Whats It Called When People Experience.Music.As Colors.Or Shapes An Introduction to Rastafarianism

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An Introduction to Rastafarianism

Rastafarianism is a religious movement born from the black slums of Jamaica that harnessed the teachings of Jamaican-born black nationalist Marcus Garvey and tentatively uses selective Old Testament Christian scriptures to support his teachings and practices. Born in 1887, Garvey’s influence on the poor black descendants of slaves in Jamaica reached its peak in the 1920s, where his message of encouragement and call for blacks to take pride in themselves gained some zealous supporters. Although historically Marcus Garvey was a political leader interested in making the black race economically equal to the white, in oral tradition he became a divinely anointed prophet.

With the coronation of the lamented Ras Tafari on November 2, 1930 in Ethiopia, many believed that Garvey’s prediction of a black king crowned in Africa, who would be a redeemer and liberator of the dispossessed black race, had come true. Makonen claimed for himself the titles of “Emperor Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Chosen of God and King of Kings of Ethiopia”. Ethiopia is of great importance to Rastafaris who believe in the coming Judgment Day when the righteous will be called home to Mount Zion (which is associated with Africa) to live forever in peace and harmony. Marcus Garvey, although no admirer of Haile Selassie, as he saw that slavery still existed in Ethiopia, continued to be admired by the fanatical Rastafarians despite being a Catholic by birth, who never came out explicitly to support the growing movement.

Without a centralized organization, any definitive text, formal buildings, or a recognized and enduring role of leader, it is difficult to classify religion. This results in a wide variety of beliefs and practices that come under the general umbrella of Rastafarianism, often resulting from individual interpretations. However, there are some notable features as detailed below.

To differentiate it from other groups and religions that emphasize conformity to existing forces, here it is the detail that is important. Individuals walk the path of self-truth and reject the power of the oppressive modern white society (“Babylon”) which is seen as rebelling against God, the “Righteous Ruler of the Earth” called “JAH”. JAH is within all individuals and all individuals are connected to God. This is reflected in the often used phrase “I and I” when referring to ourselves.

One of the early leaders of the movement in Jamaica was Leonard Howell, who was arrested by the Jamaican government in 1933 for preaching “revolutionary doctrine”. Howell founded the first Rastafari commune and six principles of Rastafari which have changed little over the years: 1) hatred of the white race, 2) absolute supremacy of the black race, 3) revenge for the wickedness of the white peoples, 4) the denial, persecution and humiliation of the government and the legal bodies of Jamaica, 5) preparation for return to Africa, and 6) recognition of Emperor Haile Selassie as the supreme being and sole ruler of black people.

Even though he helped shape the ideas of the movement, it seems that his arrest also has a great impact on the organizational structure of the movement. The prolonged police harassment that Howell was subjected to is believed to be the main reason why the Rastafars decided to remain leaderless.

In 1954 the situation became increasingly tense as the Jamaican government intervened and took over the Rastafarian mini-state now called the Summit that Howell ruled. After that, many followers migrated from the original rural environment to the ghettos and slums of Kingston. Although the authentic elders espouse nonviolence in their teachings, a frustrated and despondent few instigated confrontations with the authorities that resulted in deadly shootouts with British soldiers in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and brought negative global attention to the movement.

From the mid-1970s until today, there has been phenomenal growth in the Rastafari movement, that is, until the global exposure and acceptance of reggae music. This is mainly attributed to Bob Marley as a musical artist who was also a prophet of Rastafarianism whose words often touch on issues relevant to the Rasta doctrine. The reggae movement was initially attractive to black Caribbean youth, many of whom saw it as an extension of their adolescent rebellion from school and parental authority. As Caribbean families immigrated to England and America, the music spread and became popular, along with Jamaica’s other botanical exports.

Some followers choose to classify the religion as Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity (distinguishing it from Catholic and Protestant Christianity) or even Judaism. In the latter case, there is the belief that black people are descendants of the twelve tribes of Israel, and that black Jews lived in Ethiopia for hundreds of years, cut off from the rest of Judaism. This and other ideas stem from the interpretation of Bible translations, which are also considered incomplete and distorted by white oppressors over time.

One of the more obvious symbols of the Rastafari are the dreadlocks on a Rasta’s head. They are said to represent the Lion of Judah and stand in contrast to the straight and blond appearance of the white man and the establishment and in response to interpretations of passages from Leviticus 2 in the Bible.

Another central symbol of the Rastafarians are colors, especially red, gold and green. These were taken from the Garvey movement and form the background of the Ethiopian flag. Red represents the victorious Rasta church but also the blood of the Rasta martyrs. The green represents the beauty and vegetation of Ethiopia, the promised land, and the gold symbolizes the wealth of the homeland that will be restored.

The real Rasta also only eats E-Tal food. This is a special food that does not touch chemicals, it is natural and not from cans. The food is cooked but served as raw as possible, without salts, preservatives or spices. Rastafarians are therefore vegetarians. A beverage is anything herbal, such as tea, and non-natural such as spirits, milk, coffee and soft drinks.

Marijuana or ganja is commonly smoked ritually and as a medicine and is not officially recommended for recreational use. It is believed to aid understanding and meditation and is claimed to be the ‘holy’ or ‘green’ plant mentioned in some Bible translations.

Rastafari’s worldwide following is now believed to be in the region of 1,000,000, with official branches in many countries including England, Canada, the Caribbean and America. Some sources claim that six out of ten Jamaicans believe they are Rastafarians or Rastafarians, with more conservative estimates stating that five to ten percent of Jamaicans are Rasta.

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