Rastafari is a relatively new religion based on African traditions. Followers of the religion are called Rastafarians, Rastas, Dreads, Dreadlocks, Sufferers, or Locksmen. 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.

Rastafari History

Political leader Marcus Garvey made a prophecy that a king would be crowned in Africa and that king would redeem the black people. After Haile Selassie I became king of Ethiopia, Rastafari was established as a religion in Jamaica in the 1930s. The basis of the religion was to improve the condition of the black people. When Africa (which is known as Ethiopia by Rastafarians) was colonized by the Europeans, Africans were exiled to the rest of the world as slaves. Regions of captivation were called Babylon. According to Rastafari, Haile Selassie would save the blacks from the whites and return them to their home. In the 1970s, the popularity of reggae music and Bob Marley helped spread Rastafari. The new popularity alarmed traditional Rastafarians, who feared the commercialization of the religion. In 1973, the beliefs of Rastafari underwent a modern revision; they were revised again in 1991. In 1975, after being ousted, Haile Selassie died.

Rastafari Beliefs

According to Rastafari Haile Selassie is the only God. The chosen people of God are the blacks. Rastafari draws from many Old Testament laws and Rastafarians consider themselves the true Israelites. While some Rastafarians hold on to the traditional belief that blacks will one day suppress the whites, other Rastafarians believe in a modern multicultural society. Rastafari stresses the concept of the humanity of God and the divinity of humans, meaning that God can appear in the form of a human. The code of rules for woman and men differ in Rastafari. However, all Rastafarians believe in reincarnation and eternal life. The protect humanity and natural life. They oppose Paganism, contraception, and abortion.

Rastafari Customs

Rastafari is practiced in followers' homes or in a community center. It does not have a special building for communal worship, or reasoning sessions. These sessions include singing, praying, drumming, and chanting. Music is an important part of the rituals of Rastafari. Traditional music is called Nyabingi, which is a mix of African drum and 19th century gospel sounds. Rastafari also allows the ritual use of marijuana, which is believed to enhance spiritual responsiveness and is called holy herb or wisdom weed. Meditation is also part of Rasatafari worship. Most Rastafarians are vegetarians. Rastafarians are encouraged to follow strict diets of clean food and drinks like vegetables, fruit, and herbal tea. They must avoid alcohol, coffee, milk, meat and shellfish (especially pork), and fish that measure more than a foot long. Rastafarians are not allowed to use sharp instruments on human bodies; therefore, they are not allowed to cut hair, shave, tattoo, etc. As a result, Rastafarians grow their hair and twirl it into dreadlocks, symbolizing a lion's mane (the Rastafari symbol is the lion).

By Ryan Brown