Rastafari Movement

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Rastafari movement members worship former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I as an incarnation of the one true living God, following a syncretism of Judeo-Christian values and African practices. The movement's name comes from the Amharic title Ras ("head")(occasionally rendered as 'duke') and Haile Selassie's given name, Tafari. Rastafarianism is most common in Jamaica.

The movement started in the early part of the 20th century, heavily influenced by the orator and Black nationalist, Marcus Garvey. Initially, the movement was based upon the belief that all people of African descent would eventually return to Ethiopia, and that White civilization was "Babylon" - a metaphor for all evil and wickedness.. Although beliefs vary among members of the movement, a more common focus is the "Africanization of Jamaica".[1]

Rastafarians were originally black, anti-white racists. They viewed black as the color of good and white as the color of evil. The former belief was abandoned when Haile Selassie gave a speech to the United Nations on October 6, 1963, completely denouncing racism.[2] Although it seems improbable that a single speech could accomplish this, bear in mind that Rastafarians literally believed that Haile Selassie was the second coming of Christ.

Rastafarians meet on a weekly basis for a time of worship and prayers, though they do not have a specific holy day for such services. As Lincoln Thompson sang: "Sunday morning, the heathen running to the temple, during the week they are the devil's disciple."[3] Part of the service often consists of smoking ganja (marijuana) a plant with great spiritual significance to them. They support the legalization of cannabis, citing in their defense several Bible verses:

"He causeth the grass for the cattle, and herb for the services of man." - Psalm 104:14
"...eat every herb of the land." - Exodus 10:12
"Better is a dinner of herb where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith." - Proverbs 15:17

Although Rastafarians view ganja as a means to spiritual enlightenment in a ritual called a "Reasoning", it had already been a significant part of the culture of the lower working class in Jamaica for some time before the 1930s.[4] However, Rastafarians do not consider the consumption of cannabis as necessary, allowing them to comply with local laws.

They also regard hair styles as having religious significance, providing for the popularity of dreadlocks amongst its adherents, citing the Mosaic law:

"They shall not make baldness upon their head." - Leviticus 21:5

Rastafarians also eat only ital food and abstain from alcohol, milk, coffee, and preparing food with salt.[5] They also frequently avoid or minimize the consumption of meat.

As of the present day, because Rastafarians believe that the second coming of Christ is fulfilled, their religion mainly focuses around the belief that the Book of Revelation is happening now.


  1. Appiah & Gates, The Dictionary of Global Culture, Alfred A. Knopf, New York 1997
  2. [1] H.I.M. Haile Selassie address to the Unted Nations Oct 6th, 1963
  3. Lincoln Thompson, Rootsman Blues, 1983
  4. William F. Lewis, Soul Rebels, Waveland Press 1993
  5. [2] BBC - Religion and Ethics