Dr. Peter Patton
Western Arts and Culture
Rastafarianism Beliefs and Rituals
The incorporation in many modern societies of dread locks amongst youths, the ever increasing efforts to legalize marijuana; what started out as an entirely black oriented religion spread throughout the world, particularly in the 1970s because of the popularity of reggae music, and currently has around one million followers in Japan, New Zealand, and elsewhere (Simpson 96) , along with many other activities that we are accustomed to in the American pluralistic society, represents a form of rituals and beliefs that have been brought to the mainstream by the Rastafarians. I had often been puzzled by the way in which my Rastafarian friends viewed and behaved within each different situation; in particular how happy and settled they usually were even on the most difficult conditions. The Rastafarian religion’s beliefs and rituals are extremely rich and pure; throughout extensive research it was possible to unveil six main beliefs that can be considered truly Rastafarians, one of them stating that Haile Selassie I is the only God. These beliefs don’t hold true in a theological point of view because the bible teaches us of the Holy Trinity, and clearly proves that Jesus Christ is the son of God, the only living God, and that salvation can only be obtained through Jesus Christ. Before describing exactly what Rastafarianism’s religious beliefs and rituals are, it is important to understand the religious background. Rastafarianism is relatively new religion based on the African traditional religion. The Rastafarian religion falls into the Experiential/Emotional Dimension due to its particular distinctions between that which is profane and that which is sacred, and also to their careful distinction of food that the followers of this sect of religion’s are allowed to eat. Rastafarians don’t build special places for worship because they believe that their own body is the true church or temple of God; Although, some Rastafarians have created temples, as some call spiritual meeting centers in international communities with large Rastafarian population. As a religion Rastafari is difficult to encapsulate, it might be meaningfully described as a spiritual movement that started in Jamaica with a goal rooted in returning to, retrieving, or reinventing African heritage and identity. The name Rastafari derives from the title and given name (Ras, translated as "prince," and Tafari, "he who must be feared," from the Amharic language of Ethiopia) of Haile Selassie (Amharic for "power of the Trinity"; 1892–1975), the former Ethiopian emperor, whom most Rastafari worship as a God-king or messiah (Morris 217). Rastafari emphasizes the interior location of deity (Haile Selassie I), often referred to as I and I instead of We which represents an overdetermined symbol that includes both a sense of the self as divinity residing internally and the notion that the spirit and power of Haile Selassie I dwell within each individual Rastafari. Because of their cultural background some of their beliefs are similarly shared by those of the Lost/Found Nation of Islam (Corduan, 104) although it differs on the prophetic message.
One might wonder about what are the main religious beliefs of Rastafarians. First it’s important to define religious beliefs. Religious belief is a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny. Such a state may relate to the existence, characteristic and worship of the deity or deities, divine intervention in the universe and human life, or values and practices centered on teachings of spiritual leaders (although Rastafarianism doesn’t have spiritual leaders), religious beliefs are usually codified. This power derives not from a body of systematic or logical truth, but rather from the psychological, emotional content of ideology (Barret, 103). The Rastafarians have developed for themselves a...