Rastafarian Sects

Rastafari is a religious movement predominantly practiced in the Caribbean island of Jamaica; like other religious organizations, the Rasta movement is decentralized and divided on a sectarian basis; it is more of an umbrella body to several sects which hold distinct beliefs and practices from each other. These sects are referred to as orders or ‘mansions of Rastafari.’ The most prominent among sects recognized under the Rasta movement are; ‘Bobo Shanti’, ‘Nyabinghi’, and the ‘Twelve Tribes of Israel.’

Bobo Shanti

Bobo Shanti basically means “black warrior.” This order is also called the ‘Ethiopian African Black International Congress’ (EABIC) or Bobo Ashanti and is one of the key sects identified under the Rasta movement. ‘Bobo’ means black and ‘Ashanti’ refers to their Ashanti ancestors belonging to the Akan warrior tribe of Ghana. The origins of the Bobo Shanti can be traced to Bull Bay, near Kingston Jamaica.

The Bobo Shanti mansion of the Rastafari movement bears strict rules to its members. They wear long robes and cover their dreadlocks with bright turbans; they are strictly vegan and adhere to biblical restrictions in accordance to their vows. They fast twice weekly and on the first Sunday of each month. These unique traits distinguish the Bobo Shanti from other mansions of the Rasta movement in a huge way.

Like other mansions of the Rastafari movement, the Bobo Shanti do smoke marijuana, but do not do it in public because they consider it a holy practice that can only be exercised in times of worship. And even though they believe and refer to the Marijuana as the holy herb, its production within the community is strictly restricted.


The Nyabinghi mansion is deemed as the largest and one of the oldest mansions of the Rasta movement. Nyabinghi adherents assume a more traditional and militant outlook; they seek to retain the movement in the same way it existed since its beginning. The House of Nyabinghi places an emphasis on the fact that Haile Selassie is Jah and the reincarnation of Jesus.

The term Nyabinghi means “Death to all Oppressors” and is named after Queen Nyabinghi who ruled Uganda in the 19th century and played a key role in reducing the influence of colonial powers. According to some sources, the Nyabinghi are vehemently anti-white and refuse to cooperate with the Babylon system (a society or a group considered corrupt and evil).
The Nyabinghi tribe aims at unifying the Rasta movement and the African heritage, the mansion therefore considers it important, almost sacred to repatriate blacks back to Africa, more-so Ethiopia. Wearing of dreadlocks for the adherents is obligatory and patriarchal gender roles are strongly encouraged.

The Twelve Tribes of Israel

The Twelve Tribes of Israel is the youngest of the three mentioned mansions of the Rasta movement; the members of this mansion are grouped into twelve groups to signify the twelve tribes of Israel mentioned in the bible. The Twelve Tribes of Israel is said to be the Rastafari mansion closest to Messianic Judaism and Christianity in terms of its belief system; members read one chapter of the bible daily and follow its teachings. This mansion also allows its members to attend church and encourage salvation through Jesus Christ the ‘Messiyah’ whom they refer to as either ‘Yahshua’ or by His Amharic title ‘Yesus Kristos.’

Like the first two mentioned mansions of the Rastafari movement, The Twelve Tribes of Israel encourages its members to refrain from alcohol and non vegetarian diet. They are also restricted from cutting their hair and associating with the dead and anything to do with death.

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