Ras Tafari Rastafarianism Essay, Research Paper
Rastafarianism began as a religion of the dispossessed. In 1930, a prophecy of deliverance
was fulfilled for Jamaica?s slum-dwellers and rural poor. Ethiopia symbolized Africa and the
homeland for the slave-descended Jamaicans. Ras Tafari Makennen, in 1930, became Emperor
Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. Emperor Selassie claimed to be a direct descendent of King Solomon.
Many Jamaicans were waiting for a black messiah. Selassie, who at his coronation was
proclaimed Negusa Negast (King of Kings), and whose imperial name meant ?Power of the Holy
Trinity?, seemed to be the one. A core group of Jamaicans believed Selassie was the ?Living God
of Abraham and Isaac/ He Whose Name Should Not Be Spoken.? They took on his original
name and called themselves Rastafarians or Rastas.
Emperor Selassie was not a Rastafarian. He was a devout Christian. It?s not clear what
he thought about this religion and its focus on him. An incident is told about a group of Rastas
who went to his palace in Ethiopia to honor him. A palace official told them to ?go away.? This
did not dampen their faith. It only served to strengthen it because they were convinced that God
is not supposed to know He is God. When the world media reported the Emperor?s death, Rastas
believe this was a trick to undermine their faith. Their devotion to Selassie led them to believe
that he did not die. He now had taken on ?perfect? or eternal flesh and with his wife, Empress
Menen, he sits atop Mt. Zion in Israel, waiting for judgment day.
Rastas use the Bible for guidance. They invite all peoples of the world to repent and
accept Jah (a shortened form of Jehovah). ?Babylon? symbolizes the white political power
structure that has terrorized and enslaved the black race for centuries. Rastas see the history of
blacks as one of being physically held down by iron shackles. In the present, Rastas feel blacks
are held down by poverty, illiteracy, inequality, and trickery by the white man. To stand up
against this Babylon, Rastas want to remind blacks of their heritage.
?Heaven on earth?, in Rastafarian belief, is in Africa and especially Ethiopia. There?s no
afterlife. A black Exodus to Ethiopia will occur in the future. This Exodus will begin after a
signal from Jah. This means that Rastafarians are very focused on any news from Ethiopia. As a
result, Jamaican blacks have looked more deeply into their African heritage.
Red, gold, green, and black are Rastafarian colors. Red stands for Church Triumphant,
which is the Church of the Rastas. It also stands for the blood of martyred Rastas. Gold
represents the wealth of the homeland. Green symbolizes the beauty and vegetation of the
Ethiopia, the ?promised land.? Black is used to represent the African people.
?He causeth the grass for cattle and the herb for the service of man,? Psalm 104:14.
Rastas use this scripture and others as the basis for their use of ?ganja.? Regarded as
?wisdomweed,? Rasta leaders urge that ?ganja? be smoked by followers as a religious rite and aid
to meditation. A potent strain of ?ganja? or marijuana grows in abundance on Jamaica. It grows
wild, providing a good supply for Rastas spiritual and medicinal purposes.
Rastas eat I-tal food. I-tal food is chemical free and not canned. Though cooked, this
food is served without salts, preservatives, or condiments. Rastas are vegetarians. Drinks can be
anything that?s herbal such as tea. Liquor, milk, coffee and soft drinks are considered unnatural.
?I-tal? food has gained a growing popularity among Jamaicans in general.
Using Levitius 21:5, ?They shall not make baldness upon their head,? Rastas outlawed the
combing or cutting of hair. Their nappy tresses were allowed to mat and twine themselves into
ropy ?dread locks.? This hair style was called ?dread locks? to mock the non-believers aversion
to their appearance. The way the hair grows has come to represent rebellion against the system
and the ?proper? way to wear hair.
Basically, Rastafarians have these core beliefs. The first one is that God is spirit and that this
spirit is represented in Emperor Selassie. The Emperor is black and a descendent, as Christ is, of
the family of King David. This family?s shemetic or dark-skinned physical characteristics are
misrepresented in European art. Blacks throughout the world have been denied the joy and
dignity of knowing how Jesus and Mary really looked. Jesus and Mary were black. A white
messiah coming in the past or future is a white myth. Their redeemer is black.