RASTAFARIANISM

ORIGIN

Marcus Garvey was a black nationalist in Jamaica and head of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, a very prominent black pride group of the 1920’s. Garvey was a Roman Catholic that encouraged his followers to believe that Jesus was a black man and to form their own church. Thus, the African Orthodox Church was born. With thousands of followers Garvey became a prophet. His prophesy was that the to be crowned king of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, would begin the new and just kingdom of the African people.

LATER HISTORY

When Ras Tafari was crowned Haile Selassie Garvey followers were convinced that the prophecy had come true. Garvey, however, did not approve of Tafari because slavery still existed in Ethiopia. Beyond this, Garvey saw his followers, Rastafarians, as “crazy fanatics.” The people of Jamaica that believed that Garvey’s prophesy had come true were regarded as Rastafarians. The new religion, if you could call it a religion, was generally confined to Jamaica and had no specific dogma or scripture. Rastafarian practice consisted of debates and prayer in an attempt to understand the will of Jah, or God. On the day know as "Grounation Day," April 21, 1966, Haile Selassie visited Jamaica after he learned the popularity of his following. When he arrived to the airport in Kingston he was greeted by many elders and they began discussing the religion, developement of Jamaica, and the possibility of land grants in Ethiopia.

BELIEFS AND PRACTICES

In the beginnings of the Rastafarian religion, elder Leonard Howell developed 6 principles; 1) hatred of the white people; 2) superiority of the black race; 3) revenge of white people for their “wickedness”; 4) negotiation, persecution, and humiliation of the government of legal bodies of Babylon, or Jamaica; 5) preparation to go back to their homeland Africa and 6) acknowledgment of Haile Selassie and divine and ruler of the Black people. These principles show the political motivation and ideology of the movement.

Morality is generally based on Jewish and Christian principles, one major difference is the "promise land," which is Etheopia as oposed to Israel. Rastafarians follow a Nazarite, implying that they commonly where their hair uncut in "dread locks," follow certain dietary regulations, and avoid contact with the dead. The inspiration for dread locks has several explanations, some say it is inspired by the biblical injunction against the cutting of ones hair, and others claim it is to resemble lamb's wool and this is relevant because Selassie is the "lamb of God,"

The Rastafarian belief claims that marijuana, or ganga, is the "holy herb" mentioned in the text of the Bible. Through the ritual smoking of marijuana, Rastafarians can relise Haile Selassie as God, see Ethiopia is the homeland, and gain an cosmic understanding of themselves and the universe. The smoking of ganga also serves as a protest against the White culture that has deemed it illegal. The word "ganga" actually refers to a speciffic type of Indian hemp derived from the female plant. This practice was not new idea for the people of Jamaica who had been using marijuana as a folk medicine well before the Rasta movement.

The Rastafarian's form of worship, known as Nyabinghi, gave birth to what is now know as Reggae music. Nyabinghi are Rasta gatherings where three drums of diffent sizes are played. The music took components from different kinds of music from around the world, American Rythem and Blues, Carribbean music, folk, Pocomania, Jonkanoo drum bands, plantation work songs, and a style known as mento. The word Reggae in Latin means "to the king," the music was intended to spread the Rastafarian way of life. The music became extremely popular in the 70's with the recordings of Bob Marley and its influence made its way into other genras, like punk rock with the D.C. band Bad Brains.

Other less common beliefs of Rastafarians are that the Devil is the God of the White man, believe certain parts of the Bible were delibratly distorted in its translation, and true Rastafarians are vegitarians.

COMMUNITY

Many Rastas used to live, and commonly still do, in bush camps run by an Elder. Within the camps, Rastas followed the dietary rules of "ital." The camps commonly resemble monasteries and are often seperated by sex. Many of the men in the camps are bearded, this was not common in the origins of the religion because of discrimination, they worked their jobs as "baldfaces" to avoid hostility.

SYMBOLS

The Ethiopian Flag: Symbol of the promise land, the red is for the triumph of the Church and the blood of the martyrs, the yellow is for the wealth and the green is for the vegitation

Dread Locks: The lamb of God, or the biblical passage "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." Leviticus 21:5

The Lion of Judah: the king of all kings Haile Selassie

STATISTICS

-There are somewhere between 3 and 5 thousand Rastafarian Americans
br> -There are about 1,000,000 Rastafarian people in the world

-The majority of Rastafarians are male

-Rastafarians are generally ex-Christians

-Rastafarianism was a product of the lower class but has made its way into the middle class and to regions beside Jamaica including, Indians, Chinease, and especially Africans.

RASTAFARIAN VOCABULARY

-Marcus Garvey: Black Power activist and prophet of the new kingdom for the black people.

-Ras Tafari: Inheriter of the throne of Haile Selassie and thought to be the prophesy of Garvey.

-Haile Selassie: The king of Etheopia.

-Jah: God, "and I"

-Dread: “God Fearer,” follower of Jah, "I"

-I and I: The individual self, or dread, and Jah, or God, always together.

-Ganga: marijuana, the "holy herb"

-Babylon: Jamaica, the establishment

-Zion: The promise land, Ethiopia.

SOURCES

-http://www.jebungard.org/lcc/student_web_projects/Rel_150/S_pgs/raf/symbols.html
-http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/rast.html
-http://luna.cas.usf.edu/~alaing/rasta.html
-http://www.watchman.org/profile/rastapro.htm
-http://www.reachouttrust.org/info/world/rastas.htm
-http://www.kingston.ac.uk/~gr_s047/chaplain/irasta.htm
-http://www.swagga.com/rasta.htm
-http://rastas-home.tripod.com/history_of_rastafarians.htm