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FAQs about Rastafari

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#1 MeAgain


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Posted April 14 2005 - 12:30 PM

What does Ras Tafari mean?
Ras means prince. Tafari Makonnen was a Prince of Ethiopia. He was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I (Power of the Trinity) of Ethiopia and proclaimed "King of Kings, Lord of Lords, a manifestation of God and the conquering lion of the Tribe of Judah" in 1930. He claimed to be a direct descendant of King David, in an unbroken line from the time of Solomon and Sheba.

What is Rastafari?
Rasta is a form of religion based on the teachings of a Jamaican black nationalist named Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) he promoted the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in the 1920s. Garvey denounced the white colonial worldview and preached black self-empowerment and pride. He regarded Africa as the birthplace of mankind and advocated a back to Africa movement for all black people in the Western Hemisphere. By spreading black Africans around the world their intellectual growth has been stunted by the Europeans and a slave mentality instilled.

Who was Marcus Garvey?
Marcus Garvey was a black man, born in Jamaica, who was prominent in the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) of the 1920s. He was raised as a Roman Catholic but started a new "Orthodox" church based on a black Jesus. He wanted to restore the lost dignity of blacks by severing ties with the white world. He told blacks that a king would be crowned in Africa and his followers would then know that redemption is near.
Rasta tradition sees him as a divinely anointed prophet of Haile Selassie. He is also credited with many other many miracles and prophesies. The crowning of Ras Tafari as many Jamaicans saw Haile Selassie as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Garvey. At the time Garvey was still alive but had been jailed on (subsequently disproved) allegations of business fraud. He was no admirer of Haile Selassie, because slavery still existed in Ethiopia, and he considered the Rastafarians to be crazy fanatics.

Who was Haile Selassie?
Selassie was born Tafari Makonnen in 1892 in Harer, Ethiopia. He was a follower of the Christian based Ethiopian Orthodox faith. He did not found the Rastafarian religion but is seen as an embodiment of it. After being crowned in 1930 as Ras Tafari Makonnen many blacks in Africa and the Americas saw him as the fulfillment of Garvey's prophecy years before and they began the Rasta movement. Biblical scriptures, according to Rastas, prophesied him as the one with "the hair of whose head was like wool, whose feet were like unto burning brass ". They believe that he is the Jesus of Christianity and that the world has been tricked into believing that Jesus was white.
Haile Selassie died on August 27, 1975. Many Rastafarians believed that the media staged his death in an attempt to bring their faith down, while others claimed that Haile Selassie I is immortal and sits on Mount Zion awaiting the Time of Judgment. Others believe that his atoms spread through out the world and became part of new babies; therefore, his life is never ending.

What texts are sacred to the Rastafarians?
Certain sections of the Holy Bible are considered to be sacred; however some aspects of the Bible were changed by the white power structure. Most Rastafarians reject the Bible used by most Christians and use a "black man's Bible," known as the Holy Piby, the Ethiopian Holy Book, the Kebra Negast is also used.

What is Ganja?
Ganja is another name for marijuana. Rastafarians use it as a part of a religious rite as a means of getting closer to Jah (God) and Creation. It may be smoked or eaten. It is not seen as a recreational drug and not all Rastas use it. They believe it grew at the grave of King Solomon of the Bible. Rastafarians believe there are Biblical verses that justify the use of herb:
Exodus 10:12 "... eat every herb of the land."
Genesis 3:18 "... thou shalt eat the herb of the field."
Proverbs 15:17 "Better is a dinner of herb where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith."
Psalms 104:14 "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man."
The Attorney General of the United States, Janet Reno, ruled that Rastafarians do not have the religious right to smoke ganja in the United States of America.

What do Rastafarians believe?
Rasta is not a church with an official doctrine; it is a belief system that concerns spiritual social and historical matters. There is no comman doctrine. Any Rastafarian has an equal right to create any doctrine they wish. Most Rastafarians are pacifists, although a lot of support for the movement developed out of intense anti-white sentiments. Rastafarians in general are non-violent and live a peaceful life, needing little material possessions and devoting much time to the scriptures.
Most Rastas do not identify with any sect, though there are three Sects of Rastafari: the Nyahbinghi, the Bobo Ashanti and the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
In 1996, the Rastafarian movement was given consultative status by the United Nations.

What special language conventions do Rastafarians use?
Rastafarians believe that that English is an imposed colonial language imposed on them to eliminate their native African languages. In reaction to this imposed language, they have modified English to express their concerns. One modification is the rejection of the use of the suffix ism. Using “ism” creates seperation in society so it is avoided. The word Rastafarianism is not used by Rastas. Rastas do not need to talk about religion in an analytical and objective way. Other modifications and expressions include the use of “I and I”, “Babylon”, “Jah”, “Zion”, “Overstanding”, and “Irie”.

What does “I and I” mean?
The use of the phrase “I and I” is a very important part of the Rastafarian movement. "I and I” is used to express oneness and the oneness of two persons. God is within all of us and we're all one people.All people are equal. All people are bound together by the one god, “Jah”.

What is “Babylon”?
"Babylon" is the white political power structure that has been holding the black race down for centuries.

What is “Jah”?
God is Jah. The presence of Jah in his children and in the world is the triumph over the tribulations of everyday life.

What is “Zion”?
Zion is heaven or Ethiopia specifically, Africa in general. Ethiopia and Africa are considered heaven on Earth. There is no afterlife or hell, as Christianity believes.

What is “Overstanding”?
Overstanding replaces understanding. Overstanding is enlightenment, which places one in a better position.

What is “Irie”?
Irie is acceptance, positive feelings, or something that is good.

Why do Rastas wear Dreadlocks?
The word dread comes from a dislike of the razor, scissors and combs. All of these are considered to be Babylonian or Roman inventions and are to be avoided by some Rastas.
Dreadlocks are worn by many, but not all Rastas. The style was partially started to contrast with the straight, blond hair of the white race. Some Rastas associate dreadlocks with an inner journey that one takes in the process of locking their hair. Dreadlocks are formed with a black person's hair, by not not combing it. There is no twisting or braiding involved. Any speeding up of the locking process is regarded as a sacrilege among the Rasta faithful.Rastas believe dreadlocks are supported in the Bible passage: 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". Dreadlocks also represent the symbol of the Lion of Judah.

What are the Rastafarian colors?
The colors red, black, and green were taken from the Garvey movement. Red stands for the Church Triumphant and the blood of the martyrs in the history of the Rastas. Black represents the color of Africans. Green represents the vegetation of Ethiopia. Yellow is sometimes added to represent the wealth of their homeland.

What is the Lion of Judah?
The Lion represents Haile Selassie, the Conqueror. Selassie wore a Lion of Judah ring that was given to Bob Marley at the time of Selassie's death. The whereabouts of the ring is unknown since Marley's death. The lion also represents the maleness of the movement. The Rastas imitate the spirit of the lion by wearing dreadlocks and in the way that they walk.

What do Rastafarians eat?
Strict Rastafarians eats food called I-tal. I-tah food is uncanned and contains no artificial chemicals. It is lightly cooked and eaten in the rawest form possible. No salts, preservatives, or condiments are used. Certain meat and fish are excluded such as pig, crabs, lobster, and shrimp as they are all scavengers. In addition, no fish over 12 inches long may be eaten. Many Rastas are vegetarians. Tea, liquor, milk, coffee, cigarettes, and soft drinks are viewed as unnatural.

What position do women hold?
Women have played a very minor role in Rastafarianism. Traditionally they have been forbidden to play an important role in rituals and were expected to show complete deference to males. Menstruating women were not allowed to cook, and in certain areas Rastafarian women were excluded from social contact. During the last decade, Rastafari women have become quite vocal against these beliefs and practices, and some have defied such conventions as covering their dreadlocks or wearing only ankle-length dresses in public.
Most members are male.

These questions are offered as a simple introduction to Rastafarianism.
They are presented as an opportunity for further exploration and understanding. No claim is made as to their accuracy or validity.

Edited by Meagain, May 17 2013 - 12:45 PM.