The Rastafari religion originated in Jamaica in the 1930s following the coronation of Haile Selassie I as King of Ethiopia in 1930.
It spread in the Caribbean and in parts of the U.S. and Europe with a large Afro-Caribbean population. The Rastafari movement is both a political and a religious group with a lifestyle that includes dreadlock hairstyles and the sacramental use of marijuana. The group advocates opposition to traditional government and supports members’ repatriation to Africa. The Rastafari movement may provide an affirmation of black identity and a moral framework for black people emerging from centuries of slavery, colonization, and oppression.
Rastafarians describe Haile Selassie in god-like terms and believe he will return to Africa members of the black community, who he believed were living in exile as the result of colonization and the slave trade.
Rastafari theology developed from the ideas of Marcus Garvey, a political activist who wanted to improve the status of fellow blacks. Rastas are guided by a pair of fundamental moral principles known as the “two great commandments”: love of God and love of neighbor.
There are approximately one million adherents of Rastafari as a faith in the world.
Rastafarians are known by a variety of names: Rastas, Sufferers, Locksmen, Dreads or Dreadlocks.
Here are some other facts about Rastafarians:
- It spread around the world following the success of Bob Marley and his music in the 1970s
- Rastafarians believe that blacks are the chosen people of God, but that through colonisation and the slave trade their role has been suppressed
- The movement’s greatest concerns are the repatriation of blacks to their homeland, Africa, and the reinstatement of blacks’ position in society
- Rastafari religious ceremonies consist of chanting, drumming and meditating in order to reach a state of heightened spirituality
- Rastafarian religious practice advocates marijuana use to increase their spiritual awareness
- Rastafarians follow strict dietary laws and abstain from alcohol.
- Rastafarians follow a number of Old Testament Laws
- There is a separate code of religious practice for women in Rastafari
- Rastafarians believe reincarnation follows death and that life is eternal
- Rastafarians are forbidden to cut their hair; instead, they grow it and twist it into dreadlocks
- Rastafarians eat clean and natural produce, such as fruit and vegetables
- Rastafarians try to refrain from the consumption of meat, especially pork
- Rastafarians are opposed to abortion and contraception
Mural image by Ueli Frey