We focused on many different religions throughout the year but one that we did not look into was the Rastafarian Movement, this is what I decide to learn more about. I decided to focus on this because many times I hear about Rasta colors or reggae but do not know where they come from. As I started to do some research I began to think about questions I would like to answer. Not knowing much about this religion I wanted to answer; what is the Rastafarian movement and how did it start? I also wanted to find out what their beliefs were and who influenced the religion. All of the questions that I asked myself came with very interesting answers.
Rastafarians, Rastafaris, Rastas, or Ras Tafarians are people who follow the Rastafarian Movement. Just like how the follows are known by different names the movement itself is known as “Rastafari movement”, “Rasta” or “Rastafari”. One thing that you will never hear the Rastafarian Movement called is “Rastafarianism” because Rastas reject “isms and schisms”. They believe that it characterizes the oppressive and corrupt white society. Rasta is an African centered religion that began in the 1930s in the slums of Jamaica. The religion’s founder is Marcus Garvey. He was a political black leader who led an organization known as the Universal Negro Improvement Association. He wanted to unify blacks with their land of origin. He believed that all black were true Israelites and had been sent to Jamaica and other parts of the world as a punishment. He is widely regarded as the second John the Baptist. In 1927 Garvey prophesied, “Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned, he shall be your Redeemer." Soon after this prophecy, Haile Selassie was crowed emperor of Ethiopia. This was seen as a fulfillment of Garvey’s prophecy. The Rasta religion was named after Haile Selassie’s given name, which was Ras Tafari Makonnen. He changed it to Haile Selassie when he was crowned Emperor because of its meaning “Might of the Trinity”. Haile Selassie is regarded as the black Messiah, Jah Rastafari. He is known as a figure of salvation and Rastas believed that he would redeem blacks from white suppressors and reunite them with their homeland of Africa. Rasta has about one million followers worldwide. It is most practiced in Jamaica, the Caribbean, and Africa. The message of black pride and the hope of a return to Africa was openly received and that is the reason it has spread as far as it has.
Like in any religion, the beliefs of Rasta have changed slightly as times have changed. Many of the original beliefs of Rasta were strong statements about racial issues. Many Rastafaris were oppressed people so it is to be expected that they had strong opinions on racial issues. Some of the early beliefs were that Rastas must hate whites and want revenge on them. Many Rastas believed that this revenge would come in the form of Whites becoming slaves to Blacks. Most Rastas also believed that Blacks were superior. They believed that they were the chosen people of God and that someday soon they would rule the world. While many of these beliefs seem like oppressed people trying to seek revenge on their oppressors they did have some beliefs that more “normal” we see variations of the following beliefs throughout many different religions. Rastas believed that Haile Selassie would lead Blacks back to Africa where they could finally be free. Also all Rastas acknowledged the Emperor Haile Selassie as God, and the ruler of Black people. Now these beliefs have changed throughout the years. Rastas in modern day believe in a Judeo- Christian God, whom they call Jah. Rastas sacred texts are the Holy Piby and the Ethiopian national epic, the Kebra Negast. The Holy Piby is known as the “Black Man’s Bible”. It is a version of the Christian Bible but all of the deliberate changes that were made by white leaders while translating the bible into English have been removed. Some of the modern day...
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