassie is a living God and God reveals himself through humanity
- God is found in every man
- God in history: history alligns with God and his workings
- Salvation on earth: salvation is something that happens on earth, not in Heaven
- The supremacy of life: human life should be protected and preserved
- Respect of nature: nature is important and shold be resepected
- The power of speech: enables the power of God
- Evil is coporate: they believe places like the International Monetary Fund are to blame for Jamaica’s financial situation
- Judgement is near
- The priesthood of Rastafarians: chosen people of God
Women have a special role in Rastafarianism. Early Rastafarians would have abided strictly by the following rules, but modern Rastafarians give women more freedom:
- Women are regarded as Queens
- The main duty of the woman is to look after her King
- Women are subordinate to men
- Women should keep the house and have children
- Women must not commit infidelity
- Women cannot be leaders
- Men are the head of the household
- Women cannot cook for their husbands while menstruating
- Women cannot wear make up, use chemicals in her hair or dress promiscuously
- Women cannot use birth control
- Women must never get an abortion because it is considered murder
- Women have to cover their hair when they pray
Many Rastafarians are trademarked by their dreadlocks because are forbiddento cut there hair. They grow their hair out long and then create the dreadlocks look. Rastfarians also oppose abortion and contraception. The Rastafarian diet is very strict. All food must be clean and naturally produced. They must avoid all meats especially pork and abstain from all alcohol. Prepared food cannot be made with salt and is usually cooked with coconut oil. They eat fish very often, but will not eat fish that are more than 12 inches long. Rastafarians also will not drink milk or coffee but will drink that is herbal and naturally made from roots.
Children born into the Rastafari tradition are blessed at a Nyabingi session with chanting an prayer. There is also no structured form of marriage. If a man and woman live together they are considered husband and wife. When a Rastafari dies there is no such thing as a funeral because they believe in reincarnation after death and that life eternal.