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R for Romeo, R for Rastafarian

Day 61 - Rasta

We have this little Rastafarian doll at home that I really like. He’s a constant companion sitting on a ladder near my table. We’ve had him for a while now but I’ve never given thought to rastafarianism, comfortable in the cocoon of ignorance. So, today’s the day! :)

The first thought that comes to my mind when I think Rastafarian is Bob Marley, Jamaica, dreadlocks, dope, music and hippy. Which is a pretty narrow way of looking at it, isn’t it; so next step – some reading.

I was right when I said pretty narrow, coz there is so much to Rastafarianism. Starting with rastafarianism is a term considered derogatory and offensive by most Rastafari. The wikipedia page was loong… Here’s are a few things I gleaned.

The Rastafari movement is an African-based spiritual ideology that arose in the 1930s in Jamaica. It is sometimes described as a religion but is considered by many to be a “Way of Life”.

The name Rastafari is taken from Ras Tafari, the title (Ras) and first name of Haile Selassie I (Tafari) before his coronation.

The Rastafari Movement was founded by Leonard Percival “Gong” Howell in 1932. Leonard P. Howell was a Mystic Jamaican born in the hills of Clarendon, Jamaica in 1898. Rastafari developed among poor and oppressed Jamaicans of African descent who experienced a society which was largely contrary and apathetic to their problems.

Haile Selassie I in the 1930s

Rastafari worship Haile Selassie I (1892–1975), who was the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. They believe he will lead the righteous into creating a perfect world called Zion – the ultimate paradise for Rastafari. They say his coming was prophesied in the Bible in Genesis. Haile Selassie I is also refered by Rastas as “His Imperial Majesty” (or the acronym HIM) and “Jah Rastafari.”

Jah is a Biblical name of God, and most Rastafari see Haile Selassie I as Jah or Jah Rastafari, an incarnation of God. Rastas tend to be firm adherents to the proposition that in the eyes of Jah, all men and women deserve equal and just rights, treatment and respect. Rastas say that Jah in the form of the Holy Spirit (incarnate) lives within the human. For this reason, they often refer to themselves as “I and I”. “I and I” is used instead of “We” to emphasize the equality between all people.

For Rastas, smoking cannabis, commonly referred to as herb, weed, kaya, sinsemilla (Spanish for ‘without seeds’), or ganja (from the Sanskrit word ganjika, used in ancient Nepal and India), is a spiritual act (often accompanied by Bible study); they consider it a sacrament that cleans the body and mind, heals the soul, exalts the consciousness, facilitates peacefulness, brings pleasure, and brings them closer to Jah. They often burn the herb when in need of insight from Jah.

According to many Rastas, the illegality of cannabis in many nations is evidence that persecution of Rastafari is a reality. They are not surprised that it is illegal, seeing it as a powerful substance that opens people’s minds to the truth — something the Babylon system, they reason, clearly does not want. They contrast it to alcohol and other drugs, which they feel destroy the mind.

Some Rastas claim that cannabis was the first plant to grow on King Solomon’s grave.

The wearing of dreadlocks is very closely associated with the movement, though not compulsary. The length of a Rasta’s locks is a measure of wisdom, maturity, and knowledge in that it can indicate not only the Rasta’s age, but also his/her time as a Rasta. Rastafari associate dreadlocks with a spiritual journey that one takes in the process of locking their hair (growing hairlocks). It is taught that patience is the key to growing locks, a journey of the mind, soul and spirituality.

Rastaman in Barbados, wearing the Rastafarian colors of green, gold, red and black.

The Rastafarian colors of green, gold and red are said to signify – red the blood of martyrs, green the vegetation and beauty of Ethiopia, and gold the wealth of Africa.

Music has long played an integral role in Rastafari history and Reggae is one of the forms associated with it. Reggae was born amidst poor blacks in Trenchtown, the main ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica.

That was a lot of reading and noting down. And this is maybe one-tenth of what was there. Read the whole article about Rastafari movement on Wikipedia.

Did you know that Rastafari had so much more to it that Bob Marley and dreadlocks? What do you think of the Rasta way of life?

Photo and Text Credit: Wikipedia and Chenthil

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