Rastafarian beliefs and practices in Jamaica

Rastafarian Beliefs and Practices in Jamaica

Rastafarianism, a vibrant and deeply spiritual belief system originating in Jamaica, encompasses a rich tapestry of practices and beliefs. From the divinity of Haile Selassie to the significance of dreadlocks, the Ital diet, the spiritual use of ganja, and the power of Nyabinghi gatherings, Rastafarians express their faith through various cultural expressions.

Each element serves as a testament to their commitment to African identity, resistance against oppression, and the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. 

Understanding these pillars of Rastafarianism unveils a captivating tapestry of faith, culture, and resilience that continues to inspire and empower its followers.

Divinity of Haile Selassie

Divinity of Haile Selassie

For those who are unaware, Haile Selassie’s divinity is at the heart of Rastafarian religion.

The Ethiopian emperor, crowned in 1930, is revered by Rastafarians as the living God. His coronation ignited the prophecy Marcus Garvey, a pivotal figure in Jamaica’s history, had previously claimed, “Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned, he shall be your Redeemer.” This marked Selassie as a messiah figure for the Rastafari, solidifying their conviction in their faith.

That’s not all. This belief also links to the broader Rastafarian view of Africa, or specifically, Ethiopia, as Zion – the original birthplace of mankind. The Rastafarians believe in repatriation to Africa, their spiritual home, and see Selassie as their bridge to this sacred land. Their longing for a return to Zion forms an integral part of their ideology, tied intrinsically to the divinity of Haile Selassie.

Dreadlocks and Its Significance

Dreadlocks and Its Significance

Although the most obvious part of Rastafarian culture is perhaps their dreadlocks, they are more than just a basic hairdo. They signify the Rasta’s lion-like nature, connecting them to the Lion of Judah, a symbol of Ethiopian sovereignty and linked to Haile Selassie himself. Rastafarians also interpret the biblical Nazarite vow, which includes not cutting one’s hair, as a spiritual directive.

Additionally, dreadlocks serve as a visual protest against conventional standards of beauty, challenging societal norms and prejudices. It’s a symbol of freedom and rejection of Babylon – a term Rastafarians use to describe Western society and its materialistic and oppressive nature. As such, dreadlocks become a potent symbol of resistance, identity, and the Rastafari spiritual journey.

Examples of the significance of dreadlocks in Rastafarian culture:

  • Connection to the Lion of Judah: Rastafarians see themselves as descendants of the Tribe of Judah and believe that they possess a lion-like nature. Dreadlocks symbolize this connection to the Lion of Judah, which represents Ethiopian sovereignty and is associated with Haile Selassie, the former emperor of Ethiopia and a revered figure in Rastafarianism.
  • Interpretation of the Nazarite vow: Rastafarians interpret the biblical Nazarite vow as a spiritual directive to not cut their hair. This vow, mentioned in the Book of Numbers in the Bible, is seen as a way to dedicate oneself to God and embrace a holy lifestyle. By wearing dreadlocks, Rastafarians fulfill this vow and demonstrate their commitment to their faith.
  • Visual protest against conventional beauty standards: Dreadlocks serve as a powerful statement against societal norms and prejudices regarding hair. Rastafarians intentionally reject the idea that beauty is defined by Western standards and embrace their natural hair texture and growth patterns. By proudly wearing their dreadlocks, they challenge the notion that certain hairstyles are more acceptable or desirable than others.
  • Symbol of freedom and rejection of Babylon: Rastafarians use the term “Babylon” to refer to Western society, which they perceive as materialistic, oppressive, and disconnected from spiritual values. Dreadlocks become a symbol of freedom and liberation from the constraints and influences of Babylon. By growing and maintaining their dreadlocks, Rastafarians express their refusal to conform to societal expectations and their desire to live in harmony with nature and their spiritual beliefs.
  • Representation of resistance, identity, and spiritual journey: Dreadlocks hold deep significance for Rastafarians as they embody a symbol of resistance against oppression and a means of reclaiming their African identity. For many Rastafarians, the process of growing and taking care of their dreadlocks turns into a personal and spiritual journey that symbolizes their adherence to their religion as well as their quest for knowledge.

Ital Diet and Healthy Living

Ital Diet and Healthy Living

The Ital diet is another central pillar of Rastafarian life. The word ‘Ital’ comes from ‘vital,’ with the Rastafarians removing the ‘v,’ embodying their focus on living naturally. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes make up the majority of the diet, and the majority of Rastafarians are vegetarians or vegans.

Beyond its health benefits, the Ital diet is also seen as a form of spiritual cleansing, helping Rastafarians maintain a strong connection with nature and life’s sanctity. The food is often prepared without salt and always with reverence to its vital life force, further connecting the Rastafarians to the Earth and echoing their belief in the divinity within all living beings.

Ganja and Its Spiritual Use

Ganja and Its Spiritual Use

Ganja, or cannabis, plays a prominent role in Rastafarian practices. But contrary to popular misconceptions, its use is not for recreational purposes. Instead, ganja serves as a sacrament in Rastafarian faith, consumed during religious ceremonies and meditative studies of the Bible.

Ganja is believed to cleanse the body and mind, enhancing spiritual growth and helping Rastafarians communicate with Jah – their term for God. This spiritual use of ganja underscores the Rastafarian pursuit of heightened understanding and consciousness, further deepening their faith and spiritual practices.

Examples of the spiritual use of ganja in Rastafarian culture:

  • Sacrament in religious ceremonies: Ganja is regarded by Rastafarians as a sacrament, a holy item utilized in religious rites and rituals. It is often consumed as part of communal gatherings where Rastafarians come together to worship and express their devotion to Jah. Ganja is used at these rituals as a means of establishing a spiritual connection and enhancing the religious experience.
  • Meditative studies of the Bible: Rastafarians engage in meditative practices while using ganja to study and interpret the Bible. They think that ganja enables them to broaden their thinking and comprehend the Bible more deeply, leading to spiritual insights and revelations.  It is believed that the use of ganja during these meditative sessions facilitates a closer connection to Jah and promotes a heightened state of consciousness.
  • Cleansing the body and mind: Rastafarians view ganja as a purifying agent for both the body and mind. It is believed to have cleansing properties that help to remove impurities and negative energies. Rastafarians want to attain purity through ganja use since this is necessary for spiritual development and progress. Ganja use is viewed as a way to harmonize with nature and achieve a state of equilibrium and harmony.
  • Enhancing spiritual growth: Ganja is seen as a tool for spiritual growth and enlightenment within Rastafarianism. Its usage is thought to encourage introspection, self-reflection, and introspective journeys, enabling people to dive more deeply into their spirituality and religious beliefs. Rastafarians consider ganja to be a catalyst for expanding their consciousness, fostering a sense of unity with Jah, and strengthening their connection to the divine.
  • Communication with Jah: Rastafarians believe that the use of ganja helps to facilitate communication with Jah, enabling them to establish a direct connection to the divine. It is seen as a medium through which they can express their devotion, seek guidance, and receive spiritual messages. Ganja is a popular tool among Rastafarians for praying, meditating, and connecting with the divine presence they hold both inside and throughout the globe.

Nyabinghi Rastafari Gatherings

Nyabinghi Rastafari Gatherings

Rounding off our exploration of Rastafarian beliefs, we turn to Nyabinghi gatherings, perhaps the most important community event in the Rastafari calendar. Rooted in the name of an East African movement that fought against colonialism, Nyabinghi translates to ‘Death to all oppressors,’ underlining the Rastafari resistance against societal repression.

These gatherings are rich in drumming, chanting, dancing, and prayer, lasting for several days. The rhythms of the Nyabinghi drums, known as the ‘heartbeat rhythm,’ guide the ceremonies, providing a backdrop for communal prayers and discussions. These gatherings reinforce the sense of unity and strength within the Rastafari community, reflecting their collective struggle, spirituality, and hopes for a brighter future.

Rastafarian Beliefs and Practices FAQ


What Does A Rastafarian Believe?

Rastafarians consider the Ethiopian monarch Haile Selassie, who was enthroned in 1930, to be the living God and believe in his divinity. They see Africa, particularly Ethiopia, as Zion – the original birthplace of mankind. Rastafarians also embrace repatriation to Africa and view Selassie as their bridge to this sacred land.

What Are 3 Beliefs Of The Rastafari?

Haile Selassie’s divinity: Rastafarians consider Haile Selassie to be the living embodiment of God, fulfilling Marcus Garvey’s prophesy of the ascension of a black ruler to the throne of Africa. Selassie’s coronation marked him as a messiah figure for Rastafarians, solidifying their conviction in their faith. Africa as Zion: Rastafarians regard Africa, particularly Ethiopia, as Zion – the original and spiritual birthplace of humanity. In order to reclaim their African identity and live in line with their cultural and spiritual heritage, they see Africa as their ancestral homeland and seek to be repatriated there. Resistance against Babylon: Rastafarians use the term “Babylon” to refer to Western society, which they see as materialistic, oppressive, and disconnected from spiritual values. They reject Babylon’s norms and prejudices, embracing a lifestyle that challenges conventional beauty standards, celebrates natural hair (manifested through dreadlocks), and promotes spiritual consciousness and freedom.

What Are The Rules Of Being A Rastafarian?

Rastafarianism doesn’t have strict rules but rather principles and practices that guide the lifestyle of its followers. These include adherence to the Ital diet, which promotes a plant-based, natural, and unprocessed way of eating. Rastafarians also value the spiritual use of ganja (cannabis) as a sacrament in religious ceremonies and meditative studies of the Bible. Additionally, Rastafarians often participate in Nyabinghi gatherings, which involve drumming, chanting, dancing, and communal prayers, reinforcing a sense of unity and resistance against societal oppression.

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