When the word Rastafari is brought up, people tend to think about the dreadlocks that are associated with the religion (even though many Rasta believers do not even consider it a religion). Others may also assume Rastafari is about smoking weed all day and listening to Bob Marley.
Some of these clichés of the culture have real, underlying truths in the Rasta lifestyle. But overall, the Rasta ideology is one that is both peaceful and loving in its beliefs. Let’s take a look at how this movement, new-age religion, or lifestyle came together.
Brief History of Rastafari
Starting in the 1930s’, the Rasta movement took hold in Jamaica, recognizing the newly crowned Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie as the descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. In other words, Selassie was interpreted as a messiah predicted in the Biblical Old Testament.
Following Selassie’s death, Rasta believers interpreted their figurehead as having gone into hiding, and would eventually return. With a lineage of Christianity, Afro-centric and Pan-African movements, their cultural influence around the world became synonymous with the music and celebrity status of Bob Marley. Jamaican singer-songwriter, Marley popularized the Rastafari movement to the West, as well as the music of reggae, which is an integral part of Rastafari ceremonies.
But what exactly makes someone a Rasta representative? What do all of their tied beliefs in the past make up? And what is with the dreadlocks? Let’s take a deeper look at what makes Rastafari, well, Rastafari.
Living The Rasta Life
At the core of their beliefs, they are very much similar to Ethiopian Christianity, believing in a single God (known as Jah), and seeing the birthplace of mankind as a promised land, which they consider to be Ethiopia (or in general, the continent of Africa).
Jah spiritually exists in everyone, according to the Rastafari movement. A common practice in Rastafari is the abstinence of actions they consider “Babylon,” or their version of sins. These include materialistic belongings and any indulgence of pleasurable activities.
Some of their ceremonies do involve smoking weed, which they call ganja, and has been interpreted as the leaves in the tree of life. Smoking weed is considered a sacred, spiritualistic event in Rastafari, but is not required.
They even have their own way of speaking. For instance, because much of the movement is based on self-love and independence, many words emphasize words like me or I. One example of this is the word Rastafar-I, which exaggerates the “I” to create this sense of liberation and freedom of oneself.
Rastafari and Proud
With more than one million Rastafari followers from places like Japan and Canada, the Jamaican-based movement has come a long way from their fairly young upbringing of the early 1900’s. Sure, Western influences may have merchandised the entire culture, but that does not mean that it can’t be taken any more seriously. Those who are truly involved with Rastafari know the roots and the true meaning of what it really is.