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Rastafari Movement

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Rastafari Movement

The Rastafari movement is an African-based spiritual ideology that arose in the 1930s in Jamaica. It is sometimes described as a religion but is considered by many adherents to be a "Way of Life".[1][2] Its adherents worship Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia (ruled 1930–1974), some as Jesus in his Second Advent, or as God the Father. Members of the Rastafari way of life are known as Rastas, or The Rastafari. The way of life is sometimes referred to as "Rastafarianism", but this term is considered derogatory and offensive by most Rastafari, who, being highly critical of "isms" (which they see as a typical part of "Babylon culture"), dislike being labelled as an "ism" themselves.[3]

The name Rastafari is taken from Ras Tafari, the title (Jesus Christ onto the earth, as well as God's chosen king on earth.

Many elements of Rastafari reflect its origins in Jamaica and Ethiopia, two countries with predominantly Christian culture as-well as Ethiopian Christianity tracing its roots to the 4th century and st Mark founded Coptic church of Alexandria [4][5] Rastafari holds to many Jewish and Christian beliefs and accepts the existence of a single tri-une Deity called Jah, who has sent his son to Earth in the form of Jesus (Yeshua) and made himself manifest as the person of Haile Selassie I. Rastafari accept much of the Bible, although they believe that its message and interpretation has been corrupted.[2]

The Rastafari way of life encompasses themes such as the spiritual use of cannabis[6][7] and the rejection of the degenerate society of materialism, oppression, and sensual pleasures, called Babylon.[8][9] It proclaims Zion, in reference to Ethiopia, as the original birthplace of humankind, and from the beginning of the way of life calls for repatriation to Zion, the Promised Land and Heaven on Earth. Literally, moving to Ethiopia physically, but mentally and emotionally repatriating before the physical[10][11] Rastafari also embrace various Afrocentric and Pan-African social and political aspirations.[6][12]

Rastafari is not a highly organized way of life. Many Rastafari do not claim any sect or denomination, and thus encourage one another to find faith and inspiration within themselves, although some do identify strongly with one of the "Mansions of Rastafari"—the three most prominent of these being the Nyahbinghi, the Bobo Ashanti and the Twelve Tribes of Israel.[13]

By the late twentieth century, awareness of the Rastafari movement had spread throughout much of the world, largely through interest generated by reggae music, especially the major international success of Jamaican singer/songwriter Bob Marley. By 1997 there were, according to one estimate, around one million Rastafari faithful worldwide.[14] In the 2001 Jamaican census, 24,020 individuals (less than 1 percent of the population) identified themselves as Rastafari.[15] Other sources estimated that in the 2000s they formed "about 5 percent of the population" of Jamaica,[16] or conjectured that "there are perhaps as many as 100,000 Rastafarians in Jamaica".[17]

World-views and doctrines


... Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.

Psalm 68:31

Rastafari are monotheists, worshiping a singular God whom they call Jah. Jah is the term in the King James Bible, Psalms 68:4. Rastas view Jah in the form of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Rastas say that Jah in the form of the Holy Spirit (incarnate) lives within the human. For this reason, they often refer to themselves as "I and I". "I and I" is used instead of "We" to emphasize the equality between all people, in the belief that the Holy Spirit within all people makes them essentially one and the same.

The Trinity

Rastafari doctrines concerning the Trinity include stressing the significance of the name "Haile Selassie," meaning power of the Trinity, might of the Trinity, powerful trinity in Ge'ez or also Haile Selassie I (qedamawi Haile Selassie) meaning the (first power of the Trinity) (the name given to Ras Tafari upon his baptism and later assumed as part of his regnal name at his November 2, 1930 coronation by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church, Know then as just the Ethiopian Tewahedo Church.

Haile Selassie I

Haile Selassie I (1892–1975) was the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. Rastafari claim that he will lead the righteous into creating a perfect world called Zion – the ultimate paradise for Rastafari.

The future capital city of Zion is sometimes put forward as the New Jerusalem (Lalibela, Ethiopia) and the very Habitation of the Godhead (Trinity) creator, Ras Tafari. Prophetic verses of the Hebrew Bible (such as Zephaniah 3:10 "From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, the daughter of My dispersed ones, shall bring my offering") have been interpreted as subtly hinting that the messianic king will be in Ethiopia and the people will come from all over world beyond its rivers.

Rastas may say that Haile Selassie I's coming was prophesied from Genesis to the Book of Revelation. Genesis, Chapter 1: "God made man in His own image." Psalm 2: "Yet I set my Holy king On My Holy hill of Zion." Psalm 87:4–6 is interpreted as predicting the coronation of Haile Selassie I. During his coronation, Haile Selassie I was given 38 titles and anointments taken from the Bible: "King of Kings," "Elect of God," "Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah the Author of Mankind," "the Power of Authority," etc. He also received acclaim from various Christian and Muslim leaders and clergy for the work he performed towards establishing world peace and the brotherhood of mankind; this being one of the primary reasons his followers hold him as a God incarnate. Rastas also refer to Haile Selassie I as "His Imperial Majesty" (or the acronym thereof, HIM) and "Jah Rastafari."

According to tradition, Haile Selassie I was the 225th in an unbroken line of Ethiopian monarchs of the Solomonic Dynasty. This dynasty is said to have been founded in the 10th century BC by Menelik I. Menelik I was son of the Biblical King Solomon and Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, who had visited Solomon in Israel. 1 Kings 10:13 claims "And King Solomon gave unto the Queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants." On the basis of the Ethiopian national epic, the Kebra Negast, Rastas interpret this verse as meaning she conceived his child, and from this, conclude that African people are among the true children of Israel, or Jews. Beta Israel black Jews have lived in Ethiopia for centuries, disconnected from the rest of Judaism; their existence has given some impetus to Rastafari, as Rastas believe it validates their assertion that Ethiopia is Zion..

The death of Haile Selassie I is a topic of some debate amongst Rastafari.[6] Some Rastas consider this a partial fulfillment of prophecy of the "Temporary Messianic Kingdom" found in the apocalyptic 2 Esdras 7:28. Some believe that Haile Selassie's 1975 reported death was a hoax. It has also been claimed that he entered the monastery and is now know by many as Abba keddus, (Amharic)-for (Holy Father) and will return to liberate his followers and vanquish all evil, restoring his creation. "Rastafari's reaction to Haile Selassie's upposed death was summed up by Bob Marley's song "Jah Live," which declares emphatically that "God cannot die." Many Rastafari and claim to have met Haile Selassie After his reported Death and know him also by his claimed new name Abba Keddus or Abba Keddus Keddus Keddus [18]

For Rastafari, Haile Selassie I remains their God and King.[19] They see Haile Selassie I as being worthy of worship for having stood with great dignity in front of the world's press and the representatives of many of the world's powerful nations, especially during his appeal to the League of Nations in 1936 when he was still the only independent black monarch in Africa.[19] From the beginning, the Rastas decided their personal loyalty lay with Africa's only black monarch, Haile Selassie I, and that they themselves were free citizens of Ethiopia, loyal to its Emperor, and devoted to its flag representing the Solomonic Dynasty prior to the Communist coup.

Iyesus Christos

Acceptance of the Jesus-incarnate status of Qedamawi Haile Selassie is Rastafari doctrine, as is the notion of the corruption of his teachings by secular, Western society, figuratively referred to as Babylon. For this reason, they believe, it was prophesied in the Book of Revelation—"And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed a hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel."[20]—that Jesus would return with a new name that would be inscribed on the foreheads of 144,000 of his most devoted servants. Rastas hold that they represent this fulfillment based on their experience in the light of Haile Selassie I's return and coronation as the King of Kings on 2 November 1930, whom they see as the second coming of Jesus or the coming of the holy spirit, and therefore Jah, onto the Earth. Thus the great messiah king whom the Jews are still waiting for has indeed now returned to earth, according to the Rastas.

Rastas feel that the way Western Society (or Babylon) has commonly depicted the Godhead for centuries as a white man is a colonialist and racist act.

Zion vs. Babylon

Rastas assert that Zion (i.e., Africa, especially Ethiopia) is a land that Jah promised to them. To achieve this, they reject modern western society, calling it "Babylon", which they see as entirely corrupt due to materialism and greed.[6][12][21] "Babylon" is considered to have been in rebellion against "Earth's Rightful Ruler" (Jah) ever since the days of the Biblical king Nimrod.

Rastas claim that they are the real Children of Israel. The Rastafari seek to validate a link between Ethiopia and Israel, pointing to the title Lion of Judah, and their goal is to repatriate to Mount Zion, that is, Africa. (Rasta reggae is peppered with references to Zion; among the best-known examples are the Bob Marley songs '"Zion Train" and "Iron Lion Zion").


Many Rastafari are physical immortalists who maintain that the chosen few will continue to live forever in their current bodies. This is commonly called "Life Everliving". Everliving in Iyaric replaces the term "everlasting" to avoid the "negative wordsound" of last implying an end. Rastas say their life will never have an end, but will be everliving, with Jah as king and Amharic the official language. Rastas strongly reject the idea that heaven is in the sky, or is a place where dead people go to[22] and instead see heaven as being a place on Earth, specifically Ethiopia.[23]


Afrocentrism is another central facet of Rastafari culture. They teach that Africa, in particular Ethiopia, is where Zion, or paradise, shall be created. As such, Rastafari orients itself around African culture. Rastafari holds that evil society, or "Babylon", has been white-dominated since the rise of Rome, and has committed such acts of aggression against the African people as the Atlantic slave trade.

Rastafari developed among poor and oppressed Jamaicans of African descent who experienced a society which was largely contrary and apathetic to their problems. Rastafari incorporates sociopolitical views and teachings of Jamaican publicist, organizer, and black nationalist Marcus Garvey (also often regarded as a prophet) who was a keen proponent of the "back to Africa" movement, advocating that all people of the black race should return to their ancestral homeland of Africa, and worship the Creator "through the spectacles of Ethiopia".[24]

In an October 1963 speech before the United Nations.[25] (which provided the lyrics for the Carlton Barrett and Bob Marley song "War"), Haile Selassie made the following statement:

"Last May, in Addis Ababa, I convened a meeting of Heads of African States and Governments. In three days, the thirty-two nations represented at that Conference demonstrated to the world that when the will and the determination exist, nations and peoples of diverse backgrounds can and will work together. In unity, to the achievement of common goals and the assurance of that equality and brotherhood which we desire.On the question of racial discrimination, the Addis Ababa Conference taught, to those who will learn, this further lesson: That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; That until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation; That until the colour of a man's skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil."

He concluded this speech with the words, "We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellow men within the human community."

Rastafari learn and know Amharic, both because this was the language of Haile Selassie I, and in order to further their identity as Ethiopian. There are reggae songs written in Amharic.


There are two types of Rasta religious ceremonies: Reasoning and Groundation.


A "reasoning" is a simple event where the Rastas gather, smoke cannabis ("ganja"), and discuss. The person honored by being allowed to light the herb says a short sentence beforehand, and the ganja is passed in a clockwise fashion except in times of war when it is passed counterclockwise. It is used to reason with Jah.


A "groundation" (or "grounation") or "binghi" is a holy day;[26] the name "binghi" is derived from "Nyabinghi" (literally "Nya" meaning "black" and "Binghi" meaning "victory"), believed to be an ancient, and now extinct, order of militant blacks in eastern Africa that vowed to end oppression. Binghis are marked by much dancing, singing, feasting, and the smoking of ganja, and can last for several days.

In public gatherings, Rastafari often say the following standard prayer, with several variants, comparable to the Lord's Prayer:

"Princes and princesses shall come forth out of Egypt, Ethiopia now stretch forth her hands before Jah. O Thou God of Ethiopia, Thou God of Thy Divine Majesty, Thy Spirit come into our hearts, to dwell in the paths of righteousness. Lead and help I and I to forgive, that I and I may be forgiven. Teach I and I Love and loyalty on earth as it is in Zion, Endow us with Thy wisemind, knowledge and Overstanding to do thy will, thy blessings to us, that the hungry might be fed, the sick nourished, the aged protected, the naked clothed and the infants cared for. Deliver I and I from the hands of our enemy, that I and I may prove fruitful in these Last Days, when our enemy have passed and decayed in the depths of the sea, in the depths of the earth, or in the belly of a beast. O give us a place in Thy Kingdom forever and ever, so we hail our majesty Haile Selassie I, Jehovah God, Rastafari, Almighty God, Rastafari, great and powerful God Jah, Rastafari. Who sitteth and reigneth in the heart of man and woman, hear us and bless us and sanctify us, and cause Thy loving Face to shine upon us thy children, that we may be saved, Selah."

When lighting a chalice, the following, shorter invocation is often used: "Glory be to the Father and to the Maker of Creation, as it were in the Beginning, is now an shall be forever, world without end, SELAH."

Some important dates when groundations may take place are:

  • January 7 – Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas
  • March 25 – The birthday of Empress Menen
  • April 21 – The anniversary of Haile Selassie's visit to Jamaica. Also known as Grounation Day.
  • May 25 – African Liberation Day
  • June 16 - The birthday of Leonard P. Howell (founder)
  • July 23 – The birthday of Emperor Haile Selassie
  • August 17 – The birthday of Marcus Garvey
  • September 11 – Ethiopian New Year
  • November 2 – The coronation of Haile Selassie

Places of worship

Generally, Rastas assert that their own bodies are the true church or temple of God, and so see no need to make temples or churches out of physical buildings. However, some Rastafarians have created temples, as some call spiritual meeting centers in international communities with large Rastafarian populations.

Sects and subdivisions

Main article: Mansions of Rastafari

There are three main Mansions (sects or orders) of Rastafari today: the Nyahbinghi Order, Bobo Ashanti and the Twelve Tribes of Israel. All agree on the basic principles of the divine status of Haile Selassie and the importance of black images of divinity. Many Rastafari do not belong to any sect.

Nyahbinghi Order

The Nyahbinghi Order (also known as Haile Selassie I Theocratical Order of the Nyahbinghi Reign) is the oldest of all the Rastafari mansions and was named after Queen Nyahbinghi of Uganda, who fought against colonialists in the 19th century.[27] The Nyahbinghi Order holds steadfast to ancient biblical values. It focuses mainly on Haile Selassie I, Ethiopia, and the eventual return to Africa. It is overseen by an Assembly of Elders. Nyahbinghi brethren also accept the Bible according to the teachings of Haile Selassie I.

Bobo Ashanti

Bobo Ashanti was founded by Prince Emanuel Charles Edwards in Jamaica in 1958.[28] "Bobo" means black and "Ashanti" refers to the Asante ethnic group in Ghana, from whom the most Jamaican slaves had originated. Members of Bobo Ashanti are also known as Bobo Dreads.

In belief, Bobo Dreads are distinguished by their worship of Prince Emmanuel (in addition to Marcus Garvey and Haile Selassie) as a reincarnation of Christ and embodiment of Jah; their emphasis on the return to Africa ("repatriation").

Members of the Bobo Ashanti order wear long robes and tightly wrapped turbans around their dreads. They adhere closely to the Jewish Law, including the observance of seventh-day Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday and hygiene laws for menstruating women. They live separately from Jamaican society and other Rastafarians, growing their own produce and selling straw hats and brooms. They often carry brooms with them to symbolize their cleanliness.

Twelve Tribes of Israel

The Twelve Tribes of Israel sect was founded in 1968 by Dr. Vernon "Prophet Gad" Carrington.[29] It is the most liberal of the Rastafarian orders and members are free to worship in a church of their choosing. Each member of this sect belongs to one of the 12 Tribes (or Houses), which is determined by Gregorian birth month and is represented by a colour, a part of the body and a character trait often called a faculty. The Standard Israelite calendar begins in April. The 12 tribes being Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin. Although the 12 representations apply to male and female alike, Dinah, although not considered a tribe, is representative of the feminine. Bob Marley was from the tribe of Joseph, and Haile Selassie from the tribe of Judah. These Rastafarians consider themselves more of an ethnicity rather than religion. They don't have to be dreadlocked or turbaned. They can be bald or short-haired like that of Bantus, or they can wear afros like that of African-Americans, a style that originated in the 1970s.

The Howellites and The Ethiopian Salvation Society

The Howellites were the Iciency of The Rastafari Movement/Ethiopian Salvation Society that was established by Leonard Percival Howell (the Founding Father of the Rastafari Movement) in 1932. Many Howellites travelled with their parents from the settlement of Trinity Ville in St. Thomas, Jamaica to Pinnacle, or they were born in Pinnacle; Pinnacle was the "First Industrial Mission" and was the most thriving society in the Caribbean at the time. The Howellites had been forsaken by society, and were ill with yaws and cholera due to the conditions under colonial rule.

Although the residents of the Pinnacle Settlement continued to develop a decent way of life, they were constantly harassed, abused, imprisoned, beaten, and had their property stolen by the colonial and post-independence governments of Jamaica. Percival Howell was also a recipient of this treatment, and was imprisoned and sent to Bellvue Mental Hospital on over 50 occasions. Such conditions were central to the strategy of the colonial government, as it sought to destroy the Rastafari Movement.

Together with his wife Teneth Bent Howell, Percival Howell later purchased the Pinnacle settlement with the savings from his bakery businesses. The colonial forces continued to raid Pinnacle and the settlement was eventually destroyed by fire in 1956. In the period following the 1956 fire, Percival Howell continued to live in Pinnacle under the surveillance of the government.


Main article: Lion of Judah

The Lion of Judah is an important symbol to Rastas, for several reasons. The lion appears on the Imperial Ethiopian flag, used in Haile Selassie I's Ethiopia. In addition, the Ge'ez title Mo`a Anbesa Ze'imnegede Yihuda ("Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah") has been applied to Ethiopian Emperors, in their tradition beginning with Menelik I, said to be the son of king Solomon (c. 980 BC). It is unknown whether John of Patmos was aware of this ancient Ethiopian title when he penned it into the Book of Revelation 5:5, in reference to the returned Messiah.

Rastafari and other Abrahamic faiths

Some Rastafari choose to classify their movement as Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, Protestant Christianity, or Judaism. Rastafari typically hold that standard translations of the Bible incorporate changes, or were edited for the benefit of the power structure, and one common idea is that half the Bible story has never been told.[30] Rastas see the lost half of the Bible, and the whole of their lost culture, represented in the Ark of the Covenant, a repository of African wisdom they say is located in Ethiopia.

Spiritual use of cannabis

For Rastas, smoking cannabis, commonly referred to as herb, weed, kaya, sinsemilla (Spanish for 'without seeds'), or ganja (from the Sanskrit word ganjika, used in ancient Nepal and India), is a spiritual act, often accompanied by Bible study; they consider it a sacrament that cleans the body and mind, heals the soul, exalts the consciousness, facilitates peacefulness, brings pleasure, and brings them closer to Jah. They often burn the herb when in need of insight from Jah. Cannabis remains illegal in Jamaica and most of the world and this has caused friction between Rastas and modern societies.[31] By the 8th century, cannabis had been introduced by Arab traders to Central and Southern Africa, where it is known as "dagga"[32] and many Rastas say it is a part of their African culture that they are reclaiming.[33] It is sometimes also referred to as "the healing of the nation", a phrase adapted from Revelation 22:2.[34]

Alternatively, the migration of many thousands of Hindus and Muslims from British India to the Caribbean in the 20th century may have brought this culture to Jamaica. Many academics point to Indo-Caribbean origins for the ganja sacrament resulting from the importation of Indian migrant workers in a post-abolition Jamaican landscape. "Large scale use of ganja in Jamaica... dated from the importation of indentured Indians..."(Campbell 110). Dreadlocked mystics Jata, often ascetic known as sadhus or Sufi Qalandars and Derwishes, have smoked cannabis from both chillums and coconut shell hookahs in South Asia since the ancient times. Also, the reference of "chalice" may be a transliteration of "jam-e-qalandar" (a term used by Sufi ascetics meaning 'bowl or cup of qalandar') . In South Asia, in addition to smoking, cannabis is often consumed as a drink known as bhang and most qalandars carry a large wooden pestle for that reason.[35]

According to many Rastas, the illegality of cannabis in many nations is evidence that persecution of Rastafari is a reality. They are not surprised that it is illegal, seeing it as a powerful substance that opens people's minds to the truth — something the Babylon system, they reason, clearly does not want.[36] They contrast it to alcohol and other drugs, which they feel destroy the mind.[37]

They hold that the smoking of cannabis enjoys Biblical sanction, and is an aid to meditation and religious observance. Among Biblical verses,[38] Rastas quote the following as justifying the use of cannabis:

  • Genesis 1:11 "And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so."
  • Genesis 1:29 "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb-bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat."
  • Genesis 3:18 "... thou shalt eat the herb of the field."
  • Psalms 104:14 "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man."
  • Proverbs 15:17 "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith."[39]
  • Revelation 22:2 " the river of life proceeded to flow from the throne of God, and on either side of the bank there was the tree of life, and the leaf from that tree is for the healing of the nations."

According to some Rastafari,[40] the etymology of the word "cannabis" and similar terms in all the languages of the Near East may be traced to the Hebrew "qaneh bosm" קנה-בשם as one of the herbs that God commanded Moses to include in his preparation of sacred anointing perfume in Exodus 30:23; the Hebrew term also appears in Isaiah 43:24; Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:19; and Song of Songs 4:14. Deutero-canonical and canonical references to the patriarchs Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses "burning incense before the Lord" are also applied, and many Rastas today refer to cannabis by the term "ishence" — a slightly changed form of the English word incense. Some Rastas claim that cannabis was the first plant to grow on King Solomon's grave.[41][42]

In 1998, Attorney General of the United States Janet Reno gave a legal opinion that Rastafari do not have the religious right to smoke marijuana in violation of the United States' drug laws. The position is the same in the United Kingdom, where, in the Court of Appeal case of R. v. Taylor [2002] 1 Cr. App. R. 37, it was held that the UK's prohibition on cannabis use did not contravene the right to freedom of religion conferred under the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

On January 2, 1991, at an international airport in his homeland of Guam, Ras Iyah Ben Makahna (Benny Guerrero) was arrested for possession and importation of marijuana and seeds. He was charged with importation of a controlled substance. The case was heard by the US 9th Circuit Court November 2001, and in May 2002 the court had decided that the practice of Rastafari sanctions the smoking of marijuana, but nowhere does the religion sanction the importation of marijuana. Guerrero's lawyer Graham Boyd pointed out that the court's ruling was "equivalent to saying wine is a necessary sacrament for some Christians but you have to grow your own grapes."[43]

In July 2008, however, the Italian Supreme Court ruled that Rastafari may be allowed to possess greater amounts of cannabis legally, owing to its use by them as a sacrament.[44][45]

In 2009, Rasta Doug Darrell was arrested after a National Guard helicopter flying over his New Hampshire home found he was growing 15 marijuana plants in his backyard. In a subsequent trial in September 2012, Darrell was found "not guilty" by twelve jurors exercising the right of jury nullification.[46]


Rastafari culture does not encourage mainstream political involvement. In fact, in the early stages of the movement most Rastas did not vote, out of principle. Ras Sam Brown formed the Suffering People's Party for the Jamaican elections of 1962 and received fewer than 100 votes. In the election campaign of 1972, People's National Party leader Michael Manley used a prop, a walking stick given to him by Haile Selassie, which was called the "Rod of Correction", in a direct appeal to Rastafari values.

In the famous free One Love Peace Concert on April 22, 1978, Peter Tosh lambasted the audience, including attending dignitaries, with political demands that included decriminalising cannabis. He did this while smoking a spliff, a criminal act in Jamaica. At this same concert, Bob Marley led both then-Prime Minister Michael Manley and opposition leader Edward Seaga onto the stage; and a famous picture was taken with all three of them holding their hands together above their heads in a symbolic gesture of peace during what had been a very violent election campaign.

In 1996, the International Rastafari Development Society was given consultative status by the United Nations.[47]


"He [the Almighty] taught us that all human beings are equal regardless of sex, national origin and tribe. And He also taught us all who seek Him shall find Him." — Haile Selassie I, Dec. 1968 interview with Dr. Oswald Hoffman on 'The Lutheran Hour'.

Per Haile Selassie's consistent lifelong message, Rastas tend to be firm adherents to the proposition that in the eyes of Jah, all men and women deserve equal and just rights, treatment and respect.[48] With both King Alpha and his Queen Omega as examples, Rasta bredren and sistren (collectively idren) seek to emulate kings and queens according mutual respect and dignity. They claim that it is this belief in equality among Rastas that allows race to be overlooked; simply because one is white does not mean one can not be a Rasta. According to them, all people are equal, regardless of race, because all people are children of Jah.

However, in terms of sexual orientation, there are many in the Rastafari movement (like most other biblical religions) who consider homosexual behaviour to be a Babylon-promoted sin against the Creator (see LGBT rights in Jamaica), and therefore question organized homosexual activists' demands for their lifestyle to enjoy equality with more traditional, reproductive lifestyles. The Bobo Ashanti mansion has been noted for this; with other mansions it tends to vary.



Main article: Rastafari vocabulary

Rastas assert that their original African languages were stolen from them when they were taken into captivity as part of the slave trade, and that English is an imposed colonial language. Their remedy has been the creation of a modified vocabulary and dialect known as "Iyaric", reflecting their desire to take language forward and to confront the society they call Babylon.

Some examples are:

  • "I-tal", derived from the word vital and used to describe the diet of the movement which is taken mainly from Hebrew dietary laws.
  • "Overstanding", which replaces "understanding" to denote an enlightenment which places one in a better position.
  • "Irie" (pronounced "eye-ree"), a term used to denote acceptance, positive feelings, or to describe something that is good.
  • "Upfulness", a positive term for being helpful
  • "Livication", substituted for the word "dedication" because Rastas associate dedication with death.
  • "Downpression", used in place of "oppression", the logic being that the pressure is being applied from a position of power to put down the victim.

One of the most distinctive modifications in Iyaric is the substitution of the pronoun "I and I" for other pronouns, usually the first person. "I", as used in the examples above, refers to Jah; therefore, "I and I" in the first person includes the presence of the divine within the individual. As "I and I" can also refer to us, them, or even you, it is used as a practical linguistic rejection of the separation of the individual from the larger Rastafari community, and Jah himself.

Rastafari say that they reject -isms. They see a wide range of -isms and schisms in modern society, for example communism and capitalism, and want no part in them. For example, Haile Selassie himself was an anti-communist during the cold war, and was deposed by a Marxist coup. Rastafarians would reject Marxism as part of the Babylonian system or, at the very least, just another version of western Humanism. They especially reject the word "Rastafarianism", because they see themselves as "having transcended -isms and schisms". This has created conflict between some Rastas and some members of the academic community studying Rastafari, who insist on calling this faith "Rastafarianism" in spite of the disapproval this generates within the Rastafari movement. Nevertheless, the practice continues among scholars, though there are also instances of the study of Rastafari using its own terms.[49]


Main article: Ital

Many Rastas eat limited types of meat in accordance with the dietary Laws of the Old Testament; they do not eat shellfish or pork. Others abstain from all meat and flesh whatsoever, asserting that to touch meat is to touch death, and is therefore a violation of the Nazirite vow. (A few make a special exception allowing fish, while abstaining from all other forms of flesh.) However, the prohibition against meat only applies to those who are currently fulfilling a Nazirite vow ("Dreadlocks Priesthood"), for the duration of the vow. Many Rastafari maintain a vegan or vegetarian diet all of the time. Food approved for Rastafari is called ital. The purpose of fasting (abstaining from meat and dairy) is to cleanse the body in accordance to serving in the presence of the "Ark of the Covenant".

Usage of alcohol is also generally deemed unhealthy to the Rastafari way of life, partly because it is seen as a tool of Babylon to confuse people, and partly because placing something that is pickled and fermented within oneself is felt to be much like turning the body (the Temple) into a "cemetery".

In consequence, a rich alternative cuisine has developed in association with Rastafari tenets, eschewing most synthetic additives, and preferring more natural vegetables and fruits such as coconut and mango. This cuisine can be found throughout the Caribbean and in some restaurants throughout the western world.

Some of the Houses (or "Mansions" as they have come to be known) of the Rastafari culture, such as the Twelve Tribes of Israel, do not specify diet beyond that which, to quote Christ in the New Testament, "Is not what goes into a man's mouth that defile him, but what come out of it". Wine is seen as a "mocker" and strong drink is "raging"; however, simple consumption of beer or the very common roots wine are not systematically a part of Rastafari culture this way or that. Separating from Jamaican culture, different interpretations on the role of food and drink within the religion remains up for debate. At official state banquets Haile Selassie would encourage guests to "eat and drink in your own way".


Main article: Dreadlocks

The wearing of dreadlocks is very closely associated with the movement, though not universal among, nor exclusive to, its adherents. Rastas maintain that locks are supported by 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.") and the Nazirite vow in Numbers 6:5 ("All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the Lord, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.").

It has been suggested (e.g., Campbell 1985) that the first Rasta locks were copied from Kenya in 1953, when images of the independence struggle of the feared Mau Mau insurgents, who grew their "dreaded locks" while hiding in the mountains, appeared in newsreels and other publications that reached Jamaica. However, a more recent study by Barry Chevannes[50] has traced the first hairlocked Rastas to a subgroup first appearing in 1949, known as Youth Black Faith.

There have been ascetic groups within a variety of world faiths that have at times worn similarly matted hair. In addition to the Nazirites of Judaism and the sadhus of Hinduism, it is worn among some sects of Sufi Islam, notably the Baye Fall sect of Mourides,[51] and by some Ethiopian Orthodox monks in Christianity,[52] among others. Some of the very earliest Christians may also have worn this hairstyle; particularly noteworthy are descriptions of James the Just, "brother of Jesus" and first Bishop of Jerusalem, whom Hegesippus (according to Eusebius[53] and Jerome) described as a Nazirite who never once cut his hair. The length of a Rasta's locks is a measure of wisdom, maturity, and knowledge in that it can indicate not only the Rasta's age, but also his/her time as a Rasta.

Also, according to the Bible, Samson was a Nazirite who had "seven locks". Rastas argue that these "seven locks" could only have been dreadlocks,[54] as it is unlikely to refer to seven strands of hair.

Locks have also come to symbolize the Lion of Judah (its mane) and rebellion against Babylon. In the United States, several public schools and workplaces have lost lawsuits as the result of banning locks. Safeway is an early example, and the victory of eight children in a suit against their Lafayette, Louisiana school was a landmark decision in favor of Rastafari rights. More recently, in 2009, a group of Rastas settled a federal lawsuit with the Grand Central Partnership in New York City, allowing them to wear their locks in neat ponytails, rather than be forced to "painfully tuck in their long hair" in their uniform caps.[55]

Rastafari associate dreadlocks with a spiritual journey that one takes in the process of locking their hair (growing hairlocks). It is taught that patience is the key to growing locks, a journey of the mind, soul and spirituality. Its spiritual pattern is aligned with the Rastafari movement. The way to form natural dreadlocks is to allow hair to grow in its natural pattern, without cutting, combing or brushing, but simply to wash it with pure water.

For the Rastas the razor, the scissors and the comb are the three Babylonian or Roman inventions.[56] So close is the association between dreadlocks and Rastafari, that the two are sometimes used synonymously. In reggae music, a follower of Rastafari may be referred to simply as a "dreadlocks" or "natty (natural) dread".

As important and connected with the movement as the wearing of locks is, though, it is not deemed necessary for, or equivalent to, true faith. Popular slogans, often incorporated within reggae lyrics, include: "Not every dread is a Rasta and not every Rasta is a dread..."; "It's not the dread upon your head, but the love inna your heart, that mek ya Rastaman" (Sugar Minott); and as Morgan Heritage sings: "You don't haffi dread to be Rasta...", and "Children of Selassie I, don't lose your faith; whether you do or don't have your locks 'pon your head..." Some Rastafarians may eschew dreadlocks,[57] either as a means of avoiding persecution or for practical reasons, especially in as they may be a liability in many industrial jobs as it may get trapped in machinery. Many non-Rastafari of African descent wear locks as an expression of pride in their ethnic identity, or simply as a hairstyle, and take a less purist approach to developing and grooming them. The wearing of dreads also has spread among people of other ethnicities. Locks worn for stylish reasons are sometimes referred to as "bathroom locks", to distinguish them from the kind that are purely natural. Rasta purists also sometimes refer to such dreadlocked individuals as "wolves", as in "a wolf in sheep's clothing", especially when they are seen as trouble-makers who might potentially discredit or infiltrate Rastafari.[58]


Red,Gold and Green

The Rastafarian colors of green, gold and red (sometimes also including black) are very commonly sported on Rastafarian flag, icons, badges, posters etc. The green, gold and red are the colors of the Ethiopian flag and show the loyalty Rastafari feel towards the Ethiopian state in the reign of Haile Selassie. The red, black and green were the colors used to represent Africa by the Marcus Garvey movement.

The Ethiopian Flag has a different meaning for different members of Rastafari, although the proper orientation of the flag goes bottom to top as red, gold and green although many members of the movement use it in different or sometimes opposite orientation, the red gold and green are associated with the first three evelations 5:5

Red is said to signify the blood of martyrs, green the vegetation and beauty of Ethiopia, and gold the wealth of Africa.[59][60]


Template:Music of Jamaica Music has long played an integral role in Rastafari, and the connection between the movement and various kinds of music has become well known, due to the international fame of reggae musicians such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.

Niyabinghi chants are played at worship ceremonies called grounations,[26] that include drumming, chanting and dancing, along with prayer and ritual smoking of cannabis. The name Nyabinghi comes from an East African movement from the 1850s to the 1950s that was led by people who militarily opposed European imperialism. This form of nyabinghi was centered around Muhumusa, a healing woman from Uganda who organized resistance against German colonialists. In Jamaica, the concepts of Nyabinghi were appropriated for similar anti-colonial efforts, and it is often danced to invoke the power of Jah against an oppressor.

African music survived slavery because many slaveowners encouraged it as a method of keeping morale high. Afro-Caribbean music arose with the influx of influences from the native peoples of Jamaica, as well as the European slaveowners.

Another style of Rastafari music is called burru drumming, first played in the Parish of Clarendon, Jamaica, and then in West Kingston. Burru was later introduced to the burgeoning Rasta community in Kingston by a Jamaican musician named Count Ossie. He mentored many influential Jamaican ska, rock steady, and reggae musicians. Through his tutelage, they began combining New Orleans R&B, folk mento, jonkanoo, kumina, and revival zion into a unique sound. The burru style, which centers on three drums — the bass, the alto fundeh, and the repeater — would later be copied by hip hop DJs.[61]


Main article: Reggae

Reggae was born amidst poor blacks in Trenchtown, the main ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica, who listened to radio stations from the United States. Jamaican musicians, many of them Rastas, soon blended traditional Jamaican folk music and drumming with American R&B, and jazz into ska, that later developed into reggae under the influence of soul.

Reggae began to enter international consciousness in the early 1970s, and Rastafari mushroomed in popularity internationally, largely due to the fame of Bob Marley, who actively and devoutly preached Rastafari, incorporating Nyabinghi and Rastafarian chanting into his music, lyrics and album covers. Songs like "Rastaman Chant" led to the movement and reggae music being seen as closely intertwined in the consciousness of audiences across the world. Other famous reggae musicians with strong Rastafarian elements in their music include Peter Tosh, Freddie McGregor, Toots & the Maytals, Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, Prince Lincoln Thompson, Bunny Wailer, Prince Far I, Israel Vibration, The Congos, Adrian Nones, Cornell Campbell, Dennis Brown, Inner Visions and hundreds more.

Reggae music expressing Rasta doctrine

The first reggae single that sang about Rastafari and reached Number 1 in the Jamaican charts was Bongo Man by Little Roy in 1969.[62] Early Rasta reggae musicians (besides Marley) whose music expresses Rastafari doctrine well are Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer (in Blackheart Man), Prince Far I, Linval Thompson, Ijahman Levi (especially the first 4 albums), Misty-in-Roots (Live), The Congos (Heart of the Congos), The Rastafarians, The Abyssinians, Culture, Big Youth, and Ras Michael And The Sons Of Negus. The Jamaican jazz percussionist Count Ossie, who had played on a number of ska and reggae recordings, recorded albums with themes relating to Rasta history, doctrine, and culture.

Rastafari doctrine as developed in the 1980s was further expressed musically by a number of other prominent artists, such as Burning Spear, Steel Pulse, Third World, The Gladiators, Sister Carol, Black Uhuru, Aswad, and Israel Vibration. Rastafari ideas have spread beyond the Jamaican community to other countries including Russia, where artists such as Jah Division write songs about Jah, and South Africa where Lucky Dube first learned reggae music from Peter Tosh recordings. Afro-American punk band Bad Brains are notable followers of the Rastafari movement and have written songs ("I Against I", etc.) that promote the doctrine.

In the 21st century, Rastafari sentiments are spread through roots reggae and dancehall, subgroups of reggae music, with many of their most important proponents promoting the Rastafari religion, such as Capleton, Sizzla, Anthony B, Barrington Levy, Jah Mason, Pressure, Midnite, Natural Black, Luciano, Cocoa Tea, Jah Cure and Richie Spice. Several of these acts have gained mainstream success and frequently appear on the popular music charts. Most recently artists such as Damian Marley (son of Bob Marley), Alborosie and Million Stylez have blended hip-hop with reggae to re-energize classic Rastafari issues such as social injustice, revolution and the honour and responsibility of parenthood using contemporary musical style.

Berlin-based dub techno label "Basic Channel" has subsidiary labels called "Rhythm & Sound" and "Burial Mix" whose lyrics strongly focus on many aspects of Rastafari culture and ideology, including the acceptance of Haile Selassie I. Notable tracks include "Jah Rule", "Mash Down Babylon", "We Be Troddin'", and "See Mi Yah". Irish singer-songwriter Sinéad O'Connor released two rastafari/roots reggae CDs – "Throw Down Your Arms" and "Theology".


There are several Jamaican films important to the history of Rastafari, such as Rockers, The Harder They Come, Land of Look Behind, Countryman, "((Bob Marley (film)| Bob Marley))" and Babylon.


Ethiopian world view

Before Garvey, there had been two major circumstances that proved conducive to the conditions that established a fertile ground for the incubation of Rastafari in Jamaica: the history of resistance, exemplified by the Maroons, and the forming of an Afrocentric, Ethiopian world view with the spread of such religious movements as Bedwardism, which flourished from the 1890s to the 1920s. These groups had long carried a tradition of what musician Bob Marley referred to as "resisting against the system".

Marcus Garvey

Main article: Marcus Garvey

Rastas see Marcus Mosiah Garvey as a prophet, with his philosophy fundamentally shaping the movement, and with many of the early Rastas having started out as Garveyites. He is often seen as a second John the Baptist. One of the most famous prophecies attributed to him involving the coronation of Haile Selassie I was the 1927 pronouncement "Look to Africa, for there a black king shall be crowned," although an associate of Garvey's, James Morris Webb, had made very similar public statements as early as 1921.[63][64] Marcus Garvey promoted Black Nationalism, black separatism, and Pan-Africanism: the belief that all black people of the world should join in brotherhood and work to decolonise the continent of Africa — then still controlled by the white colonialist powers.

He promoted his cause of black pride throughout the 1920s and 1930s, and was particularly successful and influential among lower-class blacks in Jamaica and in rural communities. Although his ideas have been hugely influential in the development of Rastafari culture, Garvey never identified himself with the movement. Garvey was even critical of Haile Selassie for leaving Ethiopia at the time of the Italian Fascist occupation, "Hailie Selassie is the ruler of a country where black men are chained and flogged...He will go down in history as a great coward who ran away from his country."[65] In addition, his Universal Negro Improvement Association disagreed with Leonard Howell over Howell's teaching that Haile Selassie was the Messiah. Rastafari nonetheless may be seen as an extension of Garveyism. In early Rasta folklore, it is the Black Star Line (actually a shipping company bought by Garvey to encourage repatriation to Liberia) that takes them home to Africa.

Other early written foundations

Although not strictly speaking a "Rastafari" document, the Holy Piby, written by Robert Athlyi Rogers from Anguilla in the 1920s, is acclaimed by many Rastafarians as a formative and primary source. Robert Athlyi Rogers founded an Afrocentric religion known as "Athlicanism" in the US and West Indies in the 1920s. Rogers' religious movement, the Afro-Athlican Constructive Church, saw Ethiopians (in the Biblical sense of all Black Africans) as the chosen people of God, and proclaimed Marcus Garvey, the prominent Black Nationalist, an apostle. The church preached self-reliance and self-determination for Africans.

The Royal Parchment Scroll of Black Supremacy, written during the 1920s by a preacher called Fitz Balintine Pettersburg, is a surrealistic stream-of-consciousness polemic against the white colonial power structure that is also considered formative, a palimpsest of Afrocentric thought.

The first document to appear that can be labelled as truly Rastafari was Leonard P. Howell's The Promise Key, written using the pen name G.G. [for Gangun-Guru] Maragh, in the early 1930s. In it, he claims to have witnessed the Coronation of the Emperor and Empress on 2 November 1930 in Addis Ababa, and proclaims the doctrine that Ras Tafari is the true Head of Creation and that the King of England is an impostor. This tract was written while Howell was in jail on charges of sedition.


Emperor Haile Selassie I was crowned "King of Kings, Elect of God, and Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah" in Addis Ababa on November 2, 1930. The event created great publicity throughout the world, including in Jamaica, and particularly through two consecutive Time magazine articles about the coronation (he was later named Time's Person of the Year for 1935, the first Black person to appear on the cover), as well as two consecutive National Geographic issues around the same time. Haile Selassie almost immediately gained a following as both God and King amongst poor Jamaicans, who came to be known as Rastafarians, and who looked to their Bibles, and saw what they believed to be the fulfilling of many prophecies from the book of Revelation. As Ethiopia was the only African country to be free from colonialism, and Haile Selassie was the only black leader accepted among the kings and queens of Europe, the early Rastas viewed him with great reverence.

Over the next two years, three Jamaicans who all happened to be overseas at the time of the coronation, each returned home and independently began, as street preachers, to proclaim the divinity of the newly crowned Emperor as the returned Christ,[66] arising from their interpretations of Biblical prophecy and based partly on Haile Selassie's status as the only African monarch of a fully independent state, with the titles King of Kings and Conquering Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5).

First, on 8 December 1930, Archibald Dunkley, formerly a seaman, landed at Port Antonio and soon began his ministry; in 1933, he relocated to Kingston where the King of Kings Ethiopian Mission was founded. Joseph Hibbert returned from Costa Rica in 1931 and started spreading his own conviction of the Emperor's divinity in Benoah district, Saint Andrew Parish, through his own ministry, called Ethiopian Coptic Faith; he too moved to Kingston the next year, to find Leonard Howell already teaching many of these same doctrines, having returned to Jamaica around the same time. With the addition of Robert Hinds, himself a Garveyite and former Bedwardite, these four preachers soon began to attract a following among Jamaica's poorer classes, who were already beginning to look to Ethiopia for moral support.

Leonard Percival Howell

Main article: Leonard Howell

Leonard Percival Howell, who has been described as the "First Rasta",[67] became the first to be persecuted, charged with sedition for refusing loyalty to the King of Great Britain and Ireland, George V. The British government would not tolerate Jamaicans loyal to Haile Selassie in what was then a British colony. When he was released, he formed a settlement called Pinnacle, at St. Catherine in Jamaica in 1939 on 500 acres (2.0 km2) of land which attracted as many as 4,000 people.[68][69] Reports surfaced that the Rastas were urging the communities around them not to pay taxes to the government. In 1941, the police raided the community and Howell and his followers were sent to prison. After their release, several members attempted to resurrect Pinnacle, but law enforcement continued raiding the community. The raids by colonial and post colonial forces destroyed the Pinnacle, and dispersed the dispossessed Rastafari into the slums of Jamaica.[70]

The Promised Key

The Rastafari Movement was founded by Leonard Percival "Gong" Howell in 1932. Leonard P. Howell was a Mystic Jamaican born in the hills of Clarendon, Jamaica in 1898. Howell left Jamaica as a youth traveling the world over returning to Jamaica from the United States of America on November 17, 1932. He had taken voluntary deportation after his application for citizenship was denied. On his return to Jamaica, he was appalled at the standard of living of the enslaved African people who were now being released from plantation slavery. They were poor, penniless and desolate after hundreds of years of British and Spanish slavery, hungry, suffering yaws, cholera and yellow fever. The governing British were unwilling to help the former slaves and doctors' fees were far more than the majority could afford. Despite being officially freed of slavery, many black Jamaicans were left with no option but to work in the jobs they had previously carried out as slaves, at very low wages. Colonialism left the people with a very low self-image in 1932 Colonial Jamaica. Their knowledge of their ancestral roots in Africa and African royalty had been lost to them through hundreds of years of slavery. Leonard P. Howell saw it as his task to rebuild the broken men and women, his people. He wrote "The Promised Key" the doctrine of Rastafari in Accra, Ghana and many other works which were burnt by the colonial government References :-Daily Gleaner Jamaica, The First Rasta by Helen Lee

He had attended the Coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie and Empress Menen in Ethiopian on November 2, 1930 and knew what the crowning of the Emperor and Empress signified to all African People. Leonard P. Howell had audiences with the Emperor Haile Selassie when he was Supreme Regent of Ethiopia.

Rasta began with Leonard P. Howell and his street preaching to lift the spirits of the enslaved black men and women from Kingston to St Thomas. He was very popular, had a bakery along with his skills as a Naturopathic Doctor which he sustained himself his people and his children. He was tried for sedition in St Thomas, Jamaica, in the case cause celebre of the assizes. He spoke out against the wrongs of the crown and colonial Jamaica against the men women and children of Africa stolen, sold and enslaved in Jamaica for hundreds of years. He called for International Salvation for all peoples globally while on trial for his life. Howell was found guilty and sentenced to two years imprisonment. On his return, the Rastafari Movement faced a Moraunt Bay rebellion of their own as they were attacked, beaten and robbed for days by the police, Christian populace spurred on by the colonial planters and their acolytes. Days later buses were sent into this tense criminal situation and the Rastafari people and Leonard P. Howell returned to Kingston where he purchased the old abandoned colonial estate at Pinnacle. At Pinnacle, The Rastafari Movement grew and was self-sufficient and self-reliant. However, the settlement was continually raided, robbed, burnt with many incarcerations by the colonial police with their ultimate aim being the fragmentation and destruction of the Rastafari Movement. The Colonial Records, Spanish Town archives

The Kebra Nagast, the national epic of Ethiopia, is also taken as important amongst many Rastas. The Kebra Nagast is an Ethiopic text depicting the relationship between King Solomon and Queen of Sheba.

Visit of Selassie I to Jamaica

Haile Selassie I had already met with several Rasta elders in Addis Ababa in 1961, giving them gold medals, and had allowed West Indians of African descent to settle on his personal land in Shashamane in the 1950s. The first actual Rastafarian settler, Papa Noel Dyer, arrived in September 1965, having hitch-hiked all the way from England.

Haile Selassie visited Jamaica on April 21, 1966. Approximately one hundred thousand Rastafari from all over Jamaica descended on Kingston airport, it having been announced that Selassie was coming to visit them.[71] They waited at the airport smoking a great amount of cannabis and playing drums. When Haile Selassie arrived at the airport he delayed disembarking from the aeroplane for an hour until Mortimer Planno, a well-known Rasta, personally welcomed him. From then on, the visit was a success. Rita Marley, Bob Marley's wife, converted to the Rastafari faith after seeing Haile Selassie; she has stated that she saw stigmata appear on his person, and was instantly convinced of his divinity.[72]

The great significance of this event in the development of the Rastafari movement should not be underestimated. Having been outcasts in society, they gained a temporary respectability for the first time. By making Rasta more acceptable, it opened the way for the commercialisation of reggae, leading in turn to the further global spread of Rastafari.

Because of Haile Selassie's visit, April 21 is celebrated as Grounation Day. It was during this visit that Selassie I famously told the Rastafari community leaders that they should not immigrate to Ethiopia until they had first liberated the people of Jamaica. This dictum came to be known as "liberation before repatriation".

Walter Rodney

In 1968, Walter Rodney, a Guyanese national, author, and professor at the University of the West Indies, published a pamphlet titled The Groundings with My Brothers which among other matters, including a summary of African history, discussed his experiences with the Rastafari. It became a benchmark in the Caribbean Black Power movement. Combined with Rastafarian teachings, both philosophies spread rapidly to various Caribbean nations, including Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, and Grenada.

Rodney influenced his followers, according to Tafari: “In his powerful ‘Black Power’ synthesis, Rodney brought together the Rastafarian and Marxist theses in a new ideological trinity of race, class and culture; i.e., a rejection of white imperialism (race); the assumption of power by the black masses (class); and the redefinition of the society in the image of the blacks (culture)

Rastafari around the world

There are Rasta communities all around the world.


In Botswana, a prevalent Rastafarian community exists and was profiled in the documentary Runaway Slave.

Democratic Republic of Congo

There is a substantial number of Rastas, Federation des Rastas du Congo, or FERACO that make up Ndjili Kinshasa, DRC.[73]

Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Ivory Coast residing Alpha Blondy is one of the best known African Rasta musicians.[74]


A small but devoted Rasta community developed in Japan in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Rasta shops selling natural foods, reggae recordings, and other Rasta-related items sprang up in Tokyo, Osaka, and other cities. For several years, "Japan Splashes" or open-air reggae concerts were held in various locations throughout Japan.


There is a Rastafarian community in Malawi as well. They have had influences in the music industry in Malawi where reggae remains a popular form of music. Malawian reggae band, The Black Missionaries, continues to propagate the rastafarian culture and issues in Malawi. They have featured at the Lake of Stars Music Festival, an international music festival which features international artists including many of Malawi's reggae artists. They have also brought Malawia-style reggae to the international scene through their performance abroad, including in the United States. One of Malawi's most popular reggae singers is Lucius Banda, who was outspoken against the autocratic state of Kamuzu Banda and later became a minister in the government.

Another outspoken Malawian Reggae artist, Evison Matafale known as 'The prophet' was imprisoned in Malawi and later died under police custody in 2001.[75]

Rastafarians have also been involved in the political scene, particularly in their efforts to legalise Chamba in Malawi. Malawi Gold (Chamba), remains one of Africa's most potent cannabis leaves and has gained notoriety internationally for its potency. The Rastafarians use it for religious reasons. It remains currently illegal in Malawi.

South Africa

The House of Judah Community in Azania and other areas of South Africa has some of the largest and most prominent Rastafarian communities, and a Nyabinghi Groundation is regularly held.[76]

United Kingdom

According to the 2001 United Kingdom Census there are 5000 Rastafarian people living in England and Wales,[77] the majority of whom live in London and are of Jamaican origin. Cannabis is a Class B Drug in the United Kingdom and its use for religious reasons is also prohibited.

In London, St Agnes Place contained a Rastafari place of worship until its occupants were evicted in 2006.[78]

Fairfield House, Bath where His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I lived during his five years in exile, has a community of Rastafari which regularly meets to maintain the garden and hold events. The Facebook group "Rastafarians and Friends of Fairfield House" keeps members up to date with goings on there. While events attract Rastafarians from around the UK, much of the core membership are drawn from areas of Bristol, where there is a growing number of Rastafarians centered around the Jamaican community of St Pauls

United States

Rastafarian people started arriving in the United States in large numbers in the 1960s and '70s mostly from Jamaica.

See also


  • Experience, by Lincoln Thompson
  • Soul Rebels: The Rastafari, by William F Lewis
  • Rastafari: A Way of Life, by Tracy Nicholas ISBN 0-948390-16-6
  • Book of Memory: A Rastafari Testimony, composed by Prince Elijah Williams and edited by Michael Kuelker ISBN 0-9746021-0-8
  • Complete Idiot's Guide to World Religions, by Toropov, Brandon. ISBN 0786544805

External links

  • Rastafarianism Scholarly profile at the Religious Movements Homepage (University of Virginia)
  • A Sketch of Rastafarian History by Norman Reddington
  • Rastafari Actuality
  • Rastamentary - A Documentary Of Rastafarian Culture & Beliefs
  • YouTube
  • Rastafari: Alternative Religion and Resistance against "White" Christianity by Jérémie Kroubo Dagnini for Etudes caribéennes, n°12, 2009
  • Remembering Rasta Pioneers: An Interview with Barry Chevannes by Jérémie Kroubo Dagnini for the Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.3, n°4, 2009

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