If smoking weed, growing dreadlocks, and listening to Bob Marley sounds good to you, you just might be a Rastafarian! There’s a lot more to it than that, but I’ll be damned if I ever meet a “Rasta” who can explain it without mentioning reggae music or marijuana. It’s quite popular here in Kenya, but after meeting dozens of self-proclaimed Rastafarians I still always wonder: do these guys know that Rastafarianism is a religion, or is it just what the cool kids do?
While its roots are in the Back to Africa and black nationalism movements popularized by Marcus Garvey in the 1930s, it has evolved into much more than just a “black hippie” movement. In a nutshell, Rastafarianism is a Judeo–Christian religion that purports the late Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia was the second coming of Jesus Christ (and therefore God incarnate). This and other Rastafarian beliefs are backed by verses from their holy scripture, the Bible.
Haile Selassie bore a striking resemblance to the Ethiopian Orthodox church’s traditional depiction of Jesus…
From what I can tell Rastafarians also believe in world peace, love, long hair, and ritual use of marijuana. Furthermore, while not technically a belief, a large part of Rastafarian culture revolves around music. Traditionally this would be reggae, but I’m pretty sure the related genres dancehall and ragga are important as well, as they often mention “Jah” (God). I’m assuming that these are the reasons youths find Rastafarianism attractive, and not the cult-like, Bible-based worship of Haile Selassie as a literal reincarnation of Jesus!
Finally, because I can’t stand reggae, here’s a crazy video by Jamaican dancehall musician Elephant Man (you can even see the world champion Jamaican runner Usain Bolt “sweeping” in the background!).