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Rastafarianism is a cultural value system that accepts Haile Selassie 1, the former of Ethiopia as God called incarnate, whom they call Jah. The movement emerged in Jamaica among working-class and peasant black people in the earl 1930’s arising from a Biblical prophecy based on Salassie’s status as the only African monarch of a fully independent state, and his titles of Kings of Kings, Lords of Lords, and Conquering Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5). Other characteristics of Rastafarians include the use of marijuana, and various Afro centric social and political aspirations, such as the teachings of Jamaican publicist, organizer, and black separatist Marcus Garvey. The Rastafarian movement has spread throughout much of the world, mostly people that listen to reggae music, especially that of a Jamaica singer name Bob Marley. By 2000, there were at least one million Rastafarians faithful worldwide. About five to ten percent of Jamaicans identify themselves as Rastafarian. Rastafarians developed among an oppressed people who felt society had nothing to offer them except more suffering. Rasta’s think of themselves as conforming to certain visions of how Africans should live, reclaiming what they see as a culture stolen from them when their ancestors were brought on slave ships to Jamaica, the movement’s birthplace. The messages circulated by the Rastafarians to promote love and respect for all living things and emphasize the importance of human dignity and self respect. Above all else, they speak of freedom from spiritual, psychological, as well as physical slavery, oppression. In their attempt s to heal the wounds inflicted upon the African race by the imperialist nations of the world. Rastafarians continually extol the virtue and superiority of African culture and civilization past and present. Socially, Rastafarians have been viewed as a response to racist negation of black people as it was experienced, both in the world as a whole, and in Jamaica, where in 1930’s black people were at the bottom of the social order, while white people and their religion and system of government were at the top. Marcus Garvey’s encouragement of black people to take pride in themselves and their African heritage inspired the Rasta’s to embrace all things African. Africa is associated with Zion. Africa/Zion is the starting place of all human ancestry s well as the original state of mind that can be reached through meditation and marijuana. The Rasta’s say that Haile Selassie will call the Day of Judgment, when the righteous shall return home to Mount Zion, identified with Africa, to live forever in peace, love, and harmony. In the meantime, the Rasta’s call to be repatriated to Africa. Repatriation, the desire to return to Africa after 400 years of slavery, is central to Rastafarian doctrine. The first Rasta’s, living on a Caribbean island, dreamed of the possibilities of Africa. Some Rasta’s believe that their own body is the true church or temple of God, and so see not need to make temples or churches out of physical buildings. Rasta doctrine concerning the Holy Trinity relates to the name Haile Selassie meaning Power of the Trinity in Ge’ez. Rasta’s believe that Haile Selassie is both God the Father and God the Son of the Holy Trinity, while it is themselves, and potentially all human beings, who embody the Holy Spirit. Many Rasta’s eat limited types of meat in accordance with the diet laws of the Old Testament; they do not eat shellfish or pork. Others abstain from all mean and flesh, believing that to touch meat is to touch death, and are therefore a violation of the Nazi rite oath. The use of alcohol is also considered unhealthy to the Rastafarians way of life, partly because it is seen as a tool of Babylon to confuse people. Rastafari culture does not encourage mainstream political involvement. The early stages of the movement most Rasta’s did not even vote, out of principle. Ras Sam Brown formed the Sufferings Peoples Party for the election of 1962. Although he received less than a 100 votes, simply standing for an election was a powerful act. Rasta’s believe that their original African languages were stolen from them when they were taken in captivity as part of the slave trade, and that English is an imposed colonial language. Their remedy for this situation has been the creation of modified vocabulary and dialect, reflecting their desire to take forward language and to confront the society they call Babylon. There are two types of Rasta religious ceremonies. Reasoning is a simple event where the Rasta’s gather; smoke marijuana; and discuss ethical, social and religious issues. The person honored by being allowed to light the herb says a short prayer beforehand and it is passed in a clockwise fashion except in time of war it is passed counterclockwise. A Bnghi is a holy day; the name Bnghi comes from the word Nyabinghi, believed to be an ancient, and now extinct, order of militant blacks in eastern Africa that vowed to end oppression. Binghis are marked by much dancing, singing, feasting and the smoking of ganja, and can last for several days. The wearing of dreadlock is closely associated with the culture, though not universal among it adherents. Rasta’s believe dreadlocks to be supported by 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.”) and the Nazi rite vow in Numbers 6:5 (“All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separated himself unto the Lord, He shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.”) Part of the reason the hairstyle was adopted was to contrast the kinky hair of black men with the straighter hair of whites. For many Rasta’s smoking marijuana is a spiritual act, often accompanied by Bible study; they consider it is a sacrament that cleans the body and mind, heals the soul, exalts the consciousness, facilitates peacefulness, brings pleasure, and brings them closer to Jah. The burning of the herb is often said to be essential “for it will sting in the hearts of those that promote and perform evil and wrongs.” The colors of Rasta are red, yellow, green and black. The red, green and yellow are the colors of the Ethiopian flag, and the black represents Africa’s people. Each color has its own meaning, and they are very significant for many Rastafarians. The red is for the blood of all living things in the world. The yellow is for the sun that shines in Africa. The green is for the earth that people walk on to which Rasta’s feel a special connection. By claiming Haile Selassie I as the returned messiah, Rastafarian say be seen as a new religious movement that has arisen from Judaism and Christianity. Rastafarian is not a highly organized religion; it is a movement and an ideology. By the end of the twentieth century, women played a greater role in the expression of the Rastafarian movement. To a large degree, women feel more freedom to express themselves now; thus they contribute greatly to the movement. Many Rasta’s oppose birth control, abortion and birth control, abortion and homosexuality of Biblical grounds. Today, Rasta’s are not just Black African, but also include other diverse ethnic groups including Native America, White, Maori, and Indonesian.
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