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RASTAFARI. By Brian Andersen. RASTA CULTURE. Ethiopia, specifically, Africa in general, is considered the Rasta's heaven on earth, the homeland. The basic beliefs of a Rasta is to uphold the truth and defend good over evil. Having dreadlocks is not central to being a Rasta

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By Brian Andersen

rasta culture
  • Ethiopia, specifically, Africa in general, is considered the Rasta's heaven on earth, the homeland.
  • The basic beliefs of a Rasta is to uphold the truth and defend good over evil.
          • Having dreadlocks is not central to being a Rasta
          • One of the more obvious symbols of the Rastafarians are colours.  These are red, gold, and green. These colours were taken from the Garvey movement.  The colour red stands for the Church Triumphant which is the church of the Rastas.  It also symbolizes the blood that martyrs have shed in the history of the Rastas. The yellow represents the wealth of the homeland.  Green represents the beauty and vegetation of Ethiopia, the promised land.  Sometimes black is used to represent the colour of Africans
influence on the world
  • The Rastafarian religion originated in Africa.  It is often associated with the poorer black population of Jamaica.  It is not just a religion, but a way of life.  Rastafarians speak out against; poverty, oppression and inequality.....not just religious ideas but global problems.  Rastafarians will use the Bible for guidance
  • Number of Adherents: About 700,000 worldwide.
  • Clergy: None, individual believers are autonomous.
  • Requirements to join: Non blacks are discouraged generally, however, there is no official bar to anyone.
  • Avoid what they view as the materialistic and corrupt white culture
  • Rastafarian theology emphasizes individual apprehension of God (called Jah), and one who is "dread," that is, God-fearing, a belief that is referred to theologically as "theosis," or God becoming.
  • Babylon is the Rastafarian term for the white political power structure that has been holding the black race down for centuries.  In the past, Rasta see that blacks were held down physically by the shackles of slavery.  In the present, Rasta feel that blacks are still held down through poverty, illiteracy, inequality, and trickery by the white man.  The effort of Rasta is to try to remind blacks of their heritage and have them stand up against this Babylon.
  • Emperor Haile Selassie I is the only foundation stone of the Rastafarian Faith
  • November 2, 1930 Crowned “King of Kings, Elect of God, and Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah”
  • Selassie was not a Rastafarian himself.  He was a devout Christian.
  • The Lion of Judah represents Haile Selassie, the Conqueror.  It represents the King of Kings as a lion is the king of all beasts. 
  • Selassie wore a Lion of Judah ring that was given to Bob Marley at the time of Selassie's death.
spiritual practices
  • Church/temple: None; worship is often by small groups in homes. Gatherings of believers, called Nyahbinghi, usually center around the sharing of the "Chalice," a large ceremonial pipe containing the Rastafarian sacrament, Ganga (Marijuana), a practice likened to the Christian communion ceremony.
  • There is no unified Rasta "church" or fixed set of beliefs, no set doctrine of what Rastas believe. Numerous different sects of Rastas all have the freedom to believe many different things. Women's role in the Rastafarian movement are a subordinate one, but not in an abusive position.
  • The King James version is the translation almost unanimously used. This actually conflicts with their position on Babylon, since it was translated by a committee of mostly white men from universities issued under the mandate of King James. It represents all that they are against.
  • Rastafarians use the scriptures for guidance as long as it agrees with their own pre-conceived ideas and understanding. But  the way it is interpreted is highly questionable
spiritual ritual
  • Ganja, is used for religious purposes for Rastafarians.  Its use is written in the Bible in Psalms 104:14, "He causeth the grass for the cattle, and herb for the service of man".  The use of this herb is very extensive among the Rastas not only for spiritual purposes as in their Nyabingi celebration, but also for medicinal purposes for colds and such.  The following are a few of the many Biblical texts that Rasta embrace as reasons Jah, gave for the use of the herb:
  • They smoke "spliffs of ganja "-marijuana cigarettes religiously
  • This is illegal in Jamaica as well as in America, but they believe it is their religious privilege.
  • ". . . thou shalt eat the herb of the field " (Genesis 3:18)
  • ". . . eat every herb of the land " (Exodus 10:12)
rasta gods
  • The prime basic belief of the Rastafarians is that Haile Selassie is the living God for the black race.
  • Rastafarians say scriptures prophesized him as the one with "the hair of whose head was like wool (the matted hair of I black man), whose feet were like unto burning brass (I black skin)".
  • Selassie was not a Rastafarian himself.  He was a devout Christian.  In fact, no one is really sure what he thought of the whole Rastafarian movement. When a group of Rastas went to Ethiopia to honour him, an official of the palace told them to go away!  This did not make the Rastas question their belief, it only made it stronger. God is not supposed to know he is God.
  • The Rastafarian name for God is Jah. 
  • Ethiopia, specifically, Africa in general, is considered the Rastas' heaven on earth
  • Rasta's believe that Jah will send the signal and help the blacks exodus back to Ethiopian, their homeland.
death and the afterlife
  • There is no afterlife or hell as Christianity believes. The Rastas feel that their ancestors did something to offend Jah which brought them into an exile of slavery in the Western World such as the Caribbean.
  • "Dreadlocks were inspired by a biblical injunction against the cutting of one's hair”
  • It is symbolic of the spirit of the Lion of Judah. It also represents the Rasta's' roots, distinguished from the straight blond hair of the white man and his establishment
  • The Bible verse Leviticus 21:5, "They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in the flesh." This has also come to symbolize rebellion against the Babylon system.
  • The hair is grown as long as possible and styled in braided like  individual clumps and curls
  • There are schools that have problems with the dreadlocks hairstyle and are trying to outlaw it
  • True Rastafarians are vegetarians
  • Use no salt, some eat meat, but most will not eat pork.
  • Fish is a staple I-tal food; however, no crabs, lobster, or shrimp are eaten as they are scavengers of the sea (following the Levitical law).
  • No liquor, milk, coffee, or soft drinks are consumed, as they are unnatural. (not followed as strictly as the food requirements.)
  • This is special food never touches chemicals and is not in cans.  This food is cooked, but served in the rawest form possible; without salts, preservatives, or condiments.  Drinking preferences rest with anything that is herbal, such as tea. The term I-tal food is rapidly taking hold in the consumer industry in Jamaica.
musical influence
  • Reggae began to take a religious tone with the Rastafarian conversion of musician Bob (Robert) Marley, who is almost exclusively responsible for introducing Rastafarian beliefs to the mainstream. Some Reggae messages are positive and upbeat, but most are politically- oriented messages. Music themes of oppression, poverty, Slavery, apartheid and human rights are often the music's message. Reminding them of their plight to gain freedom. These are not just religious or political ideas, but global problems for all. This is not just about the struggle of the black people, but of all who are oppressed. In this way their music speaks to people outside the Rastafarian movement.
  • Reggae has its appeal to young people who are found in the drug culture. It offers religious justification for smoking the weed. They teach it opens one up spiritually to hear from God.
  • The message sung is peace, love, unity and brotherhood of all mankind . This becomes the message of hope for a new tomorrow. They sing about one love and one world. Clearly the message is man-centered as we can come together and do this despite our different beliefs
important days
Important days
  • January 6 - Ethiopian Christmas
  • February 6 - Bob Marley's birthday
  • April 21 - The anniversary of Emperor Haile Selassie I's visit to Jamaica. Also known as Grounation Day.
  • July 23 - The birthday of Emperor Haile Selassie I
  • August 17 - The birthday of Marcus Garvey
  • November 2 - The coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie I
my thoughts
My Thoughts
  • I chose to research the Rastafarian way of life because it is one of those belief systems that I have come into contact with but don’t really understand what it is all about.
  • I was introduced to the Rastafarian culture through my guitar program in high school. Our guitar program played as many types of music from as many different cultures as possible, and through this exploration of music I was formally introduce to the music of Bob Marley.
  • After researching the ways of the Rastafari, I have come to the conclusion that their way of life and their beliefs are ones that I respect and admire. I have grown up in a Catholic household, so many of their beliefs seemed strange at first. But soon the Rastafarian way of life started to become more interesting and exciting than strange.
  • One aspect of their way of life that always bothered me was the smoking of ganga. In high school there were people who seemed to be embracing the rasta way of life but the aspect that they seemed most interested in was the smoking of ganga. They took a peaceful and loving way of life and basically reduced it to a group of dope smoking people who didn’t seem to have any motivation in life. And that first experience of the “rasta” way of life made me hold the rasta in a bad light.
my thoughts cont
  • I think that it is very honorable that Rastafarians are beginning to focus more on the purity of a person’s heart rather than the color of their skin or their gender. They are a people who care immensely for the community, the environment, and those who share the world with them. They are more about everyone getting along peacefully than about who’s way of thinking is the “right” way.
  • I think that everyone, no matter what origin of faith or lack there of, can respect the Rastafari for their caring nature and love of the earth and all of its inhabitants.
  • The interesting thing about the Rastafari is that time and time again I saw the same description of what it means to be Rastafari. The Rastafari say that “Rasta in not just a religion, it is a way of life”. They incorporate the rasta way into everything they do. They will only eat the purest food and want nothing to do with man-made chemicals and additives. They also seem to be seeking an enlightened state of mind all the time. They “religiously” smoke ganga all day in order to be in a relaxed and enlightened state of mind.
  • Now that my research of the Rastafari is complete I find that I still want to keep learning about their culture and other aspects of their lives that I wasn’t able to delve into. I actually want to write questions up on the Rastafari website that Ixudah runs so that I can further understand aspects of their way of life that I really couldn’t find just by researching what was out at the time.
  • I think that this project has helped me to learn about a culture that I would have never bothered to learn about. I now have a greater respect for other cultures and their unique way of living in this world.
  • "Rastafari Movement." Wikipedia. 11 Oct. 2005 <>.

This is a website that is set up to be for reference. It is basiclally an online encyclopedia. I found it very helpful in getting the core information about the Rastafari religion. It covers almost all of the aspects that one would want to know about. It is very easy to navigate through the information.

  • 19 04 2005 <>.

This is a insiders website. It is has great links to other sites that deal with the Rastafari way of life. This site offers people the chance to ask questions and a Rastafari who goes by the name Ixudah answers whatever an interested person would like to know.

  • Littman, Kyle . "Rastafarianism." 2000. <>.

This website is the one that was created by a professor from the University of Virginia. It covers everything that deals with the Rastafari. There is abundant information on the info that ranges from the history of the Rastafari to their beliefs. Also it lists many books and sites that will further aid in researching the Rastafari.