Source of Article: http://www.bellaterreno.com/art/a_relig ... arian.aspx
The Rastafarian religious movement has definite political undercurrents of protest against the slavery and repression of Black people. As a religious movement, many components are taken from Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and African Traditions.
The religion was inspired by Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1897–1940), who promoted the Universal Negro Improvement Association in the 1920s and spearheaded the Back to Africa movement during the 1930s. It is also inspired by the accession to the throne of Haile Selassie I as the Emperor of Ethiopia under his pre-coronation name of Ras Tafari, who is considered to be a divine Messiah and the savior of all Black people. The term Rastafari dates from the coronation of Haile Selassie in 1930.
Marcus Garvey’s initiatives aimed at raising self-awareness and self-respect among Black people in Jamaica and the USA, encouraging pride in their African heritage. Consequently, the various groupings which constitute the Rastafari rejected European-oriented cultural denominations and Christian revivalist religions, developing their own identity whilst awaiting redemption. Today they are a world-wide movement.
Rastafarians began migration to the USA and UK from Jamaica in the late 1950s and 1960s. Many links have been maintained with the Caribbean and the original Jamaican movement through Rastafari music and literature, as well as charismatic figures such as Bob Marley.
Rastafarians believe in one God, Jah. They support their beliefs by reference to numerous biblical texts which they interpret as confirming that God is Black. They regard Jah both as a transcendent deity and as present in all men. Their language, based on Jamaican patois, uses many special words and tries to capture this unity of man with Jah by the term ‘I and I’. Since Jah is seen as the God of life, Rastafarians do not accept that the righteous can die and they believe in reincarnation.
The second key element of Rastafarian belief relates to salvation, which can only be realized by Black people through their return to Africa, the Black Zion, after liberation from the evils of the White-dominated western world, which is frequently referred to as Babylon. Africa is regarded as a spiritual focus, a true home, heaven on earth, and Rastafarians regard Black people as the true Jews and chosen people of God.
There are no fixed rules of practice or belief on other matters. Rastafarians are guided by reference to the culture and traditions of Ethiopia, and emphasize the ethos of peace and love, truth and right action.
Common to most belief systems, men and women are assigned gender-specific roles. While women are not discouraged from pursuing careers outside the home, their highest role is seen as that of wife and mother.
The official religion of Ethiopia since AD 330 has been Christianity and Rastafarians in consequence study the Bible, especially the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. They recognize all 87 books of the Bible, including the Apochrypha and the Book of Enoch, as opposed to the 66 books of the authorized version used by many Christian churches. Today the Rastafarian movement consists of several strands, and includes persons of other than African descent.
There is no centralized, hierarchical structure of a Rastafarian ‘church’. Instead there are several Rastafarian organizations, such as the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian World Federation, the Universal Black Improvement Organization, the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Rastafarian Universal Zion.
There are no specifically designated places of worship – people normally meet in their homes, where long sessions of discussion, debate and argument (‘reasoning’) are held. However more formal groups such as the Ethiopian World Federation will designate specific sites and certain office holders or chaplains will lead the spiritual part of the proceedings.
Singing and drumming, especially reggae music, are important ways of communicating the ethos of the movement.
Controversially, smoking cannabis or ganja (‘the herb’) is considered an important part of Rastafarian religious practice and is treated as a sacrament. Ganja is seen as natural and as God’s gift and Rastafarians seek to legitimize its use by reference to biblical texts (Hebrews, chapter 6, verse 7).
One element of Rastafarian dress code is for men (brethrens) and women (sistrens) not to cut their hair but to wear it in long locks, known as dreadlocks. Many Rastafari men wear distinctive caps (tams) made of knitted material, leather or cloth, often in the traditional colors (red, gold, green and black) of the Ethiopian flag or the national colors of Jamaica (gold, green and black). These colors have symbolic meaning: red for the blood shed in the historical struggle of Rastafarians; gold for faith, prosperity and sunshine; green for the land and its produce; and black symbolizing the color of the people. On certain occasions, such as prayer meetings and spiritual gatherings, Rastafarians uncover their heads. Some Rastafarians wear African-style dress, thus explicitly marking their allegiance to an African-rooted tradition. This is also symbolized by medallions of Ras Tafari, the lion, the imperial symbol of the Ethiopian throne, representing strength and power. Crosses are worn as symbols of the burden of life.
Out of reverence for the laws of nature, most Rastafarians are vegetarian and will be concerned to eat only natural or organic food, and to avoid polluting the earth with unnatural substances and chemicals. Pork is prohibited, not only because of biblical injunctions against it but also because of assumptions about the animal’s susceptibility to disease. Many Rastafarians do not drink alcohol.
Rastafarian children are blessed by the elders and perhaps a congregation with drumming, chanting and prayers.
Following the Rastafarian interpretation of the Bible (St Mark, chapter 12, verses 19–25), Rastafarians do not perform any formal marriage ceremony, but a man and a woman who cohabit are automatically treated as husband and wife by the community, and fidelity is considered very important .
Since there is no belief in death as such, and Rastafarians view life as eternal, moving from one generation to the next through spiritual and genealogical inheritance, there are no special ceremonies on death, or following death. Many Rastafarians will follow the customs of the communities in which they reside.
Emancipate yourself from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear for atomic energy
Cause none of them can stop the time
How long shall they kill our prophets
While we stand aside and look
Some say its just a part of it
We've got to fulfill the book.
Bob Marley, Redemption Song