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The history of “The Rastafarian Movement”


I chose to work with Rastafarianism because I thought it was interesting and I wanted to learn more about it. Before I did this project, I didn’t even know that Rastafarianism was a religion. I asked some of my friends and they also thought that Rastafarianism was all about dreadlocks, marijuana, Jamaica and the colors: red, green and yellow. But working with this project made me realize that Rastafarianism is so much more…

What is Rastafarianism?

The Rastafarianism is a religion that was inspired from the Christianity and the Judaism. Some people say that Rastafarianism is a satanic, false religion.

Why do Rastafarians have dreadlocks?

Rastafarians were not the first to have dreadlocks.
It originally came from Africa and it was dressed up by various tribes there.
Dreadlocks were also dressed up during Biblical times by John the Baptist and Samson. Dreadlocks were also worn in the 1400-1500′s by Asian Emperor’s.
Rastafarians think that the bible says that you should have your hair in dreadlocks. In Leviticus 21:5, it says: “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.”
So, you can not cut your hair, shave or make any piercings.

What was the main reason of the religion?
The main reason with the religion was the demand of freedom. To attain that freedom you have to be able to love and feel yourself and others. It’s like a cycle of acceptance. In that cycle you should accept Rastafarianism, yourself, and decide that peace and love shall be the main things in your life.
Rastafarians also believe that:
• The black people are the bible’s chosen people.
• Zion with its sanctuary is here on earth, more specifically, in Ethiopia.
• Haile Selassie is Messiah.
• The black people will demand vengeance by the white people in the future.
• The first human lived in Ethiopia.
Why do the Rastafarians think that Haile Selassie is Messiah and why do they call themselves Rastafarians?
When Selassie visited Jamaica, it hadn’t rain for several years in Jamaica. But when Haile Selassie got to the airport, suddenly the rain started to pour down!
So, the Rastafarians took Haile Selassie real name, Ras Tafari Mekonnen and came up with the name: Rastafari.

Why do Rastafarians smoke marijuana?

Rastafarians eat ganja because they believe that you get inspiration, gain wisdom and that you get closer to your inner spiritual self, Jah and Creation.
The Rastafarians call the ganja “The Wisdom Weed”.
You can eat ganja in two different ways. You can smoke it in rolled cigarettes, but you can also smoke it in special tobacco pipes.
When you smoke individually, you smoke it in cigarettes and when you smoke together with other people, you use the pipes. When you use the pipes, you take off whatever you are wearing on your head, to respect Jah.
BUT, not all Rastafarians eat ganja!

Is everybody with dreadlocks Rastafarians?

No, of course not! Some people just think that dreadlocks are nice or maybe they just do dreadlocks for fun. Just because you have dreadlocks, doesn’t mean you’re a Rastafarian. True Rastafarians live on farms. They grow their own food and they live their lives just like farmers.
Although, there are a lot of people who claims to be Rastafarians, while they’re living in big houses in the city.

What does the colours; red, yellow and green stand for?
The most people I know think that those colours stand for Jamaica’s flag or that it have something to do with Rastafarians, but it’s actually not!

These colours come from Ethiopia’s flag and this is what they symbolize:
Green: The development of the earth.
Yellow: Is the lion’s colour, but it also symbolize the abundance of the earth.
Red: The oppressed people’s suffering and blood.

In their national anthem, you can even hear them sing about the colours.
A part of the national anthem of Ethiopia:
“With our red, gold and green floating for us
and our Emperor to shield us from wrong
with our hope and our future before us
we hail and we chant and we sing…”

Marcus Garvey was the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Garvey inaugurated the UNIA in New York in 1917, with 13 members.
So, how would 13 people share their ideas to the world? They started a weekly newspaper called” The Negro world”.

Every week, they could express the
ideas of the UNIA.
In that paper Garvey told the people to believe that Jesus was black and to organize their own church.
Garvey predicted that “The Mighty King” would return from the death and give justice to the oppressed. And after a while, Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned the Emperor of Ethiopia. And when that happened, a lot of Jamaicans thought that Garvey should be appointed as a prophet.
Marcus Garvey was born in Jamaica, 1887 and he died in 1940.

Haile Selassie was born with the name Tafari Makonnen.
He was born in Enjersa Goro, just outside Harrar.
Makonnen was raised as a Christian and he graduated with exceptional knowledge in history, language and bible-knowledge. He lost his mother in early ages. When he lost his father (at the age of 14) he moved to Addis Ababa.
Ras Tafari Makonnen changed his name to Haile Selassie when he was crowned. Haile Selassie literally means “Power of the holy trinity”.
Rastafarians believe that Haile Selassie is Messiah and in 1966, Selassie went to Jamaica and he met the Rastafarians of Jamaica.
In 1974, the 12th of September, a group of officers stepped in to Selassie and explained that a revolution had begun.
The provisional military committee had taken over the power.
When he was taken away, he did not make any resistance. He just said: “If revolution is good for the people, then even I am supporting it”
27 of August 1975, you could read in “The Ethiopian Herald”, that Haile Selassie, the former emperor of Ethiopia, had died by natural causes. That’s what it said in the paper, but people have different ideas about the death and Rastafarians claim he is still alive…

Bob Marley was born, the 6th of February, 1945, with the name Robert Nesta Marley. He was born in St. Ann, Jamaica.
Marley’s father, Noval Sinclair Marley, was an English marine officer and his mother, Ceddela Malcolm, was a native Jamaican from an English colony, called Rhoden Hall Jamaica. Marley never met his biological father, because when Ceddela was pregnant, Noval abandoned her.
When Bob Marley was 18 years old, Bob and his friends, Neville “Bunny” O’Riley Livingston and Peter McIntosh, started a band. They all grew up together in the suburb, Trench town, Kingston. They used to listen to rhythm and blues on American radio stations.
They named the band “The wailing Wailers” because they thought that because they were suffering in the ghetto, they were born “wailing”.
Some of their biggest hits were: “I shot the sheriff”, “Buffalo Soldier” and “Redemption song”.
But, in 1974, the band was broken up and the members all begun a solo career. 1975 was when Marley’s biggest hit, “No woman, no cry”, was released. His last album was “Uprising” and it was released in 1980. One year later, the 11th of May 1981, Bob Marley died of brain, stomach and lung cancer. But after Marley’s death, his popularity just grew. His album collection, “Legend” (1984) is the most sold reggae album in the world, with over 12 million sold specimen.
Rastafarians speak the same language as the Jamaicans, and that language is called “Patois” The word “patois” is French and it means a dialect or a language that is different from the accepted standard.
The language patois is an English dialect, which is inspired by the African language, that was spoken by the African slaves that was brought to Jamaica by the British colonizers
Rastafarians believe that only the Babylon’s and high educated people speak standard English and the black people should speak patois. The language is very ungrammatical and unique because it originates from many different languages. Rastafarians do not like words like “conversation” because they think that it means to just say words to each other without really listening and understanding what the other person is saying. They prefer to use the word “reasoning” when they are referring to longer talks.
The most important expression in the language is “I and I”.
Rastafarians say “I and I” instead of:
• Me, I, mine, my
• He and I
• You and I
• Everybody
• All the Rastafarians
Because I used some big words and some patois words, I thought I would make a patios lexicon, where I translate the words to standard English, and a dictionary, where I explain the words.
Patois Lexicon:
• Eat ganja- Smoke Marijuana
• Jah- God (comes from the Hebrew word, Yahweh=Jehovah. In the word, Hallelujah)
• Zion- Paradise (Ethiopia for the Rastafarians)
• Babylon- The corrupted white society/ The police

• Inaugurated- to begin/initiate something
• Literally- absolutely, word-for-word
• Exceptional- outstanding, extraordinary, very good
• Provisional- temporary, only for a while
• Colony- a country’s possession abroad
• To wail- to complain/moan loudly
• Sanctuary- refuge, a (holy) safe place
• Vengeance- revenge
• Abundance- fortune, big economical assets
• Anthem- the song that you sing in official ceremonies
• Hail- call for someone’s attention
• Shield- protect

Working with Rastafarianism was fun and I have learned very much. At times it could be confusing and hard to understand, so I really had to concentrate. I also had to compare a lot because I realized that you can’t trust all the facts on the internet.
Overall, it was interesting and educating.

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One Response to “The history of “The Rastafarian Movement””

  1. Flo on 26 Okt 2011 at 7:10 e m #


    I am creating a publication about various religions ideas about creation.

    As far as I can gather, Rastafarians believe in the bibles story of creation, except that paradise was in Etheopia, and presumably that Adam and Eve were black?

    If you could shed some light on this that would be great.


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