I put together a notecard in Second Life on Rastafari, and have placed it into all of the many Rasta and Haile Selassie Posters I have there. It is available at this church here:
Ethiopian Rastafarian Church in Second Life
In the Lion of Judah sign above the entrance, and on a Selassie painting inside the door. Just click on either of them to get it. Or read below:
The Rastafari movement, or Rasta, is a spiritual movement that arose in the 1930s in Jamaica, out of the teachings and prophesy of Marcus Garvey.
Rastafari adherents revere Haile Selassie I, 225th in the line of King Solomon, King of Kings and Lion of Judah, Emperor of Ethiopia (ruled 1930–1974), as Yeshua incarnate, the Second Advent, or the reincarnation of Yeshua Christ.
Members of the Rastafari movement are known as Rastas, or Rastafari. The movement is sometimes referred to as “Rastafarianism”, but this term is considered derogatory and offensive by some Rastas, who, being highly critical of “isms” (which they see as a typical part of “Babylon culture”), dislike being labelled as an “ism” themselves.
The name Rastafari is taken from Ras Tafari, the pre-regnal title of Haile Selassie I, composed of Amharic Ras (literally “Head”, an Ethiopian title equivalent to Duke), and Haile Selassie’s pre-regnal given name, Tafari. Rastafari are generally distinguished for asserting the doctrine that Haile Selassie I, the former and final Emperor of Ethiopia, is another incarnation of the Christian God, called Jah. Most see Haile Selassie I as Jah or Jah Rastafari, who is the second coming of Yeshua Christ onto the earth, but to others he is simply Jah’s chosen king on earth.
Many elements of Rastafari reflect its origins in Jamaica, a country with a predominantly Christian culture where 98% of the people were the black African descendants of slaves.
In line with the teachings of the Kebra Negast, telling the story of the removal of the Ark of the covenant from Jerusalem to Ethiopia (where it still resides today) by the Ethiopian King Menelik I, son of King Solomon and Makeda (The Queen of Sheba); Rastas sometimes refer to themselves and Ethiopians as the true Israelites.
Rastafari rejects western society, called Babylon (from the metaphorical Babylon of the Christian New Testament), for its false prophets and materialistic deception, preferring to look back to the Bible to find the true teachings of Yeshua Christ.
Rastafari proclaims Africa (also “Zion”) as the original birthplace of mankind, and from the beginning of the movement the call to repatriation to Africa for the descendants of those slaves forced into exile in the West by the Atlantic slave trade has been a central theme. Rasta also embraces various Afrocentric and Pan-African social and political aspirations, such as the sociopolitical views and teachings of Jamaican publicist, organizer, and black nationalist Marcus Garvey (also often regarded as a prophet).
However Per Haile Selassie’s consistent lifelong message, Rastas are firm adherents to the proposition that in the eyes of Jah, all men and women deserve equal and just rights, treatment and respect. With both King Alpha and his Queen Omega as shining examples, Rasta bredren and sistren (collectively idren) seek to emulate kings and queens according mutual respect and dignity. It is this belief in equality among Rastas that allows race to be overlooked. Simply because one is white does not mean it can not be a Rasta. All people are equal, regardless of race, because all people are children of Jah. In upholding this, Rastas often refer to themselves as African royalty, using honorifics such as Prince or King, Princess or Empress, in order to give royalty to their names.
Rastafari is not a highly organized religion; it is a movement and an ideology. Many Rastas say that it is not a “religion” at all, but a “Way of Life”. Many Rastas do not claim any sect or denomination, and thus encourage one another to find faith and inspiration within themselves.
This view is more in line with first century Christianity and the Apostolic teachings – which strove against central leadership, had no priesthood nor pastors, and found the church as a body of equal people, all of whom had equal status to speak in gatherings, rather than a building or temple. In this way, Rastafari comes closer to original Christianity.
But some do identify strongly with one of the “mansions of Rastafari” — the three most prominent of these being the Nyahbinghi, the Bobo Ashanti and the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
Today, awareness of the Rastafari movement has spread throughout much of the world, largely through interest generated by reggae music, especially the major international success of Jamaican singer/songwriter Bob Marley (1945–1981). By 1997, there were, according to one estimate, around one million Rastafari faithful worldwide. In the 2001 Jamaican census, 24,020 individuals (less than 1 percent of the population) identified themselves as Rastafarians. Other sources have estimated that in the 2000s they formed “about 5 percent of the population” of Jamaica, or have conjectured that “there are perhaps as many as 100,000 Rastafarians in Jamaica”.
Rastas assert that their original African languages were stolen from them when they were taken into captivity as part of the slave trade, and that English is an imposed colonial language. Their remedy has been the creation of a modified vocabulary and dialect known as “Iyaric”, reflecting their desire to take language forward and to confront the society they call Babylon. To this effect, Rastas revere Patwas, the indigenous dialect of Jamaica, and have incorporated into it a number of terms of a spiritual and or protest nature.
The wearing of dreadlocks is very closely associated with the movement, though not universal among, nor exclusive to, its adherents. Rastas maintain that locks are supported by Leviticus 21:5 (“They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in the flesh.”) and the Nazirite vow in Numbers 6:5 (“All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the Lord, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.”).
The Rastafarian colors of green, gold and red (sometimes also including black) are very commonly sported on Rastafarian flag, badges, posters etc. The green, gold and red are the colors of the Ethiopian flag and show the loyalty Rastafari feel towards the Ethiopian state in the reign of King Selassie. The red, black and green were the colors used to represent Africa by the Marcus Garvey movement. Red is said to signify the blood of martyrs, green the vegetation and beauty of Ethiopia, and gold the wealth of Africa.
The Lion of Judah is an important symbol to Rastas, for several reasons. The lion appears on the Imperial Ethiopian flag, used in Haile Selassie I’s Ethiopia. In addition, the Ge’ez title Mo’a Anbesa Ze’imnegede Yihuda (“Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah”) has been applied to Ethiopian Emperors since time immemorial, traditionally beginning with Menelik I, said to be the son of king Solomon (c. 980 BC). The Lion of Judah is also mentioned in the Book of Revelation 5:5, in reference to the returned Messiah.
Rastafari make regular use of the colors, the Lion of Judah, and representations of Haile Selassie in their art and identifying imagery. The colors as well as images of hemp have often been appropriated by outside elements for commercial representations of reggae.
Many Rastas eat limited types of meat in accordance with the dietary Laws of the Old Testament; they do not eat shellfish or pork. Others abstain from all meat and flesh whatsoever, asserting that to touch meat is to touch death, and is therefore a violation of the Nazirite vow. Many Rastafari maintain a vegan or vegetarian diet all of the time. Food approved for Rastafari is called ital.
Usage of drugs and alcohol is also highly condemned as unhealthy to the Rastafari way of life, partly because it is seen as a tool of Babylon to confuse people, and partly because placing something that is pickled and fermented within oneself is felt to be much like turning the body (the Temple) into a “cemetery”.
For Rastas, smoking cannabis, usually known as herb, weed, sinsemilla (Spanish for ‘without seeds’), or ganja (from the Sanskrit word ganjika, used in ancient 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. This said, it is not necessary to smoke the herb to be Rasta, though it is unusual not to. This blog’s author, Pussycat Catnap, does not use the herb for personal familial reasons.
Music has long played an integral role in Rastafari, and the connection between the movement and various kinds of music has become well known, due to the international fame of reggae musicians such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.
Nyabinghi chants are played at worship ceremonies called grounations, that include drumming, chanting and dancing, along with prayer and ritual smoking of cannabis. The name Nyabinghi comes from an East African movement from the 1850s to the 1950s that was led by people who militarily opposed European imperialism. This form of Nyabinghi was centered around Muhumusa, a healing woman from Uganda who organized resistance against German colonialists. In Jamaica, the concepts of Nyabinghi were appropriated for similar anti-colonial efforts, and it is often danced to invoke the power of Jah against an oppressor.
African music survived slavery because many slaveowners encouraged it as a method of keeping morale high. Afro-Caribbean music arose with the influx of influences from the native peoples of Jamaica, as well as the European slaveowners.
Another style of Rastafari music is called burru drumming, first played in the Parish of Clarendon, Jamaica, and then in West Kingston. Burru was later introduced to the burgeoning Rasta community in Kingston by a Jamaican musician named Count Ossie. He mentored many influential Jamaican ska, rock steady, and reggae musicians. Through his tutelage, they began combining New Orleans R&B, folk mento, jonkanoo, kumina, and revival zion into a unique sound. The burru style, which centers on three drums — the bass, the alto fundeh, and the repeater — would later be copied by hip hop DJs.
Reggae was born amidst poor blacks in Trenchtown, the main ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica, who listened to radio stations from the United States. Jamaican musicians, many of them Rastas, soon blended traditional Jamaican folk music and drumming with American R&B, and jazz into ska, that later developed into reggae under the influence of soul.
Reggae began to enter international consciousness in the early 1970s, and Rastafari mushroomed in popularity internationally, largely due to the fame of Bob Marley, who actively and devoutly preached Rastafari, incorporating Nyabinghi and Rastafarian chanting into his music, lyrics and album covers. Songs like “Rastaman Chant” led to the movement and reggae music being seen as closely intertwined in the consciousness of audiences across the world. Other famous reggae musicians with strong Rastafarian elements in their music include Peter Tosh, Freddie McGregor, Toots & the Maytals, Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, Prince Lincoln Thompson, Bunny Wailer, Prince Far I, Israel Vibration, The Congos, Adrian Nones, Cornell Campbell, Dennis Brown, Snoop Lion and hundreds more.
In the 21st century, Rastafari sentiments are spread through roots reggae and dancehall, subgroups of reggae music, with many of their most important proponents promoting the Rastafari religion, such as Capleton, Sizzla, Anthony B, Barrington Levy, Jah Mason, Pressure, Midnite, Natural Black, Luciano, Cocoa Tea, Jah Cure and Richie Spice. Several of these acts have gained mainstream success and frequently appear on the popular music charts. Most recently artists such as Damian Marley (son of Bob Marley), Alborosie and Million Stylez have blended hip-hop with reggae to re-energize classic Rastafari issues such as social injustice, revolution and the honor and responsibility of parenthood using contemporary musical style.
Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey
Selected Speeches of Haile Selassie
The Abridged Kebra Negast, with stories of Jamaica added.
The Kebra Negast in full, translated into English
The Autobiography of Hailie Selassie, volume 1. or online