Rastafarianism – more than marijuana

A brief history of Rastafarianism by BBC  http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/rastafari/history/history.shtml

Rastafarian history

The history of Rastafari begins with the colonisation of Africa, or ‘Ethiopia’ as it is known to believers, by Europeans.

The European powers took many Africans as slaves, and the people of Africa were divided up and sent into exile as captives throughout the world. The areas of captivity became known as ‘Babylon’.

For Africans this exile marked the suppression of their culture by whites. However, Rastafarians believe that the suppression of blacks in Babylon is ending and that soon they will all return to ‘Ethiopia’.


The Rastafari movement began in Jamaica during the 1930s following a prophecy made by Marcus Garvey, a black political leader. Garvey led an organisation known as the Universal Negro Improvement Association, whose intention was to unify blacks with their land of origin.

Garvey preached “Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned, he shall be your Redeemer.” This statement became the foundation of the Rastafari movement.

The prophecy was rapidly followed by the crowning of Emperor Haile Selassie I in Ethiopia. Rastafarians see this as the fulfilment of Garvey’s prophecy. The religion takes its name from Haile Selassie’s original name.

Haile Selassie is therefore regarded by Rastafarians as the Black Messiah, Jah Rastafari. He is a figure of salvation and it’s believed he will redeem blacks from white suppressors, reuniting them with their homeland, Africa.


The first branch of Rastafari is believed to have been established in Jamaica in 1935 by Leonard P. Howell.

Howell preached the divinity of Haile Selassie. He explained that all blacks would gain the superiority over whites that had always been intended for them.

Howell’s action encouraged others to help develop and spread the message of Rasta theology, and as E.E. Cashmore explains:

All, in their own ways, added pieces to the jigsaw, and the whole picture came together in the mid 1950s when a series of congregations of rastas appeared at various departure points on Jamaica’s shores, awaiting ships bound for Africa.

E.E. Cashmore

This marked the first uniting of Rastafarians and it paved the way for the future of the movement, bringing hope of repatriation with Africa and freedom for the black race.

1960s and 70s

In 1966 Haile Selassie visited Jamaica, where he was greeted with vast enthusiasm.

The development of Reggae music during this period made Rastafari audible and visible to an international audience. The work of Bob Marley (one of the most important figures in Rastafari) and Island Records was popular with a much wider group than the working class Jamaican culture from which it sprang.

As the rock critics Stephen Davis and Peter Simon said, reggae propelled “the Rasta cosmology into the middle of the planet’s cultural arenas, and suddenly people want to know what all the chanting and praying and obsessive smoking of herb[marijuana] are all about” (Reggae Bloodlines).

Some traditional Rastafarians were disturbed by the popularity of reggae, fearing that the faith would be commercialised or taken up as a cultural fad, rather than a religion.

In 1974 Haile Selassie was deposed by a Marxist revolution. He died mysteriously the next year. The removal of a divine figure by an atheist secular political group was initially discouraging to Rastafarians, and undermined any suggestion that he had been anything more than a human representation of God.

Rastafarian Logo

more info about rastafarianism in slavery:



I chose to post about Rastafarianism because it is so commonly misunderstood. It is generally associated with hippies, drugs, and reggae music. The real message and view of the religion is usually lost. For David Judah, it is a very serious religion. His website, http://www.rastafarian.net/, is amazing, and reiterates how important the religion is to Rastafarians. He doesn’t smoke or drink and emphasizes that one doesn’t have to smoke marijuana or drink alcohol to be a Rastafarian. The true message of Rastafarianism is that all blacks are African, and should remember that. The style of putting one’s hair into dreadlocks is mainly because using products, chemicals, and cutting one’s hair are Western practices, something Africans should not follow. However, it is not required, but is just an aspect of the religion.

Another main part of Rastafarianism is gathering to encourage harmony and a laid back view on life. There is no need for the hustle and bustle of life that Americans, Europeans and Asians have made a daily part of their lives. Along with the harmony aspect, Rastafarianism preaches a cultural awareness that is necessary for blacks to understand where they came from, and how their ancestors lived.

5 thoughts on “Rastafarianism – more than marijuana

  1. This article that you posted was very interesting, I personally did not know that there is such a religion known as Rastafarianism. I was born and raised in the region and both my parents are from Eritrea a neighboring country to Ethiopia. I grew up learning the history of Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea. However, I have never came across this religion. I find it interesting that “the true message of Rastafarianism is that all blacks are African” In addition, I was also curious as to why “Haile Selassie is regarded by Rastafarians as the Black Messiah” even though as a leader of the Ethiopian people, Selassie had many war crimes against the Eritrean people. He continuously oppressed the Eritreans and denies them as their people during colonialism. How can a man who does such a thing be called a black Massiah!

  2. For quite some time I have wondered about the roots and reasons behind Rastafarianism. While this blog entry did provide some insight about the origination and reasons behind Rastafarianism, I was left with several other questions. For instance, I was once told that Rastafari do not smoke marijuana at all, is that true? Also, if one of the main practices or beliefs of Rastafarianism surrounds connecting with African roots, does that mean that only black are permitted to practice this religion?

  3. I found this article to be very informative about the practices and beliefs of Rastafarianism. I did not know much about its origins and I thought it was a way of life not a religion, so I find it interesting it’s being referred to as one. Like everyone else, I had a stereotypical view of its followers but after reading your blog I’m fascinated by their values and I am also intrigued by their passion to reconnect with their roots in Africa.

  4. I enjoyed reading your post because it brought up a similar problem in society as my post. This problem is that people are too quick to judge another person’s religion without gathering the facts about it. Also, with religions that are not as popular as religions such as Christianity or Islam they are consistently misunderstood because of popular culture and other factors. Therefore, I believe that people should educate ourselves about religions before rushing to conclusions such as all Rastafarians do is smoke marijuana and grow long hair.

  5. Very informative! I’d always wondered about Rastafarianism and where they were coming from. It always seemed like a pretty chill religion, and I don’t say that because of the marijuana stereotype. I have heard of Garvey’s “Back to Africa” movement, but did not know that that was where Rastafarianism found its roots.

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