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Ras Tafari Rastafarianism Essay, Research Paper

Ras Tafari

Rastafarianism began as a religion of the dispossessed. In 1930, a prophecy of deliverance

was fulfilled for Jamaica?s slum-dwellers and rural poor. Ethiopia symbolized Africa and the

homeland for the slave-descended Jamaicans. Ras Tafari Makennen, in 1930, became Emperor

Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. Emperor Selassie claimed to be a direct descendent of King Solomon.

Many Jamaicans were waiting for a black messiah. Selassie, who at his coronation was

proclaimed Negusa Negast (King of Kings), and whose imperial name meant ?Power of the Holy

Trinity?, seemed to be the one. A core group of Jamaicans believed Selassie was the ?Living God

of Abraham and Isaac/ He Whose Name Should Not Be Spoken.? They took on his original

name and called themselves Rastafarians or Rastas.

Emperor Selassie was not a Rastafarian. He was a devout Christian. It?s not clear what

he thought about this religion and its focus on him. An incident is told about a group of Rastas

who went to his palace in Ethiopia to honor him. A palace official told them to ?go away.? This

did not dampen their faith. It only served to strengthen it because they were convinced that God

is not supposed to know He is God. When the world media reported the Emperor?s death, Rastas

believe this was a trick to undermine their faith. Their devotion to Selassie led them to believe

that he did not die. He now had taken on ?perfect? or eternal flesh and with his wife, Empress

Menen, he sits atop Mt. Zion in Israel, waiting for judgment day.

Rastas use the Bible for guidance. They invite all peoples of the world to repent and

accept Jah (a shortened form of Jehovah). ?Babylon? symbolizes the white political power

structure that has terrorized and enslaved the black race for centuries. Rastas see the history of

blacks as one of being physically held down by iron shackles. In the present, Rastas feel blacks

are held down by poverty, illiteracy, inequality, and trickery by the white man. To stand up

against this Babylon, Rastas want to remind blacks of their heritage.

?Heaven on earth?, in Rastafarian belief, is in Africa and especially Ethiopia. There?s no

afterlife. A black Exodus to Ethiopia will occur in the future. This Exodus will begin after a

signal from Jah. This means that Rastafarians are very focused on any news from Ethiopia. As a

result, Jamaican blacks have looked more deeply into their African heritage.

Red, gold, green, and black are Rastafarian colors. Red stands for Church Triumphant,

which is the Church of the Rastas. It also stands for the blood of martyred Rastas. Gold

represents the wealth of the homeland. Green symbolizes the beauty and vegetation of the

Ethiopia, the ?promised land.? Black is used to represent the African people.

?He causeth the grass for cattle and the herb for the service of man,? Psalm 104:14.

Rastas use this scripture and others as the basis for their use of ?ganja.? Regarded as

?wisdomweed,? Rasta leaders urge that ?ganja? be smoked by followers as a religious rite and aid

to meditation. A potent strain of ?ganja? or marijuana grows in abundance on Jamaica. It grows

wild, providing a good supply for Rastas spiritual and medicinal purposes.

Rastas eat I-tal food. I-tal food is chemical free and not canned. Though cooked, this

food is served without salts, preservatives, or condiments. Rastas are vegetarians. Drinks can be

anything that?s herbal such as tea. Liquor, milk, coffee and soft drinks are considered unnatural.

?I-tal? food has gained a growing popularity among Jamaicans in general.

Using Levitius 21:5, ?They shall not make baldness upon their head,? Rastas outlawed the

combing or cutting of hair. Their nappy tresses were allowed to mat and twine themselves into

ropy ?dread locks.? This hair style was called ?dread locks? to mock the non-believers aversion

to their appearance. The way the hair grows has come to represent rebellion against the system

and the ?proper? way to wear hair.

Basically, Rastafarians have these core beliefs. The first one is that God is spirit and that this

spirit is represented in Emperor Selassie. The Emperor is black and a descendent, as Christ is, of

the family of King David. This family?s shemetic or dark-skinned physical characteristics are

misrepresented in European art. Blacks throughout the world have been denied the joy and

dignity of knowing how Jesus and Mary really looked. Jesus and Mary were black. A white

messiah coming in the past or future is a white myth. Their redeemer is black.

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