If all you know about Rastas is that they smoke joints and grow dreadlocks, we are here to set the record straight. Sure Rastas do have dreads and they do smoke marijuana, but it’s so much deeper than that. Here are 10 facts you might not know about the movement that developed in Jamaica in the 1930s, and has since spread its message across the globe.
According to Old Testament scripture (Leviticus 19:27), Rastas believe one should not cut their hair because it is where their strength lies. Dreadlocks form naturally over time.
Rastas do not consider marijuana a drug. Instead, it is a medium that is used to open their mind and increase their spiritual awareness. Smoking marijuana is considered a religious ritual.
While we might associate Mr. Marley with the movement, he didn’t actually start it! However, there is no denying that the insane popularity of his music helped spread the Rastafari way of life.
Marcus Garvey, born in Jamaica in 1887, was a political activist and supporter of black self-empowerment. Many Rastafari consider Garvey to be a prophet, similar to John the Baptist’s role in Christianity. In his teachings, he urged those of the African diaspora to not only return to Africa, but to also “look to Africa, when a black king shall be crowned.” That prophecy was realized with the crowning of the last Emperor of Ethiopia.
Followers of Marcus Garvey’s teachings came together to form a religion in 1930, when Haile Selassie I became the Emperor of Ethiopia. Rastafarians consider the Emperor their messiah, naming the movement after his birth name, Ras Tafari Makonnen. On April 21, 1966, Haile Selassie I visited Jamaica for the first (and only) time. The day is now considered holy, known as Grounation Day. Learn more here.
There are approximately one million followers of the Rastafari movement worldwide. Thanks to music (and the Internet), the message of Rastafari has touched people everywhere.
Generally, Rastas are pretty health conscious. They consider their body to be a temple, based on the Old Testament teachings. Rastas do not drink alcohol or eat food that is not nourishing to their body, which includes meat. Many follow a strict dietary law called ital, which states that all food must be completely natural and raw.
Rastas see Africa as a paradise on earth, and at the core of the movement is the belief that all people of the African diaspora should return to their homeland. Many Rastafaris hope to return to Africa during their lifetime.
A common misconception of the Rastafari flag is that its colors are red, green, black and yellow. However, the Rastafari colors are red, green, black and gold—and they were all chosen for a specific purpose. Gold (not yellow!) symbolises the wealth of Ethiopia. If you want to know what the other colors signify, click here.
We could never cover the entirety of the Rastafari movement in ONE blog post.There’s lots more to know. “Rastafarians: The Dreadlocks of Jamaica” by Leonard E. Barrett is a great place to begin your education.