Rastafarianism Essay, Research Paper
Rastafarianism, better known as Rastafari or simply Rasta, is a religion that was developed in Jamaica during the early 20th century. It is commonly characterized by dread locks, marijuana (ganja), reggae music and a strong belief in Haile Selassie.
For the most part, the beliefs of Rastafari are loose. There is no ?code? that Rastas live by, or even a specific bible that Rastas read. There are some semi-organized sects of Rastafari namely; The Twelve Tribes of Israel, The Nyahbinghi Order. The Twelve Tribes of Israel have endured a lot of criticism, and non acceptance by some Rastas because of their rejection of Haile Selassie as the living God, and their acceptance of many Christian beliefs.
Rastas regard Haile Selassie I as the living God, Jesus return. His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I was born Ras (Prince) Tafari in Ejursa Gora, Ethiopia on July 23, 1892, the baby of a nobleman Ras Makonnen. Obviously the term Rastafari comes from the name Ras Tafari, Selassie given name.
It is said that Marcus Garvey on the Eve of his last trip from Jamaica in the 1920’s prophesied that one much more worthy would come and reign as the Black Redeemer. In November 1930, young Tafari gained the throne as Ethiopia?s emperor, choosing the name Haile Selassie (mighty of the Trinity).
Haile Selassie; Seed of David. Ethiopia; The New Zion
Rastas believe that Selassie is a direct descendant of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba. It is said that King Solomon seduced Queen Mekeda (queen of Sheba ) once when she visited Jerusalem, he then gave her a ring and told her that if she got pregnant she should give the ring to the child to prove his identity. Soon after she returned home Queen Mekada discovered that she was pregnant. The Queen gave birth to a boy named Bayna-Lehkem At the age of 12 Bayna-Lehkem was told who his father was and he set out for Jerusalem to meet him. It is said that it was a happy Reunion and Solomon gladly received him as his son, Solomon renamed him David because it is said that Bayem-Lahkem was the exact replica of King David, Solomon?s father. David (Bayna-Lehkem) lived in Jerusalem for some time, but he soon got home sick and requested that he be allowed to return home to Ethiopia, Sorrowfully Solomon agreed. King Solomon then declared that he would agree to have David reign as King over Ethiopia. He gathered his counselors together and proposed that their first sons accompany David to Ethiopia to be his own counselors . The proposal was readily accepted.
Before they left one of David?s new counselors was approached in a dream by an Angel, the angel told him to take the ark with them to Ethiopia. David and his group stealthily stole the ark and fled to for Ethiopia. When the theft was discovered Solomon was terrible angry and perused David at full speed. When he finally reached Egypt he asked the locals if they had seen David, they told him he had been through 13 days before.(this was virtually impossible in those days) When Solomon heard this, he realized that god was on David?s side and that his actions had to have been ordained by God.
From this story Rastas draw 2 conclusions;
1) Haile-Selassie is the Root of David
2) Ethiopia is the new Zion, Resting place of the Ark.
Dread locks, it is very common place to see Pastas with dread locks. It is important to keep in mind however, that not all Rasa have locks, and not all locks men are Rastas.
1) Rasta relate locks to the Nazarite vow described in the earlier parts fo the Old Testament. ?All the days of the vows of the separation there shall no razor come upon his head until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the Lord, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.? Numbers 6:5
From this verse, one can see how Rasta have determined that dread locks are part of the Holy Nazarite vow. Many Rastas take Nazarite vow, swearing not to cut (kill) hair, and many include abstaining from combing in this vow.
2) Rastas are also advocates of living naturally, and letting hair take its natural course is another part of what is called being Ital. (I will explain the meaning of Ital later in the paper)
3) Rastas also wear locks as a symbol of commitment, locks are a semi-permanent symbol signifying their devotion to Jah. Locks take time to grow, and one can?t just change their hairstyle without shaving all of his hair.
4) Another possible reason for the adaption of dread locks for a religious symbol is the wearing of locks by Indian Holy men called Sadhus. After the slaves were released from the Plantations, the white plantation owners important Indian cheap laborers, with these new immigrants came their own culture, equipped with marijuana use and dread locks.
Marijuana or Ganja.
Many people believe that all Rastas smoke Ganja. Not so, not all Rastas smoke marijuana. Reggae great Lucky Dube, for example, says that if God wanted us to smoke, he would have created us with chimneys. The majority of Rastas, however, prefer to smoke, ganja. Ganja is seen not as a drug or as a means to get ?high,? but as a spiritual aid, it gives Rastas insights and helps meditation. Marijuana is sometimes referred to as the Holy Herb and Rasta legend states that it was found on King Solomon?s tomb, perhaps the wisest person from the Bible.
?And God said, behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed,
which is upon the face of all the earth sand every tree,
in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed;
to yo it shall be meat.? Genesis 1:29
This and many other verses from the bible are regarded as proof by Rastas that Ganja should be smoked.
Rastas, however, don?t accept drugs of any kind. A righteous Rasta will abstain from heroin, LSD, cocaine etc. Many even abstain from tobacco and alcohol. This abstinence from unnatural substance is called being Ital.
Ital , Natural (Nature-al)
Basically, Ital is living from what Jah gives and only altering it minimally (e.g. cooking). Therefore marijuana does not conflict with this philosophy. Rastas are generally adherents to living naturally. Ital is generally hard to accomplish but it all depends on the Rasta and his views. Some Rastas refrain from dairy products, flesh, table salt, etc. Others decide to eat meat and fish? it all depends on the person. One common theme throughout the Ital views, however, is nature . I.e living only on non-polluted foods or even packaged food.
Reggae (Spiritual Inspiration)
Rastafari is probably most often associated with reggae music. Reggae is a music style that developed in Jamaica in the late 1660’s. It is now a fairly popular style, and was made so with the contribution of Bob Marley.
Reggae is an outlet for the beliefs of Rastafari, and is largely responsible for spreding Rasta throughout the world. A high percentage of reggae artists are Rasta, which is the reason that reggae and Rasta have become synonymous.
Many reggae artists have successfully spread the words of Rastafari around the world. Such artists include Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Alpha Blondy, Burning Spear, Steel Pulse, The Meditations, Lee Perry, and many more. Reggae is an instumental part of the Rasta culture.
Reggae is more than just music, to many. It is, like all music, a way to express sorrow, joy, and various emotions. Reggae is a way of spreading Inity (unity) and love to all. Reggae is, for the most part, very positive. There is still a strong sense of resistence in most reggae music. Reggae is very defiant to anything that is considered Bablyon, namely government oppression.
Over the years the Rastafarian culture has been shun by many, Rastas often get targeted by law authorities and are often prosecuted with little or no evidence because of their attire, dreads and because of their use of Ganja. Many Rastas find it hard to get jobs because of their dreads and what it represents.
Personally, I think it is wrong especially in a country like Jamaica where everyday we interact with different people of different races, culture, and religious backgrounds. I think we should embrace rastas as a vital component of our culturally rich and diverse society of today.
1.Barrett Leonard E The Rastafarians: The Dread Locks of Jamaica. Sangsters Book store 1977.Ltd.
2.Dennis Forsythe —- The Rastaferi for The Healing of The Nation. 1st US Ed Nork. One drop books 1996