What is the Rastafarian Religion?


Hey folks, For years I have heard about the existence of Rastafari. Like many, I knew it was popular in Jamaica, had a special relationship with marijuana, and refers to something in Ethiopia. What I found was a simultaneously old and young religion, that practices Christianity with a very different spin. As I said, Rastafari is very young as far as religions go. It traces its origin to Jamaica in the 1930s. They formed around the coronation of Haile Selassie I to emperor of Ethiopia. They are at their core Christians, and saw Haile Selassie as the second coming. While adherents can go by the term Rastafarian, the term Rastafarianism is considered offensive. They have issue with any “isms” really. It comes from the mix of Ras and Tafari, Ras being a title in Ethiopian nobility akin to being a duke, and Tafari being the name of Haile Selassie before his coronation. They believe him to be the 225th generation descendant of king Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Haile Selassie supposedly died in 1975, but Rastafarians believe he simply went into hiding in a secretive monastery, preparing to save the world. Much of the practice of Rastafari comes from a mix of Jamaican and Ethiopian cultural roots. The religion has many associations with Afrocentric and pan-African movements. The church itself has a lineage going back to Ethiopian Christianity, and through them to the original Church of Alexandria. One of the first sects of Christianity. You might have heard of Coptic Christians. That’s where it all comes from. Back in the 5th century these Christians took their own path very different from the Roman Empire’s Christianity. They believe in god, whom they call Jah, and that he is 3 in 1. They believe they made his son manifest in Jesus, and himself manifest in Haile Selassie. They do believe in much of the bible, but that the years have corrupted its message. The life of Rastafarians involves abstaining from actions they call Babylon. This includes materialism, oppression, and succumbing to pleasures of the senses. They see Ethiopia as the birthplace of mankind, and refer to it as Zion. Converting requires repatriation to Zion. Today this can be physically moving to Ethiopia, or emotionally, spiritually communing with it. We should talk a little about the role of marijuana. They see cannabis as the leaf of the tree of life from the bible. To them, using it is sacramental, and mentioned in the Book of Revelation referring to an herb that would heal nations. Pipes need to be dedicated to Haile Selassie before smoking. They believe cannabis burns corruption from the human heart. They call it ganja, and smoke it at special reasoning ceremonies. That being said, use is not required to practice Rastafari. Rastafari makes a big deal of avoiding sects and denominations. However, there are three major umbrellas they call mansions. The prominent being the Twelve Tribes of Israel, Nyahbinghi, and Bobo Ashanti. As far as food goes, many are vegetarian, and some only keep from shellfish and pork. They believe that in the books of Leviticus and Numbers that law requires followers to grow dreadlocks. The length of one’s dreadlocks shows their time spent as a Rastafarian, and is a measure of wisdom and age. Combs, scissors, and razors are inventions of Babylon and Rome, not good places in their eyes. Music is hugely important to the practice and popularity of the religion. They have special chants for their grounding ceremonies, and Burru drumming. And we can’t talk about Rastafari without mentioning its biggest international ambassador Bob Marley. Much of the popularity of Rastafari comes from the international popularity of reggae music, and Bob Marley in particular. Many of his songs were about Rastafari and its way of life. People aren’t sure how many Rastafarians there are in the world. They compose between 22 thousand and 100 thousand Jamaicans, or about 5% of their population. As I said, a lot of variation. There are also many communities in Botswana, Canada, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Japan, Madagascar, Malawi, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Either way, I wanted to share this all with you guys. No other religion in my memory has such a gap between name recognition, and even basic understanding of what it’s about. If there’s something really cool about this very unique religion I didn’t mention, be sure to tell us about it down below. Like and share if you want to help out the channel, and of course subscribe to get yourself more Step Back.

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