05 JAN 2011
Rastafarian is not just a religion but a way of life. When most people think of a Rastafarian they think of a pot-head or a dirty dread. Rastafarian is just as much of a religion as any other religion. Rastafarians have very strong beliefs in many aspects of life they go further than just religious beliefs. “A man without knowing of his past is like a tree without roots” (Marcus Garvey). “Rastafarians do not believe Haile Selassie is Jah God and that the Rastas are the chosen people. They claim to know these things and would never admit to believing them” (Robert Nesta Marley). Many people throughout the world have a hard time understanding what it means to be a Rasta. For many they look at Rastafari as only a religion and not as a way of life.
Rastafarians, Rastafaris, Rastas, or Ras Tafarians originated from the followers of the Rastafari movement. The movement is named for Ras Tafari Makonnen, who was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia in 1930. Rastafaris dislike the term “Rastafarianism” because they reject the “isms and schisms” that characterize oppressive and corrupt white society. The Rastafarian movement began with the teachings of Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) a black Jamaican who led a “Back to Africa” movement. He taught that Africans are the true Israelites and have been exiled to Jamaica and other parts of the world as divine punishment. Garvey encouraged pride in being black and worked to reverse the mindset of inferiority that centuries of enslavement and ingrained on the minds of blacks. Garvey was regarded as a second John the Baptist and famously prophesied in 1927, “Look to Africa, for there a king shall be crowned.” On November 2, 1930, Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned emperor of Ethiopia (He ruled until 1974). At his coronation he took the name Haile Selassie, meaning “Might of the Trinity.” Selassie also took the titles, “Conquering Lions if the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God and King of the Kings of Ethiopia.” These titles are traditionally given to Ethiopian Kings and reflect the Old Testament emphasis of Ethiopian Christianity. For Rastafarians, Selassie’s coronation was a clear fulfillment of Revelation 5:5, “Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Ezekiel 28:25, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When I gather the people of Israel from the nations where they have been scattered, then they live in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob.” With that, followers of Garvey’s teaching believed that Selassie is the Messiah that had been predicted and that his coronation indicated the divine punishment was completed and the return to Africa was imminent. Rastafarians named their movement for Ras Tafari and regarded the emperor as the physical presence of God (Jah) on earth (religiousfacts.com).
Many people throughout the world have a very hard time understanding what it really means to be a Rasta. Many of the people see and understand it to be a religion only and not also a way of life, which includes the Ital or I-tal diet. The word derives from the English word “vital”, with the initial syllable replaced by I (Wikipedia). I-tal is spiritually blessed food that has not touched modern chemicals and is served without preservatives, condiments or salts. Alcohol, coffee, milk and flavored beverages are generally viewed as no I-tal. Most Rastas follow the I-tal diet. Generally some are vegan or vegetarians, even meat-eating Rastas abstain from eating pork, as pigs are scavengers of the dead, as are crabs, lobsters, and shrimp. Other kinds of seafood are a Rastafarian staple (zaliusnation.com). Early Rastas used the Bible verse Genesis 1:29, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. The will be yours for food.” Rastafarians strongly believed that a spiritually clean diet is one way to become close to Jah God amongst other things.
Rastafari vocabulary or lyric is a part of created dialect of English. It’s been said that the African’s language was lost in slavery and English was the imposed language on the slaves. That’s when Rasta’s came up with lyric, for example I and I: is a complex term, referring to the oneness of Jah God and every human. Rasta scholar E.E. Cashmore: “I and I is an expression to totalize the concept of oneness, the oneness of two persons. So Jah is within all of us and we’re one people in man. But man itself needs a head and the head of man is his Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I (always pronounced as the letter “I”, never as the number one or “the first”) of Ethiopia. “The term is often used in place of “you and I” or “we” among Rastafarians, implying that both persons are united under the love of Jah (zaiusnations.com). Probably the most known Rasta word is Babylon: meaning the rebellion against the rule of Zion, beginning with the Tower of Babel. Rastafari is defiance of Babylon (zaiusnation.com).
There are many symbols within the Rastafarian belief and their lives that have very strong meanings, probably the most know are the dreadlocks. Everyone you speak with might think of dreadlocks of just another black hair style. The wearing of dreadlocks is a biblical hairstyle in Leviticus it says, “Thou shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in the flesh.” The Rastafarian colors even have a natural and spiritual meaning, red: stands for the Rastafarians community. It also stands for the blood that has been shed by the slaves taken from Africa, and by those oppressed during struggles for African freedom. Gold: stands for the wealth of Africa, which was so often been exploited by non-Africans, leaving the continent impoverished, despite its great natural resources. Green: stands for the lush beauty and fertility of Ethiopia, regarded as the spiritual homeland of Rastafarians. Black: sometimes incorporated into designs, this symbolizes the black people of Africa and Jamaica.
“Open your eyes look within, are you satisfied with the life you’re living?” (Robert Nesta Marley). That quote alone goes to show you the depth of Rastafari. Rastafari is a religion but not just a religion just built on beliefs but a natural and peaceful way of life. “If there is no enemy within the enemy outside can do us no harm” (African Proverb). Along with the religious beliefs Rastas believe that we are all one and need to live as so and as soon as we do we as humans will have peace and no harm.
Life Application Study Bible. Michigan: Somerset, 1991. Print _Religionfacts.com_
White, Timothy “Catch a Fire.” New York: Holt, 2006
_Wikipedia.org/wiki/Ital_. January 4 2011
_Zaiusnation.com_. Dr. Zaius