Rastafarianism in a nutshell

Having lived in Ethiopia for 4+1 years, I’ve had the privilege to experience rastafarianism first hand.

But before we get into that, let’s break down what rastafarianism is, its roots and what we can all learn from some rasta practices.

  • Rastafarianism in a nutshell:

Rastafarianism is a spiritual movement that began in the 1930s by Marcus Garvey, in Jamaica. Rastafarians believe that God makes himself known through humanity.

The supreme man in rastafarianism is His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, crowned emperor of Ethiopia in 1930.

Many rastas believe this event to be the Second Coming of Christ who returned to redeem all Black people.

Rastafarianism combines Protestant Christianity (they read the bible selectively), mysticism, and a pan-African political consciousness.

  • Here’s what I like about rastas:

Rastas are pretty health conscious.

They consider their body to be a temple, based on the Old Testament teachings.

Rastas do not drink alcohol or eat food that is not nourishing to their body, which includes meat. Many follow a strict dietary law called “ital”, which states that all food must be completely natural and raw.

Meat is considered to be dead food so, according to Rastafarian belief, consuming it turns the body into a ‘cemetery’.

“Ital” is a vegetarian diet principally intended to improve health and energy. It is thought that being vegetarian is to be closer to the universal energy and life force and to avoid bringing death to God’s creatures.

The aim of healthy eating, using the freshest and most natural food possible, is to increase livity, or ‘life energy’, in Rasta terminology.

  • Zion

Rastas see Africa as a paradise on earth, and at the core of the movement is the belief that all people of the African diaspora should return to their homeland.

If you’ve been to Africa before, you know it’s the beautiful continent on earth (with South America being close second).

Africa’s rich in culture, history, natural resources, animals, offers all types of climates and is the motherland of all humanity.

If there was such thing as a paradise on earth, Africa surely IS it.

Africa is often referred to as Zion, or Tsiyon in hebrew, which means “holy place” or “kingdom of heaven.”

  • What does it take to be a rasta?

To be a Rasta, you have to be a true man with your words, a true man to the planet, a true man to the living, and a true man to everything that is good.

Rastas are generally very laid back, kind and humane people.

Having spent some of my best years in Ethiopia as a teen and later, I’ve had the pleasure to chat with lots of rastas about spirituality, pan-African political consciousness and black empowerment.

For rastas, the way you treat yourself, starting with your body and your mind, sets the tone for everything you do.

You can’t respect others if you don’t respect yourself, and you can’t live harmoniously if you’re not right in your body and in your head.

Rastas believe in the principle of balance lifestyle, which includes the wearing of long hair in its natural, uncombed state (dreadlocks), dressing in the colours of red, green, gold, and black, which respectively symbolize the life force of blood, herbs, royalty, and Africanness.

  • Religious practices:

Religious rituals include prayer services, the smoking of ganja to achieve better “itation” (meditative state), and binghi (drum sessions).

  • Fun fact:

The movement takes its name from the emperor’s pre-coronation name, Ras Tafari.

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