Rastafarianism pre-dated the Black Power movement by 20 years. It is a Bible-based religion or philosophy that teaches a root-continuity of the African race throughout history.
It emerged in the slums of Jamaica in the 1930s. Rastafarians believe they are Children of Negus, a title of the Ethiopian Kings in their descent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. They believe that Haile Selassie I, emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974, was the incarnation of the second Messiah.
“Rastas”, short for Rastafarians, focus on self-divinity, contemplation and meditation on the Bible. The sacramental smoking of ganja, along with chanting and drumming, assists followers espousing a religion with a non-political, non-racist worldview. They see Africa as the mother of all life and the birthplace of humankind. Rastas believe that Jah (God) can be found in everyone.
Ideas gained through this perspective manifest visually in costume, dance, art, poetry and assorted cottage industries. Reggae music, attributed to this movement, is identified as a symbol of spirituality and protest. Legendary Jamaican singer-songwriter Bob Marley (1945-1981) is world renown for his contribution to this popular musical genre.
Rasta men are usually bearded. Rastas of both sexes are noted for their eye-catching dreadlock hairstyle. True followers do not eat meat or take drugs, with the exception of ganja, which is considered sacred.
Based on an interpretation of a Biblical verse (Numbers 6:5), Rastas neither cut their hair nor comb it. Ringlets of hair are twisted and coiled with beeswax to produce a hairstyle inspired by the term “Lion of Judah.” Dreadlocks, called simply “locks” for short, are trained to grow to shoulder length and beyond.
Fashioned after the Masai and Galla tribesmen of Africa, locks are worn by men and women of all races as the Rastafarian movement has become international — winning followers throughout the Caribbean and the entire world. The Rastafarian, dreadlocked influence can be found throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, among the Maoris in New Zealand and young people in the Far East.
Also known as marijuana, grass, weed and pot, ganja is viewed by Rastafarians as “the sacred herb” and is smoked in religious rituals. Ganja is an internationally accepted (although illegal) popular intoxicant.