A religion with deep political convictions, Rastafarianism began in the slums of Jamaica in the 1920s and 30s. African religious tradition has heavily influenced the culture of Rastafarianism and biblical themes have heavily influenced the religion's belief system. The most famous Rastafari is arguably Bob Marley, whose reggae music gained the Jamaican movement international recognition.
There is no formal, organized leadership in Rastafarianism, creating a wide variety of spiritual and moral variation within the religion. Some Rastafarians see Rasta more as a way of life, and others see it more as a religion. Nevertheless, uniting the diversity within the movement is belief in the divinity and/or messiahship of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, the influence of Jamaican culture, resistance of oppression, and pride in African heritage.
The Rastafarian lifestyle usually includes ritual use of marijuana, avoidance of alcohol, the wearing of one's hair in dreadlocks, and vegetarianism.
Many Rastas limit their diets to what they consider "pure" food. Additives such as artificial flavorings, artificial colors, and preservatives are avoided. Alcohol, coffee, drugs (other than ganja) and cigarettes are shunned as tools of Babylon that pollute and confuse. Many Rastas are vegetarians, although some eat certain kinds of fish.
Ganja is a strain of marijuana viewed by Rastas as a spiritual purifier, and it is smoked to cleanse the body and open the mind. Smoking ganja is common but not required.
Rastas are commonly against drug use in general. They will not use cocaine or heroin, for example. They also frequently avoid alcohol and even tobacco and caffeine. These substances are seen as poisons that defile the body that Jah (God) gave them.
Ganja, however, is seen as a gateway to understanding. It opens up the mind so as to be cognizant of the connection between oneself and Jah. It is a meditative tool meant to bring about self-realization and mystical experiences. What it is not about is getting "stoned". That returns us to being irresponsible about one's body.
Ganja is often smoked communally among several Rastas from a common pipe called a chalice.
This is often done during gatherings known as reasonings, where ideas are freely shared among participants.
One of the reasons people wear dreadlocks is because it is seen as a rejection of personal vanity and artificial grooming and returning to a more natural state. For Rastas, there is also Biblical justification for the style, the commandment in Numbers 6:5 that "During the entire time of his dedication, he is not to allow a razor to pass over his head until the days of his holy consecration to the LORD have been fulfilled. He is to let the locks on his head grow long." (International Standard Version)
Fast Facts on Rastafarianism
Generally said to be November 2, 1930, the year Emperor Hailie Selassie I (1892-1975) was crowned, but based in a movement of the 1920s.
Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), a black Jamaican who taught in the 1920s and is considered a second John the Baptist.
About 1 million worldwide
The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Ethiopian flag, colors: green, red, yellow
Rastafarian religious terminology
Followers of the Rastafari movement are known as Rastafarians, Rastafaris, Rastas, or Ras Tafarians. The movement is named for Ras Tafari Makonnen, who was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia in 1930.
Some Rastafaris dislike the term "Rastafarianism" because they reject the "isms and schisms" that characterize oppressive and corrupt white society. The movement is referred to as "the Rastafari movement," "Rasta," or "Rastafari."
Common Ital Foods
By Catherine Beyer
Ital cooking is heavily based on unadulterated fruits, vegetables and other naturally grown items eaten either raw or cooked. In Jamaica, this often includes beans, rice, coconut, bananas, peppers, potatoes, onion, callalloo (a leafy green vegetable), tamarind (a tree fruit), cocoa, mangos, and sugar, although this has more to do with preference and availability than any requirements of ital cooking.
Coconut milk is a basic ingredient in ital cooking.
Herbs and spices are used plentifully in place of artificial flavors. Common flavorings include cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and thyme.
Many Rastas and those embracing aspects of Rasta culture strive to eat primarily or only ital foods, which can be compared with the Jewish concept of kosher food and the Islamic concept of halal food.
Rastas embrace living naturally off of the resources given by Jah, or God. Therefore, ital foods avoid processing and additives and are preferred to be in nearly natural state. The term "ital" is derived from the English word "vital," and ital foods are those that are seen as providing good nourishment to the body without unneeded and even poisonous additives.
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Rastafari religious beliefs
Rastafarians believe in the Judeo-Christian God, whom they call Jah. In general, Rastafarian beliefs are based in Judaism and Christianity, with an emphasis on Old Testament laws and prophecies and the Book of Revelation.
Jah was manifested on earth as Jesus, who Rastas believe was black.
The sacred text of Rastafarians is the Holy Piby, the "Black Man's Bible." It was compiled by Robert Athlyi Rogers of Anguilla from 1913 to 1917 and published in 1924. The Holy Piby is a version of the Christian Bible that has been altered to remove all the deliberate distortions that are believed to have been made by white leaders during its translation into English. The Ethiopian national epic, the Kebra Negast, is also respected by Rastas, but less so than the Bible.
References & Sources
- "Rastafarians." Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Religions
- "The Holy Piby: The holy text of the Rastafari" - BobMarley.com
- "Rasta's Symbolism" - The Afrocentric Experience
- B. Chevannes, Rastafari and Other African-Caribbean Worldviews (Rutgers University Press, 1998), 17-18.
- B. Chevannes, Rastafari: Roots and Ideology (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1994).
- P. Clark, Black Paradise: The Rastafarian Movement (San Bernadino: Borgo Press, 1994).
- G. Hausman, The Kebra Negast: The Book of Rastafarian Wisdom and Faith From Ethiopia and Jamaica (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997).
- Kelleyana Junique, Rastafari? Rasta for You: Rastafarianism Explained (Athena Press Pub, 2004).
- W. Lewis, Soul Rebels: The Rastafari (Illinois: Waveland Press, 1997).
- J. Melton, Encyclopedia of American Religions, 5th Edition (Detroit: Gale Research. 1996).
- I. Morrish, Obeah, Christ, and Rastaman: Jamaica and its Religion (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 1982).
- Nathaniel Samuel Murrell, ed., Chanting Down Babylon: The Rastafari Reader (Temple University Press, 1998).
- J. Owens, Dread: The Rastafarians of Jamaica (London: Heinemann Press, 1979).
“Rastafarianism.” ReligionFacts.com. 10 Nov. 2015. Web. Accessed 5 Apr. 2016.
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