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Rastafarianism, A Way Of Life

Rastafari is, before it is anything else, a way of life. It offers approaches and answers to real problems black people face in daily living; it promotes spiritual resilience in the face of oppressive poverty and underdevelopment. It produces art, music and cultural forms, which can be universally recognized and appreciated. More important, Rastafari provides a positive self-image, an alternative to people who need and cannot find or accept one elsewhere.

Even with its black foundation and orientation, Rastafarianism is open to anyone, of any race, who chooses to discover and is able to accept it. My research focuses on the history of Rastafarians and the birth of Rastafarianism. I will reflect our lifestyle, including our symbols and beliefs, which will include our prophet and our God. Marcus Garvey, who was a black, Jamaican nationalists, prophet to many Jamaicans and visionary, preached a message of black supremacy and initiated the ” Back to Africa” movement calling for all blacks to return home to Africa.

Garvey proclaimed that a new black king would soon rise out of Africa to deliver all Africans from their oppressions all over the world. This prophecy was fulfilled at the time of the coronation of Haile Selassie I as Emperor of Ethiopia. The coming of the first Rastas, A shortened version of the word Rastafarian, was in Jamaica in the 1930. The Haile Selassie I, whose previous name was Ras Tafari, means power of Trinity. This is from where the Rasta movement took its name.

In fact, nearly every black movement in recent American history inherits some legacy from Marcus Garvey—through the Urban League, the Black Panthers, the Republic of New Africa, People United to save humanity (PUSH), the Nation of Islam, and other groups. Garvey’s influence lives on. His memory certainly lives among the Rastafarians of his homeland”(Nicholas 16). The Rasta’s Haile Selassie I was more than just a political leader. Our prime belief is that Selassie I is the living Jah (God) for the black race.

When Jesus left this earth, he promised to return, not as lamb to slaughter, but as a conquering lion; not as a peasant to be spitted upon, but as a King of Kings— the greatest title bestowed upon a manHaile Selassie I, being of the line of Judah, root of David and on the throne of David, crowned King of Kings, Lords of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God, Light of the world, King of Zion, fulfills many prophecies of the scriptures” (Moodie 280). Rastas believe that Selassie the I is the Jesus that Christianity speaks of with his “hair of wool, whose feet were like unto burning brass”.

Rastas worship Jah and we participate in rituals and chanting as well as following the laws of Divine Power throughout our daily life. Rasta believe in the power of doing good and being blessed and so forth, we believe in power of doing evil and being punished. As the Rastas say, “Life is everliving” is the reward for following the word of the bible. Rasta say that blacks are to blame for their own shortcomings because they strayed away from the holy and divine way of living that was given to them in the Bible.

Their enslavement and life ever since has been a punishment from Jah for their sins. “The scriptures are fundamental to Rasta world view. We do not look on the Bible as the the good book’ —everything has good and evil in it. Over time, the bible has been altered from its original state. For political and economical reasons, things have been edited out and different concepts and explanations patched in -especially by the translators of the Kings James I of England. Therefore, the Rasta is particularly selective about what they believe from the scriptures.

Generally, Rastas point to the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Song of Solomon, Isiah, Ezekiel, Timothy, Corinthians, Hebrews and Revelation to demonstrate our philosophy”(Nicholas29). Rastas believed that Jah created man and woman equally and as one and that black people replenished the earth and later Jah created Adam and Eve, who are seen as the origin of the white race. Western Civilization, which is referred to as the white world, is referred to as Babylon, a doomed, misguided and corrupts society.

It is their belief that the Pope is the head of Babylon and that the white race is guided by their intelligence, but if their commitment is strong enough, it is possible for a white man to break the chains of his condemnation and follow a holy way life. Rastas believe that heaven on earth is for right living people to repatriate to Ethiopia, the birthplace of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I. Selassie I was not a Rastafarian. He was a devout Christian, yet still the Rastas have strong faith because our God is not supposed to know he is God.

According to Rastas belief, the spirit of Rastafari is universal and eternal—Haile Selassie’s death in 1975 has not diminished our faith in his divinity. The words of his California speech reappear On Bob Marley’s Album Rastaman Vibration. Sung over the heavy-bassed reggae beat, the song War,’ with lyric’s taken from the Emperor’s speech, is a declaration, a demand for freedom. Freedom, if anything, is the key issue for Rastas”(Nicholas 33). Rastas believe that the police, who are agents of Babylon, represent a government with no divine purpose because it functions without Jah.

Rastas say that Jamaica is hell because of this corruption. Rastas view themselves as the true black Hebrews, chosen by God and that love, Unity, Peace, Equality, and Justice, which are the highest values of existence, will bring life everliving and that they will livelife in peace after the fall of Babylon. Rastas have a very welcoming way about themselves. Rastas are loving, caring, peaceful, and giving people. Some Rastafarians have obtained a unique dialect and outward appearance. They are very expressive and they like to talk together and reason.

We can reason about any given topic. Reasoning is the putting together of minds. We tend to speak with a dramatic tone, making our stories or points very clear and vivid. Words are power as seen in Genesis when the Earth was created by simply saying so and Rastas take the word and the number I as the most significant letter of the alphabet. I is the last letter in Rastafari and is part of His Imperial Majesty’s title. When speaking, we state I and I love Jah, for example. This includes himself and the presence of the Almighty when speaking.

Seen” is a word that is used to mean “I know” or “I read you”. “Irie” is an ultimate positive. The word “over” is used instead of “under”, as in “overstood” compared to “understood” and the word “last” becomes “first”. In the same manner you do not go “backward”, you go forward”. Rastas who are angry or upset with someone will intone “Ras clot,” or “bumba clot,” all which are curses. Being called a “clot” is being told that you come as a blood clot, and not an ovum, from your mother’s womb. Even the base curse, for Rasta, has the most natural of origins”(Nicholas 40).

Females are regarded as “sisters” or “daughters” no matter whether or not there is a actual blood relationship. Age, appearance, and sexual or marital relationships are also not factors. “Both roles are accorded the natural familial connotations of respect, love, protection and support. It is a goal of Rasta bredren that their sisters and daughters be relaxed, contented, at ease with themselves and their way of life—as Bob Marley would sing it, ” No woman no cry”(Nicholas 64). Sisters and daughters wear their dress length from mid-calf to floor.

The reason for this is because Rastas believe that crime of lust, passion and infidelity are not present unless invited. It is said that a sister showing her knees is evil. Tight or form fitting clothes is not permitted. They have a natural beauty and grace about them. Rasta women function with a form of dignity. They say that a western woman is raised to believe that vanity is the key role in catching in a man, whereas Rasta women do not believe they need to look a certain way because a man will be with them for who they are and how they conduct themselves.

The dreadlocks hairstyle symbolizes the Rastas roots, in contrast to the straight, blond look of the white man establishment. “They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off their corner of their beard, nor make cuttings in the flesh”(Leviticus 21:5). Some Rastas vow never to cut their hair, as did the Nazarites. The way our hair grows represents the Lion of Judah. The Lion of Judah represents Selassie I as King of Kings, as a lion is king of all beasts.

Some Rastas cover their dreadlocks out of respect when they leave their home because the police will not hesitate to cut their hair if they are brought in for questioning or any other reason. The main and basic way of life for Rastafarians includes the maintenance among all people of divine principles of life. These principles include loyalty, honesty, fear and love of God and self-attainment. We stand together against the world of Babylon in unity. We are seeking the freedom of speech and the freedom of expression. We also seek personal and individual freedom.

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