Rastafarianism is a loosely organized religious movement.
Rastas, followers of the Rastafari movement, seek faith and inspiration within themselves, not by participating in services and religious gatherings. However, some Rastas are the members of Mansions of Rastafari – the Nyahbinghi, Bobo Ashanti, and the Twelve Tribes of Israel are the most famous examples of these.
The word “Rastafari” is derived from the name of the last Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I. His full name was Ras Tafari Makonnen. He led the fight against the Italian invaders and was one of the founders of the Organization of African Unity. Rastafarians consider him to be the incarnation of God (Jah).
Rastafarians preach brotherly love for others and the rejection of the ‘Babylon’ lifestyle – the so-called Western society. They believe that the Holy Land is in Ethiopia or throughout Africa, as in the original homeland. Rastafarianism encompasses various Afrocentric political and social issues. One example is the sociopolitical propaganda of Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican figure who fought for the rights and freedoms of black people. He is considered a prophet.
In Rastafarianism, smoking cannabis is a common pursuit. Followers believe that it is useful for the body, helps to keep the energy up and cleanses the consciousness from unnecessary thoughts.
In 1997, the number of Rastafarians in the world reached one million people. Today, reggae music, which is familiar to many people thanks to the work of Bob Marley and his descendants, promotes the spread of Rastafarianism.
Rastafarian beliefs and their dogmas are divided and contradictory.
Because of the influence of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Christianity is one of the related religions. Also, a special role is given to the predictions of Marcus Garvey. Once in his speech, he said that a sign was coming—the coming and coronation of the “black” king in Africa. And the people considered this sign the coronation of the Emperor of Ethiopia Prince Ras Tafari in 1930, who took the name Haile Selassie I. Jamaican Rastafarians believe that Selassie is a descendant of the biblical King Solomon and the queen of Sheba (the legend of the origin of The Solomonic dynasty in the book The Kebra Nagast), and consider him God-Father—the king of kings and messiah. According to the Christian interpretation of the Rastafarian understanding of the Bible, the enslavement of black people by the white colonizers of Africa was a punishment, and life in bondage at Babylon and its sociopolitical system in anticipation of the Jah phenomenon is redemption. Jah will relieve the followers of oppression and take them to “the paradise on Earth”—Ethiopia.
Rastafarians do not conduct missionary activities. They believe that a person can find Jah in himself/herself by cultivating “African” individuality and trying not to have anything similar to the people of the West. Their moral system is based on principles such as love for one’s neighbour and benevolence for all.
The proto-Rastafarian text Holy Piby by Robert Athlyi Rogers is considered to be the basis of the doctrine.
Reggae is a Jamaican music genre, especially popular in America, Britain, and Africa. It spread widely in the 1970s.
Reggae is based on calypso, traditional Jamaican music, the Nyabinghi rhythm and ska style, which appeared in the early 1960s. Each of these have general principles, but reggae has a more measured tempo; its bass line is shorter and the rhythm is tougher.
Dubbing, with a lot of sound effects, is one of the variants of the style. In the 1980s, dancehall – a style based on reggae – emerged.
At first, reggae songs had Christian overtones. But then they became more politicized. They protested against injustice and became a kind of voice of the oppressed, yet not broken people.
Bob Marley is the most famous reggae performer. Some Rastas consider him to have been a prophet.
In the former Soviet Union, because of the spread of reggae, a community of Rastas was formed. It was based on the musical genre and way of life, without focusing on the religion and beliefs of Rastafarians.
Today, Rastafarianism has gone beyond a religious cult and become a fashionable movement. In fact, the religion is based on a mix of Christianity and traditional African beliefs.