Rastafari

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Introduction

The origin of the Rastafarian religion is in Africa, and it is known as the religion of the poorer black people of Jamaica. It is not only a religion but also a way of life, and a stand against poverty, oppression and inequality of religious ideas as well as global problems.

The Rastafarian movement was born when the coronation of the prince Ras Tafari as Emperor Haile Selassie 1st of Ethiopia (1892-1975) took place on 2nd November 1930. A year earlier, Marcus Mossiah Garvey (1887-1940) had had a prophetic vision of the crowning of a king in Africa. Within Rastafarianism, Haile Selassie's titles include 'king of kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah'. Haile Selassie claimed to be the 225th descendant of King Solomon, son of David, and the Queen of Sheba.

Sacred Text

Rastafarians use the same Bible as Christians, but believe that some parts have been rewritten by Babylon (a symbolic reference to Imperial Rome). Special reference is made to the books of Genesis, Kings, Psalms and Revelation. His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie also released a version of the Bible based on ancient Ethiopian scriptures. In addition to the Bible, the Kebra Nagast and the Kebra Fetha are also read, which are old Ethiopian ge'ez books.

Beliefs

The base of Rastafarian belief is that Haile Selassie is the living representative of God for the black race. The Rastafarians believe that this was prophesised in the scriptures "the hair of whose head was like wool (the matted hair of a black man), whose feet were like unto burning brass (i.e. black skin)" (see Revelation 1.14).

Africa on the whole and Ethiopia in particular is believed to be Rastas' heaven on earth and there is no afterlife or hell. It is believed that Jah (God) will send signal and help the black exodus back to Africa. This belief originates from Marcus Garvey's theme, " Back to Africa".

Practices

Many Rastafarians live in camps in the bush, ruled by an Elder. The camps resemble monasteries and some are segregated by sex. Rastas follow a special diet of I-tal food. This is a natural food diet, i.e. the food has not been preserved or chemically altered in any way. The majority of Rastafarians are vegetarian (though they may eat fish). Those who do eat meat do not touch pork. Alcohol is forbidden, coffee and salt are not encouraged. A diet of vegetables, fruits and seeds is recommended in order to keep impurities out of the body and avoid sickness.

Some Rastafarians have long "dreadlocks", representing the mane of the Lion of Judah. The holy herb Ganja is used to meditate, but is not obligatory.

Festivals

  • Christmas 7th January
  • Birthday of Haile Selassie 23 July
  • Ethiopian New Years Day 11th September
  • Anniversary of the crowning of the Haile Selassie 1, 2nd November

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