Five things to know about Rastafari
As told by Anthony Postman
1. Rastafari came about through the teachings and prophecy of Marcus Garvey, who basically said to look to the east for the crowning of a black king. On Nov. 2, 1930, Haile Selassie was crowned king of Ethiopia. Marcus Garvey was a Pan-Africanist living in Harlem. He’s a Jamaican. He was excommunicated to London at the end of his life. It comes from writings of Marcus Garvey and Leonard Howell, another early Pan-Africanist. So Selassie is a king. Rastafari is an appellation. Ras originally meant “duke.” Tafari Makonnen is the birth name of King Haile Selassie I.
2. Rastafari is seen as the fulfillment of a prophecy in Revelation from the Bible in regards to the return of Christ. Many Rastas see Selassie I as Christ in His kingly character, as Christ returned to Earth. So many Rasta also proclaim Jah as in Jahweh or Yahweh the biblical appellation for God—Jah Rastafari, or the Lord King Ras Tafari. So Haile Selassie is the crowned name of his imperial majesty, H.I.M., as he’s called. Ras Tafari, the given name, is the name that the children of Rastafari proclaim. Many might call us Rastafarians. We Rasta try to get away from the isms and schisms. Rastafarianism is carrying us away from the root of title of his majesty, which is Ras Tafari. So Rastafari keeps the essence of the king in its lingual form, closest to its truest root. Another kind of biblical tie-in is the element of word, sound and power—again creation. The creation story in the Bible deals so strongly with the Creator calling all of creation into being with His Word. So the use of language in Rasta culture is a very prevalent part of the culture.
3. There is a huge amount of variation in the culture, but a main tenet—at face value and on the surface—is the dreading of our hair. Some practices universally can be seen as outside Rastafari. For example, a strong propensity to go out and buy hookers and drink a lot can be seen as outside the realm of Rastafari. Taking advantage of your brotherman or sisterwoman is outside the realm of Rastafari. The main tenet of Rastafari is to walk in righteousness. Hands down. Period. The walk of Rastafari is a trot of righteousness; it’s the trot of the righteous man and woman. At face value, the biggest thing is our covenant with Jah or Jehovah or whatever you call the Great Creator. Again, it comes from the Bible that part of the Nazarene vows is that we don’t let scissors and comb touch the corners of the beard and the ends of the hair. So Rastafari is still an extension of Abrahamic religions. We all believe in one God, whatever you call him.
4. Marijuana is the Rastafari communion. The marijuana was found on the grave of King Solomon. It has been called the wisdom weed for ages, for millennia literally. We Rasta take herb as our sacrament. We give thanks and praises for life and creation with the smoke of our herbs. Rasta will burn the herb in a chalice, sometimes known as a triune, very similar to a water pipe or bong, and it’s a combination of the elements. It’s earth in our herb, of smoke and fire, and of water when the herb passes through this. And with our own inhalation and exhalation, we bring in the air. So the four elements are found when we pass the herb through the triune or chalice. So it’s a sacred meditation, a hola, a holy meditation.
5. Rastas believe Jah or God as a belief in a living God. Our notion of Christ is Christ in His kingly character. The Christly character espoused in the New Testament can be lived in every man and every woman.