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Understanding Rastafari


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A presentation from an outsider point of view giving a factual understanding of Rastafari as a philosophy, movement and way of life

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Understanding Rastafari

  1. 1. What is Rastafari? • A young world religion, seen by some as just a new religious or social movement, a cult or a sect with counterculture elements • Followers and practitioners see Rastafari more as a way of life or philosophy than as a formal religion
  2. 2. What is Rastafari? • Rastafari is an Afrocentric, monotheistic Abrahamic faith originating and evolving in Jamaica from the 1930s onwards • It is based on the Judeo – Christian belief in the god of Abraham, called Jah by Rastas, and in the belief of the divine nature of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia • It places importance on Old Testament prophecies and in the contents of the Book of Revelations, with most practitioners following Jewish biblical laws and prohibitions
  3. 3. What is Rastafari? • Rastafari is heavily influenced by African religious traditions, the politics of Africanism and the struggles against colonialism, oppression and the injustices that are a legacy of the slave trade and centuries of slavery • Rastafari has emerged as well as a cultural phenomenon that resonates around the world beyond its Jamaican and religious aspects • It is estimated that there are around 1 million Rastafari practitioners around the world, the majority in the Caribbean, but there may be many more who follow some of the spiritual or way of life aspects of the philosophy
  4. 4. Rastafari origins • Originates in the 1930s among the disenfranchised poor of the slums of Kingston, Jamaica’s capital • The nascent movement draws inspiration from preachers and thinkers with ‘back to Africa’ and Black pride messages that resonate well with those who still live in great poverty and are oppressed and exploited by lighter skinned Jamaican and colonial elites a century after the abolition of slavery • One such influential thinker whose teachings provided the ideological foundation for the Rastafari philosophy and movement was Jamaica born Pan-Africanist Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr, a prominent Black activist in both the Caribbean and USA • According to Rastafari lore, Marcus Garvey in his anti-colonial and pro-Africa speeches often mentioned to ‘Look to Africa for the crowning of a Black king’ • This was interpreted as prophecy by later Rastas, who consider Garvey as a second John the Baptist, though Garvey himself never identified as a Rasta or had much to do with the movement
  5. 5. Rastafari origins • When in 1930 Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned in Ethiopia as Emperor Haile Selassie I with the titles ‘His Imperial Majesty the King of Kings of Ethiopia, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God’, this was seen by many in Jamaica as fulfilment of Marcus Garvey’s ‘prophecy’ and of what was foretold in the Book of Revelations and other biblical passages • The movement, further developed by preachers such as Leonard Percival Howell who promoted an Africanist inspired political spiritualism distinct from European Christianity and who saw Haile Selassie I as Jah incarnate and a messiah who will liberate all Black people and bring them back to Ethiopia, seen as Zion and Paradise of Earth, slowly grew in numbers despite antagonism by Jamaican elites and colonial authorities • Crystallizing around the personality of Leonard Howell, the movement adopted the pre- coronation name of the Emperor, Ras Tafari (loosely meaning ‘the Prince who is respected) and started developing the philosophy, spiritual tenets and way of life that will characterize Rastafari, with many early practitioners following Howell to his Pinnacle commune in Jamaica’s countryside
  6. 6. Rasta symbols  The Rastafari movement has adopted a number of symbols, most borrowed from Judeo-Christian and Afro-Ethiopian traditions, that thanks to reggae’s and Bob Marley’s popularity, are recognizable the world over by the public at large, having been commercialized  Rasta colours are adopted from the Ethiopian flag and that of Marcus Garvey’s Africanist organization. Green represents nature and the vegetation of Africa and Jamaica, as well as hope for the eradication of oppression. Gold represents the rich natural resources of Africa. Red represents the blood of the martyrs who died for the Rastafari cause and in the fight against black oppression. Black represents the colour of the skin of Africans, the original humans from whom we all descend  The Lion of Judah represents H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie I as well as being a symbol of strength, kingship, pride and African sovereignty  The Star of David indicates the lineage of Haile Selassie, believed to be a direct descendant of David through Solomon’s and the Queen of Sheba’s son Menelik, Ethiopia’s first historical Emperor  The inverted triangle, or Seal of Solomon hand sign, often seen in photos of the Emperor, supposedly represents the Trinity, but has many interpretations, some esoteric
  7. 7. Rasta talk  Rastas feel that they have been robbed of their native speech during the slave trade and consider English as an imposed colonial language. In reaction, they have created an organic dialect of Jamaican patois called Iyaric, Dread-talk, Livalect or I-talk that reflects their world view and rejects English words with negative connotations or sounds, replacing them with more positive and uplifting words, as well as creating a lexicon particular to the philosophy that has seen some words adopted beyond the Rasta community, often due to reggae lyrics  Babylon is an important Rasta term that describes the negative aspects of Western society and its manifestations such as colonialism, capitalism, materialism, greed and corruption, blaming it for the past Atlantic slave trade and its legacy of suffering and poverty. The term also applies to agents of oppression such as police and soldiers and explains the disdain for –ism terminology  Zion on the other hand is an idealized version of the biblical Zion, referring physically to the Ethiopia or Africa that Rastas aspire to be repatriated to and considered to be Heaven on Earth, and metaphorically to a state of mind accessible through Rastafari as a spiritual and cultural connection with African roots
  8. 8. Rasta talk  I and I (InI, I&I), a pronoun replacing ‘you’, ‘me’ and ‘we’ is an expression of the concept of oneness with Jah and among people, as in ‘God is one and one is God’ meaning the divine is present in everyone, making the body a temple to be taken care of, and the knowledge of Jah inherent and waiting to be awoken  Everliving, as opposed to everlasting, represents the belief that true Rastas are immortal, both physically and spiritually, or through reincarnation, as they do not believe in the afterlife, but instead in Heaven on Earth  Irie, meaning ‘all right’. ‘great’ or ‘fine’, refers to anything that is good, peaceful vibrations and positive emotions or feelings  Give ‘thanks and praises’ is the preferred way to say ‘thank you’  Downpression replaces ‘oppression’, because it keeps people down instead of lifting them up (op in patwa)  Overstanding or innerstanding is used instead of understanding, as under has a negative connotation  Bald head (Ball head) refers to a person who does not have dreadlocks  Polytricks is a Rasta term replacing ‘politics’, because so many politicians turn out to be more like tricksters
  9. 9.  Marcus Garvey was born in 1887 in St Ann’s Bay in Jamaica  In his youth he travelled and worked in Central America  He became conscious of the racism, social injustice and injustice inflicted on Black people by White society  After a time in the UK, he moved back to Jamaica where he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the organization and work for which he is best known Rastafari ‘prophet’ - Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr  He then moved to the USA where he organized branches of the UNIA in the USA and many countries around the world  He started the inspirational but ultimately failed Black Star Line, a shipping line intended to bring Black people back to Africa  Inspired and influential, he encountered opposition to his ideas both from Blacks and Whites, and died in London in 1940 “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.” Marcus Garvey
  10. 10.  A Pan-Africanist advocating Black pride and a Back to Africa policy, his ideas were controversial in that he saw no point in integration and equality of Black people in White society, preferring instead racial purity and the establishment of a Black nation in Africa  Promoting the concept of Black superiority based on the past history of the African continent, with special emphasis on Ethiopia, his suggestion to worship the everlasting God of Scripture through ‘Ethiopian spectacles’ and his alleged prophecy to look out for the crowning of an African king have provided the spiritual and ideological foundation on which Rastafari is based  Though never a Rasta himself, he is considered the prophet of the religion and is otherwise remembered and honoured as one of the earlier and most influential thinkers of his time among those who worked for the social, economic and educational advancement of the Black people, with the hope of making Africa a great nation taking its rightful place in the world Rastafari ‘prophet’ - Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr
  11. 11.  Born in 1898 in Clarendon Parish in Jamaica, Howell travelled and worked abroad in his youth, including in Panama and New York, where he absorbed various philosophies and ideas on justice, politics of the left and the Pan-Africanism and Ethiopism espoused by Marcus Garvey and other thinkers of the time  Being deported from the USA, he returned to Jamaica in 1932, where he started preaching that the recently crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia was the Christ returned, God incarnate and the rightful King of the Black people, as foretold in biblical prophecy  His incendiary speeches on Black empowerment, against the church establishment and urging Black Jamaicans to owe allegiance to Emperor Haile Selassie I instead of George V will lead to his arrest on charges of sedition  This will initiate a cycle of imprisonments, internments in mental institutions, harassment and criminal charges from the colonial and Jamaican authorities that will make Leonard Howell the ‘most persecuted man in Jamaican history’  In 1935, Howell publishes ‘The Promised Key’, considered by many as the Rastafari manifesto, under the Hindu inspired pen name Gong Guru Maragh, which is why he is often referred to as ‘The Gong’The ‘First Rasta’ - Leonard Percival Howell “His Majesty Ras Tafari is the head over all man for he is the Supreme God.” The Promised Key G. G. Maragh (Leonard Percival Howell) “Black People, Black People arise and shine for the light has come and the glory of the King of Kings is now risen upon thee. Let not the preachers of the white man’s doctrine persuade you to turn your back against H. M. Ras Tafari the Lord God of Israel.”
  12. 12.  In 1940, having purchased 500 acres in Sligoville near Spanish Town, Howell founds and leads The Pinnacle, a self sufficient Rastafari commune where several thousand Rastas lived as farmers and craftsmen and where ganja was cultivated on a large scale, for medicinal, spiritual and commercial use, which will give reasons to the authorities to conduct several crackdowns and arrests of Leonard Howell  Massive raids are conducted in 1954 and finally in 1958, when the commune is burned to the ground and its settlers dispersed  Following this, Leonard Howell will mostly disappear from public view until his death in 1981  Considered by many as the ‘First Rasta’, his work and that of other early leaders gave direction and inspiration to what will become the wider Rastafari movement  His family and admirers are now fighting to preserve his historical legacy, forgotten by many, and to save what remains of The Pinnacle by making it a UNESCO listed World heritage Site and spiritual centre for Rastafari followers The ‘First Rasta’ - Leonard Percival Howell
  13. 13.  Born in 1892 in the then Abyssinian Empire as Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael, a member of the Ethiopian feudal nobility claiming descent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba  The son of a provincial governor and chief advisor to Emperor Menelik II, Tafari Makonnen, educated by private European tutors and showing great intelligence, will be given positions of responsibility from an early age, including a provincial governorship from 1910 to 1916, and becoming known as Ras Tafari Makonnen  After helping overthrow the unpopular Muslim sympathising uncrowned Emperor Iyasu V in 1916, he is appointed by the new Empress Zewditu as Regent and heir apparent, and later appointed as Negus (King) in 1928  During this period, Ras Tafari initiates modernizing reforms in Ethiopia, the only sovereign and never colonized African country, managing to have it included in the League of Nations in 1923  On Empress Zewditu’s death in 1930, the Negus is crowned Emperor with full name and titles being "By the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Elect of God" Jah Incarnate - H.I.M Haile Selassie I
  14. 14.  Haile Selassie’s lavish coronation on 2nd November 1930 was attended by royals and dignitaries from around the world, including George V’s son, the Duke of Gloucester  H.I.M. becomes the first Black person to grace the cover of Time magazine  For many Black people around the world, seeing a Black African on an equal stage with rulers and dignitaries from the West and East, as the leader of a sovereign, ancient and proud nation with historical ties to biblical dynasties, was a source of immense pride and of hope of better days to come for people of African descent  This led many, especially among those inspired by Africanist thoughts from the likes of Marcus Garvey, to see in the Emperor the returned messiah who would lead the African nation towards a better future, even considering him as God incarnate based on interpretation of scripture, particularly from the Book of Revelations, giving rise to the Rastafari movement on this basis Jah Incarnate - H.I.M Haile Selassie I “…that until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; that until there are no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation; that until the colour of a man's skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes; that until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; that until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained.” H.I.M. Haile Selassie I U.N. speech 1963
  15. 15.  Haile Selassie I will confront a fascist invasion by Mussolini’s troops in 1935, forcing him into exile and during which he made a famous speech at the League of Nations pleading for international help for his nation and foreseeing what was to come for other nations in the face of apathy for such annexations  It will take the onslaught of WWII for the Allies to help Haile Selassie I recover his country in 1941  The Emperor pursued his reformist agenda at home, though encountering in the incoming years increasing dissension at home as well as problems with secessionist movements in Eritrea  H.I.M. addressed the UN General Assembly in 1963, the only Head of State to have addressed both the League of Nations and the UN in such capacity, delivering an impassionate speech against colonialism and apartheid in Africa, rendered famous by Bob Marley’s song War Jah Incarnate - H.I.M Haile Selassie I
  16. 16.  In 1966, the Emperor made a state visit to Jamaica, a day known to Rastas as Grounation Day, where he was welcomed by thousands of Rastas mobbing the airport to get a glimpse of their living god  Contrary to the Jamaican government’s expectations, in respect to the Rastas beliefs, he remained ambiguous about the nature of his divinity, though not making any claims of being any more than a man  At home, the Emperor was deposed in a Marxist led coup in 1974, dying at age 83 in 1975. This was met with disbelief by the Rastas, who then found ways to reconcile the Emperor’s temporal and divine natures Jah Incarnate - H.I.M Haile Selassie I
  17. 17.  Born Nesta Robert Marley in 1945 in Nine Miles, St Ann Parish in Jamaica, from an ageing white Jamaican father and a black teenage mother  With a largely absent father, he grew up in relative poverty, first in the rural setting of Nine Miles, then from age 11 in the tough tenement yards of the Kingston ghetto of Trench Town  His musical career starts in the early 1960s, joining talents with childhood friend Neville Livingstone (Bunny Wailer) and Peter McIntosh (Peter Tosh) and finding local success as the Wailing Wailers  In 1966 he marries Rita Anderson, then moves for a few months to be with his mother who had migrated to the USA, working in a factory to save money before returning home to continue with his music together with The Wailers Rastafari icon - Robert Nesta Marley
  18. 18.  At around this time, having been influenced by Rasta musicians and inspired by Emperor Haile Selassie’s visit to Jamaica and by his wife’s sudden conversion to Rastafari during the Emperor’s visit, Bob Marley embraced the spiritual and socio-political aspects of Rastafari  From then on, his musical style will be reggae and his song writing will carry powerful messages about social injustices, oppression and violence at home in Jamaica and around the world, particularly in Africa where at the time several countries were still under Portuguese colonial control or under white minority rule  His songs often referred as well to the Rastafari faith, the belief in the divinity of Emperor Haile Selassie I and the aspiration for a return to a united Africa for all people of African ancestry, what Rastas call Zion  Gaining international fame and acclaim internationally in the 1970s, his influence grew at home, making some factions uncomfortable with his anti-establishment messages and perceived support for one of two main political factions in Jamaica  In 1976, two days before a free concert aimed at easing political tensions in Jamaica, gunmen burst into the studio during a rehearsal, wounding Bob Marley in the chest and arm, but not stopping him from performing at the concert Rastafari icon - Robert Nesta Marley “Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.” Bob Marley
  19. 19.  Diagnosed with cancer in 1977 but refusing conventional treatments in line with Rastafari beliefs, Marley will continue recording and performing live to enormous international success, before succumbing to the disease in Miami in 1981, while on his way back home from Europe  Considered as one of his generation’s most successful musicians and the first international superstar to emerge from the ‘third world’, bridging rock and pop with world music, Marley will accumulate rewards and honours and leave a legacy that is relevant to this day and resonates around the world, especially among the less fortunate and oppressed who identify with his universal messages of hope, resilience and pride  Bob Marley’s music, charisma and talent have brought worldwide attention to Jamaica, reggae music and the Rastafari faith in a way that could have hardly been possible if not for him, prompting millions to adopt at least some aspects of Rastafari philosophy, beliefs and culture, as well as generating an industry around his image and what it represents Rastafari icon - Robert Nesta Marley “Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?” Bob Marley
  20. 20.  Buried with honours in Jamaica, revered by millions and considered as a Rastafari poet, prophet and global icon, he leaves behind a number of children many of whom have become talented musicians in their own right, while his messages about positivity, peace and One World, One Love will live for ever in the hearts of many Rastafari icon - Robert Nesta Marley “Money can’t buy life” Bob Marley
  21. 21. Rasta world view, beliefs and practices • Rastafari is a philosophy, a way of life, an understanding of the relationship between the individual and the divine essence of life, whether seen through the experience of a Creator god, be it Jah the god of the Bible and his earthly representative H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie I, or through more individual spiritual experiences, as the belief system is open to personal interpretations • Lacking a formal structure, dogma or book of rules, consistent with Rastas mistrust of organized systems, Rastafari has however a set of beliefs, practices and a world view that are common among those who identify as Rastas, although allowing room for personal insight
  22. 22. Rasta world view, beliefs and practices • As an Afro-centric and biblical inspired faith, Rastas see Black Africans as the true Israelites that have been displaced from Africa, particularly Ethiopia, considered as Zion or Heaven on Earth, or denied their African history and earlier supremacy, through the unjust and oppressive institutions of slavery, colonialism and manipulated Christianity created by white society and its instruments of power, called Babylon by Rastas • Through an Afro-centric reinterpretation of scripture such as the King James Bible, considered to have been tampered with in its translation to deny Africans their true nature and justify slavery, and a personal knowledge of Jah as a divinity present in each human being, Rastas have created a system of spirituality and a way of life to better interpret their current experience in the world, to find a new and proud identity relating to their history and away from the inferiority complex created by slavery and colonialism and, and to strive for an eventual return to Africa / Zion / Ethiopia, be it physically through repatriation or mentally by embracing Africanness and a natural way of life as idealized as being that of Africa
  23. 23. Rasta world view, beliefs and practices • These aspirations were somehow fulfilled with the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie I, seen as fulfilment of biblical prophecy and paving the way for the much expected return to Zion • As an open belief system, not all Rastas believe in the literal divinity of Haile Selassie, or of him being the returned Messiah, a point made clear by the Emperor himself, and later by his earthly death, with Rastas finding other interpretations of the Emperor’s nature but generally agreeing on his special position as a person, inspiring African leader and beacon of hope
  24. 24. Rasta world view, beliefs and practices • Rastafari preaches love, peacefulness, respect for nature, the importance of life and respect for it, detachment from material possessions and places emphasis on spirituality, righteousness and positivity, reflected in the way Rastas speak and their choice of words and their phonetic connotations • Rastas refer to their practices as ’livity’, generally shunning the consumption of meat - particularly pork, shellfish, processed food, the drinking of alcohol, the taking of hard drugs and the smoking of cigarettes, based on Old Testament scripture and ancient Israelite practices, though those are individual choices for those who want to live according to the Rasta way of life, which considers health important as the body is seen as a temple for the Most High and should be treated accordingly
  25. 25. Rasta world view, beliefs and practices • Without a formal structure, Rastafari has no priesthood, favouring a direct relation between the worshipper and the divinity, though some elders having attained a good reputation in the community may be accorded special respect and play influential roles • There are no houses of worship or particular days set for worship in Rastafari, though assemblies known as ‘reasoning’ or ‘grounding’ are often held in community centres or in someone’s home • Reasoning sessions provide a time for chants, prayers and singing, and for communal or spiritual issues to be discussed, while Ganja may be ritualistically smoked to produce heightened spiritual states among participants • Rastas celebrate a number of holidays, generally at dates related to H.I.M. Haile Selassie and Ethiopia
  26. 26. Rasta world view, beliefs and practices• Though most Rastas distrust institutions, many are however associated, often loosely, with one of the many ‘mansions’ or branches of Rastafari, the three main ones being the Nyabinghi, Bobo Ashanti and Twelve Tribes of Israel, which differ on their views about certain beliefs, practices and symbols • Rastafari has no sacred text, drawing instead inspiration from various sources, chiefly the Bible as well as the Afrocentric Holy Piby, The Royal Parchment Scroll of Black Supremacy, the Kebra Negast, The Promised Key, writings of Marcus Garvey and speeches by Haile Selassie I
  27. 27.  Ital, derived from the word vital, is a generally vegetarian or vegan diet followed by most Rastas, as part of their way of life aiming at enhancing ‘livity’, the universal energy and life force inherent in all living beings  The general principle of an Ital diet is that food should be natural and pure, from the earth, as fresh, unprocessed and raw as possible, free from additives, preservatives and other chemicals; and in most cases dairy, oil, sugar and salt free Ital - The Rasta diet
  28. 28.  The diet has also a spiritual dimension, originally inspired by Old Testament dietary recommendations, Hinduism and Buddhism, and is mostly vegetarian or vegan, though some eat fish and use kosher salt  Rastas respect all life, and eating meat from an animal, especially one bred for slaughter and having lived an unhappy life, is not desirable as it introduces negative vibrations into the body and can affect consciousness Ital - The Rasta diet
  29. 29.  Ital food is usually cooked in earthen pots using wooden spoons, and is preferably self grown or sourced nearby for freshness  In Jamaica and elsewhere, Ital food in new and creative ways is being introduced to non-Rastas as a spiritually meaningful, healthy, tasty and positive alternative to established vegetarian and vegan cuisines Ital - The Rasta diet
  30. 30.  Although dreadlocks and other forms of matted hair have been worn by people of different cultures since antiquity, in today’s popular culture, the style is generally associated with Rastafari  Wearing hair in dreadlocks is not only one way for Rastas to differentiate from non-Rastas and distance themselves from the grooming norms of ‘Babylon’, but has also a spiritual justification, and cultural and symbolic significance  Rastas in general follow the biblical command found in 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 their flesh” Dreadlocks - The Rasta look
  31. 31.  Like the biblical story of Samson, Rastas believe that their hair is their strength, and that cutting it can weaken them  Dreadlocks also symbolize the mane of the lion, as in the Lion of Judah  Africanist Jamaicans started wearing hair locks to identify with their African heritage, as many tribes such as the Maasai wore their hair in this way, a fashion that the Jamaican establishment deemed ‘dreadful’ Dreadlocks - The Rasta look
  32. 32.  By the late 1940s and early 1950s, in line with their religious beliefs, symbolism and as part of their natural living philosophy, as well as being inspired by the locked hair style of the Mau- Mau rebels in Kenya, Rastas adopted this hairstyle as part of their connection to Jah and to their African heritage and pride  Often persecuted by the authorities for being Rastas, the cutting of dreadlocks, often in public, was one way to humiliate and punish followers of the movement  Now often worn by non-Rastas as fashion or as a statement of individuality or anti-conformism, the significance, history of oppression and symbolic value of the hair style should be appreciated Dreadlocks - The Rasta look
  33. 33.  Together with dreadlocks and reggae, the smoking of Ganja is often what most people associate with Rastas and Rastafari  Not all Rastas smoke it, and there is no compulsion to do so when following a Rastafari way of life  Many however do smoke it, and find justification for this in scripture, as well is in their African heritage and in the spiritual practice of smoking it by many cultures, in particular Hinduism, with the smoking of the plant being introduced by Indian labourers coming to Jamaica in the 19th century Ganja - The Holy Herb
  34. 34.  Rastas refer to biblical passages such as Psalm 104:14 ‘He causeth the grass for the cattle, and herb for the services of man’ and Revelation 22:2 ‘the leaves of the tree of life (ganja) were for the healing of the nation’, as the reason why they smoke the Herb, which they believe grew on King Solomon’s grave  Usually not referred as marihuana, but instead as ‘Holy Herb’, ‘Wisdom Weed’, ‘Ganja’, ‘Callie’ or ‘Healing of the Nation’, the smoking of ingesting of the herb is thought to provide wisdom, open the mind to the truth, allow Rastas to discover their inner spiritual self and get closer to Jah, as well as having medicinal properties and multiple practical purposes as a plant provided by Jah for humankind, as stated in Genesis 1:29  The ritual smoking of Ganja for spiritual purposes usually takes place during ‘reasoning’ sessions, when a prayer is said before lighting a ‘chalice’ that is then passed around the assembled members Ganja - The Holy Herb
  35. 35.  Although banned since 1913 but not severely outlawed, Rasta communities such as Howell’s Pinnacle were harassed for growing and selling ganja, leading to arrests and incarceration after the laws were tightened in the early 1940s and prompting many legal fights in Jamaica and elsewhere for the right of Rastas to smoke ganja as part of their spiritual rituals  Since 2015, in line with increasing liberalization in many countries regarding marihuana consumption, and so as not to be left behind in the expected economic windfalls from legal marihuana, Jamaica has decriminalized consumption, possession and growing of small quantities of ganja, as well as making it legal for Rastas to smoke the herb as part of their spiritual rituals, a long awaited right Ganja - The Holy Herb
  36. 36.  During spiritual meetings known as ‘groundations’, which are gatherings of Rastas to commemorate significant dates, such as the birth of H.I.M. Haile Selassie I or his 1966 visit to Jamaica (Grounation Day), the beating of drums and singing of Rastafari themed ‘chants’ are performed throughout  This type of music, mixing 19th century gospel music and Kumina (an Afro-Jamaican folk religion) inspired African drumming, is called Nyabinghi music, which is also used as the name for the gatherings and is the name of one of the major ‘mansions’ of Rastafari, deriving its name from an 19th century Ugandan / Rwandan anti-colonial possession cult led by a woman possessed by the spirit of deified early 18th century Queen Nyabinghi Reggae - The Sound of Rastafari
  37. 37.  The rhythms of Kumina and Nyabinghi drumming were introduced into popular Jamaican music mainly thanks to Rastafari master drummer Count Ossie and his group, influencing new emerging styles from the late 1950s to 1960s  Reggae as a musical genre emerged in the late 1960s from earlier genres such as mento, considered as Jamaican calypso, ska and rocksteady, with R&B, jazz, Kumina, African and Nyabinghi musical influences  Heavy on drums and bass, the rhythm started appearing in the UK and USA charts and influencing artists such as Johnny Nash, Paul Simon and most famously Eric Clapton who in 1974 topped the charts with his cover version of Bob Marley and The Wailers’ song ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ Reggae - The Sound of Rastafari
  38. 38.  Bob Marley and friends Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh had formed the group The Wailing Wailers in 1963, finding some local success recording at first ska and rocksteady tunes, then embracing reggae  From 1966 and under the influence of his wife Rita and other prominent Rastas, Marley embraced Rastafari and began to grow dreadlocks and infusing his music’s lyrics, especially his reggae songs, with powerful messages relating to Rastafari philosophy, pronouncements from Marcus Garvey, Leonard Howell and Haile Selassie, social and racial justice themes and praise for the spiritual and health benefits of Ganja smoking  Becoming an international sensation from the mid 1970s, Bob Marley not only introduced reggae to the world, but also Rastafari, paving the way for the music to be intimately associated with the movement and for many more musicians of the reggae genre to use the music to spread the Rastafari message in Jamaica and around the world Reggae - The Sound of Rastafari
  39. 39.  Rasta themed reggae is often known as roots reggae to differentiate it from the less spiritually and socially engaged dancehall music now more popular in Jamaica and the Caribbean  Inspiring musicians all over the world, whether they follow wholly, partially or minimally the Rastafari way of life or spiritual belief, reggae has contributed like no other aspect to globalize Rastafari, from an obscure Afrocentric Jamaican cult with few followers into a global phenomenon, which even if for many just a fashion has prompted people to take notice of the more positive messages of the philosophy, through a great sounding music with lyrics that speak of oppression, poverty, injustice and the daily struggles of the downtrodden masses Reggae - The Sound of Rastafari
  40. 40. Rastafari as a global phenomenon  Born as an Africanist Jamaican cult centred around the newly crowned Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I, the messages and philosophy of Rastafari spread first around the Caribbean, where people shared similar experiences and outlooks as Jamaicans  With the popularity of Bob Marley and reggae, the Rastafari message reached the wider world, appealing to the world downpressed who related to the Jamaicans and Africans experiences in their own struggles  As its popularity grew and the internet age made information widely available, sympathisers, wanna-be Rastas and those into reggae and Rasta style appeared in all corners of the globe, with many musicians embracing reggae and sometimes the Rasta way of life, or aspects of it  Without a strict dogma, organized structure or formal conversion ritual, anyone can embrace the Rastafari way of life if following the main tenets that allow one to sincerely consider oneself a Rasta  Although as a spiritual belief based on the Old Testament there may be some unsavoury aspects for those choosing to follow them, the core messages of One Love, One World, Peace, Unity, Equality, living a natural life and fighting for human rights and an end to oppression are Rastafari’s valuable contribution to global culture that we can all relate to, appreciate and give thanks for…
  41. 41. I-man give thanks to I and I for listening to this I-sentation, and hope it will give I and I a better overstanding of Rastafari livity. One love… “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” H.I.M. Haile Selassie I