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Rastafari – more as religion

Rastafarianism grew out of the spread of Ethiopianism and Pan-Africanism and took root in Jamaica after the coronation of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1930. The followers of this spiritual movement, based on the belief in Selassia’s divinity, gathered around preachers such as Leonard Howell, who founded the first known Rastafarian congregation in 1940. In the 1950s, more offshoots emerged, and within two decades the movement gained worldwide attention thanks to the music of staunch Rastafarian Bob Marley. Although the most influential figures in the movement died with the deaths of Selassie in 1975 and Marley in 1981, the Rastafari movement has continued to endure through followers in the United States, England, Africa, and the Caribbean.

„God is man and man is God“

a guiding principle of the Rastafari

The faith is practiced through meditation and prayers. For this purpose, mostly and tratitionally marijuana/ ganja is used as a sacred herb. The rules of faith vary from tribe to tribe, the so-called “tribes” and are accordingly interpreted and practiced variably. I-tal’ refers to the Rastafarian way of preparing food and can be translated as ‘pure’ (no salt, largely no animal products). In addition, Rastas reject the use of drugs of any kind. (alcohol, tobacco,..).

While Rastafarian practices spread with the migration of Jamaicans to England, Canada, and the United States from the 1950s through the 1970s, their worldwide growth was fueled by the influence of followers on popular music. An early player in this field was Count Ossie, who began drumming at Nyahbinghi spiritual sessions and helped develop the style that became known as ska. Later, the movement found its most important ambassador in Bob Marley. The charismatic Marley, who converted to Rastafarianism and founded reggae music, unabashedly referenced his faith in his songs and gained widespread popularity in the 1970s for his universally appealing themes of brotherhood, oppression and redemption. Marley toured extensively, taking his sound to Europe, Africa and the U.S., while becoming a figurehead for Rastafarian movements.

Meanwhile, the growing popularity of Rastafarianism among people of different races and cultures led to changes in some of its stricter rules. The 1970s book “Dread: the Rastafarians of Jamaica” by Roman Catholic priest and social worker Joseph Owens highlights some of the challenges the movement faced, with some sects downplaying the importance of black supremacy in favor of a message of equality. A turning point for the Rastafari movement was the death of Emperor Selassie in 1975, who confronted his followers with the contradiction that a living deity had died. In 1981, the movement lost its second important figure with the death of Marley from cancer.

Rastafari has always been a decentralized faith and culture, but in the 1980s and 90s it sought to introduce a unifying element with a series of international conferences. Smaller breakaways such as African Unity, Covenant Rastafari, and the Selassian Church emerged around the turn of the millennium, when longtime leaders Prince Emanuel Charles Edwards (1994) and Prophet Gad (2005) also died. In 2012, there were an estimated 1 million Rastafarians around the world. Their traditions continue in communities in the U.S., England, Africa, Asia and Jamaica, where the government has adopted much of their symbolism as part of its efforts to market tourism. In an attempt to make amends for past transgressions, the Jamaican government decriminalized marijuana in 2015, and in 2017 Prime Minister Andrew Holness issued an official apology to Rastafarians for the Coral Gardens debacle.