Rastafari Movement: Beliefs and Origins

Rastafari is a global religious movement with roots in the Caribbean Island of Jamaica. Rastafari also spelled as Ras Tafari is made up of two words ‘Ras’ which is a title give to Ethiopian nobility and ‘Tafari’ which is the name of former Ethiopian Emperor His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie prior to his coronation.

Rastafari faithfuls believe that His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie is the Messiah prophesied in the book of Daniel in the old testament of the Christian/Jewish bible; the Empreror is therefore acknowledged by the movement as a fulfillment of this prophecy. Incidentally, Rastafari adherents claim that Haile Selassie was a direct descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

The name Haile Selassie itself means power of trinity; his full title was-“By the Conquering Lion of The Tribe of Judah, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Elect of God.

Reverence to His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie as the movement’s Messiah and a manifestation of God all began with a prophecy by political activist Marcus Garvey. In one of his speeches, Garvey told Jamaicans to “look to Africa where a black King shall be crowned” and that “this King shall be their redeemer.” On the 2nd of November 1930, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie formerly governor of Harer province, and whose name originally was  Tafari Makkonnen was crowned King of Kings, and the new Emperor of Ethiopia thereby fulfilling Garvey’s prophecy.

A big portion of Rastafari beliefs and practices are drawn from both Ethiopia and Jamaican cultural roots. Rastafaris believe in God whom they call Jah, they also believe in Jesus and that he was sent by Jah to save mankind. But then they believe Haile Selassie is a complete incarnation of Jah and that it was His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie who sent Jesus on a spiritual mission to save mankind. Rastafaris also believe in the bible, but claim that the present version’s message is corrupt compared to the previous/past version.

The practice of Rastafari involves restraint of practices which they refer to as Babylonian, practices such as oppression, materialism, and succumbing to pleasures of the senses form the basis of such practices. A majority of Rastafari adherents also refrain from consumption of meat and meat products, alcohol, and tobacco. Smoking cannabis however, is a practice closely associated with the movement; Rastafaris consider it a spiritual act, a sacrament, which purifies the body and mind and which is meant to bring them closer to God. Many adherents would smoke cannabis while reading the bible.

Another major identifier of the Rastafari movement is dreadlocks. Donning of dreadlocks is  symbolism of the lion’s mane of the lion of the tribe of Judah; it is also seen as some sort of defiance against the Babylon system. The justification of wearing dreadlocks by the Rastafari movement is inspired by the book of Leviticus in the Christian bible chapter 21:5 which states that “they shall not make baldness upon their heads, neither shall they shave corners of the beards or make any cuttings of the flesh.

Reggae music is also a major tool and identifier of the Rastafari spiritual movement. Much of reggae music is composed in praises and adherence to Haile Selassie and Jah Rastafari; reggae music also advocates for the movements’ principles, values, and ways of living.

The Rastafarian flag dons three colors; red, green, and yellow. Red represents blood of black martyrs, Green the vegetation of Ethiopia, and Gold the wealth of Africa.

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