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Rastafarian Spirituality
6 years ago
| Surprise Me

..Just thought I'd share a little on the spirituality that informs much of my thinking


The cliches of the Rasta or Rastafarians - dreadlocks, reggae and marijuana- are ironically the reasons behind their power. At a time when the trend towards alternative spirituality is growing, Rastafari culture has carved a niche for its expression of personal and spiritual influence.

Return to Africa and Self-Empowerment

More a movement than a centralized religion, Rastafari embodies the idea of self-determination, the idea that man is a spiritual being who has the means to shape his own life.

Rastafarians believe that each individual can use his own experience and intuition to achieve salvation, which is not a heavenly afterlife, but a heaven-on-earth or Africa. To Jamaicans who lived through the depression era of the 1930s, heaven-on-earth was a meaningful repatriation goal, especially when Haile Selassie I was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia. He became the long-awaited Messiah who would deliver them from racial oppression and slavery.


Returning to Africa was a strong element in early Rastafari beliefs. However, this Afrocentric vision has recently become more inclusive; it does not necessarily mean a physical return to Africa, but an embracing of one's African roots or an embracing of one's personal power so that one is able to change his reality in the here and now.


Dreadlocks and the Power of the Spiritual Journey

This sense of personal power can be seen in the Rasta dreadlocks, which some view as an imitation of Kenyan freedom fighters who grew their dreaded locks while hiding in the mountains. Rastafarians also emphasize the Biblical support of dreadlocks – Samson, the Nazarite who wore his hair in locks, and the injunction in Leviticus 21:5 against baldness on the head.


Most significantly, dreadlocks have become a symbol of the power of the spiritual journey. In the process of locking their hair, Rastas learn the virtue of patience and endurance; their heaven is not achieved overnight, but through their daily embrace of Rasta lifestyle and rituals. Their spiritual journey requires them to live in accordance with the laws of nature. Most Rastafarians are vegetarians or vegans. (my note: I am not a pure vegetarian,but do try to maintain a healthy diet)


Marijuana and Spiritual Wisdom

Their interest in vegetarianism is reflected in the Rasta use of marijuana, considered to be the "holy herb" of Rastafarian culture. Although there are no strict rules regarding its use, marijuana is an extension of the Rasta belief in natural living.


Their justification for its use comes from the Bible, particularly Psalms 104:14 which states that the "herb" or grass is created "for the service of man."

Smoking cannabis is for the Rastas a spiritual act, often followed by discussions of the bible or spiritual ideas. Marijuana is also used during ritual dances held on Rasta holy days and religious meditation; believers claim that the herb provides them with spiritual wisdom.


Bob Marley, Reggae and Global Presence

If anything at all, it is reggae music that has turned Rastafari into a global phenomenon. Bob Marley began his musical career as a local musician, but through his wife, he was introduced to the consciousness movement in Jamaica. He was inspired by the works of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Leonard Howell and his lyrics increasingly reflected this new direction in his thinking.


Marley's merging of reggae with Rastafari beliefs created a whole new repertoire that suited the temperament of the times. Combining the loose spongy rhythm of reggae with themes of oppression , slavery, peace, love and brotherhood, Marley and his group became the prophets of the '70s Generation. With their popularity, Rastafari mushroomed into a global culture.

Because its supporters embrace the use of dreadlocks, reggae and marijuana as means of spiritual empowerment, Rastafari is a reflection of the diversity and empowering alternatives within a global culture.


6 years ago

You cannot currently send a star to David because you have done so within the last week.


Thanks David!  Now THAT'S what I call an interesting subject!

6 years ago

When most of us hear the word "Rastafarian," what pops into mind is likely a dark-skinned Jamaican with long dreads smoking a big joint. The image isn't necessarily inaccurate. But its connotations--danger, illegality, irresponsibility--don't give much of a picture of Rastafarianism. Most Americans, even those who have inhaled on occasion, first need to understand the centrality of mystical experience in Rastafarianism, and of "ganja" as a tool for achieving it.



Rastafarianism was born with the coronation of Ras Tafari as Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930. Crowned "King of Kings and Lord of Lords," Ras Tafari took as his throne name "Haile Selassie." For many blacks, the event was seen as a fulfillment of a "prophecy" of Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican-born pan-African author and Black Nationalist leader that a black emperor would be crowned in Africa and would herald the repatriation of the African Diaspora. "Look to Africa for the crowning of a Black King," wrote Garvey. "He shall be the Redeemer."


Soon, Selassie took on other Christ-like attributes. Rastas assert that Selassie was the Jesus that Christianity spoke of, but that white people tricked the world into believing that he was a white man. Rastafarians proclaim Selassie "the living God for the black race," citing Genesis 49:8, Isaiah 43:3, Revelation 5:5, as well as the Psalms and Amos.



Like Christian mysticism (and, in some ways, Jewish and Muslim mysticism) early Rasta mystical experience emphasized the possibility of the immediate presence of


within the "dread," or "God-fearer." God's presence brought on an understanding of the fundamental unity of all humanity, expressed in the pronoun "I&I" (which can mean I, we, or even you, with Jah present). Discerning the will of God is an almost Talmudic process, achieved through night-long "reasoning" sessions, part theological debate, part prayer meeting and meditation, which lead to an "overstanding" (rather than understanding) of the truth through union with Jah.



The dispossessed descendants of slaves living in Jamaica in the 1930s were ripe for this millenarian-salvationist movement. Melding Garvey's thought with the ideas of escaped slaves ("maroons"), who had set up autonomous communities in the interior of the country in the 16th century, Rastafarianism also had plenty of political implications. Since actual repatriation to Africa was impossible for most Jamaicans, the act of return came to be interpreted mystically, the biblical exiles in Babylon analogous to oppressed blacks subject to the illegal and corrupt government of Jamaica.



Marijuana has a long and unique history in Jamaica. The indigenous Arawak tribes used ganja as medicine and taught the African Jamaicans how to use it. Although not all Rastas smoke, the ritual use of ganja is sanctioned for most. Scholars and Rastas alike consider marijuana use among the most dominant force in the movement's religious ideology and their strongest shared experience. Rastas say its use is prescribed by biblical verses such as Psalm 104:14, where it is written "He causeth the grass for the cattle, and herb for the service of man"; Exodus 10:12: "Eat every herb of the land"; Proverbs 15:17: "Better is a dinner of herb where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith"; and Genesis 1:11-12 or 3:18: "thou shalt eat the herb of the field." The controlled ritual smoking of "wisdomweed" is advocated as "an incense pleasing to the Lord"; it is a core activity in their daily life, both a "sacrament" and an aid to meditation.



Rasta use of ganja can't be compared with its recreational uses elsewhere in the West. Rastafarians emphasize harmony with the world and nature, and ganja is used in the context of the Rastas' "I-tal" diet, which involves not just being a vegetarian, but eating foods free of salts, preservatives, condiments, avoiding coffee, alcohol, or other drugs, and living off the land whenever possible.



As with most things Rasta, smoking marijuana must also be understood as a fundamentally political act: It symbolizes the refusal to abide by the laws and customs of "Babylon," while fulfilling the commandments of the Bible not to cut one's hair and to utilize all the herbs of the earth.



Many Rastas decry the politicization of their ritual use of ganja, feeling that it has become "a political herb, which it is not. Instead, it is considered a divine herb, the focus of an intensely religious experience, and part of a larger ritual system that includes meetings, prayers, and biblical interpretation.

6 years ago

Marley's "Redemption Song" calls upon the oppressed to "emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds." Music is one means to achieve this emancipation. In "Trench Town Rock" Marley sings "Oh now, I said, you feel no pain now, One good thing about music, when it hits you... feel no pain Hit me with music now, oh now, hit me with music now, Hit me with music, harder, brutalize me." Reggae has the power, along with the Holy Weed, to expiate troubles and sins and help bring on the necessary psychological state to achieve union with Jah, which is the goal of most every form of mysticism.




Bob Marley on Marijuana
6 years ago

6 years ago

My two male cousins lived in Jamaica and were heavy into the weed and culture over there.  Male nurse I worked with left this country and moved there permanently.   David:  is voodoo ever practiced; I know in Haiti as I speak to many Haitians.  I am more interested in the herbs they use.  They won't tell me what they use; some say it is secret to the witch doctor in the tribe or medicine man....?    Is this ever done in Jamaica as you say they do have teh African traditions there?

6 years ago

I am going to try and get a prescription for MJ from my doctor for stress.

6 years ago


but they also don't want people to expand their minds and figure out how screwed up the country is. -Rhonda


Then there's that, which I believe.


Ss, if pot has been decriminalized in MA why would you need a prescription?

6 years ago

Where do I buy it, I think the referendum if for medicinal pot and I don't know if there are pot stores, this just passed on Nov. 12, 2010.  

I have to ask people, I have been out of circulation with the knee replacement.

I should ask the psychiatrists, I don't know who writes these prescriptions.

As I said, it passed in Nov. (just over 3 months ago).   They can't arrest anyone for carrying it.... no more arrests and warrants....  but are there stores?

I don't even know this...YET. 

6 years ago



A referendum, approved by voters in November, makes possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a civil offense with a $100 fine.


Existing laws that prohibit distributing marijuana or operating a motor vehicle under its influence remain unchanged.


Supporters of the law say it will spare thousands from having a criminal record, which can make it harder to get a job, student loan or gain access to public housing. They also said it will save taxpayers $30 million in costs associated with marijuana arrests.


But critics said marijuana is a gateway drug and the law could lead to more drug use among young people.


Under the new law, anyone under 18 caught with an ounce or less of marijuana must complete a drug awareness course or face a $1,000 fine. Parents or legal guardians will also be notified.


As the law takes effect, state officials are urging cities and towns to ban public pot smoking, similar to public drinking ordinances.


Massachusetts is the 12th state in the country to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana


this was passed in January 2009.


A new referendum was passed in Nov. 2010, but it has not been put into effect, I wonder how long it takes.  


I don't want to spoil David's thread.....


This is probably why Pot won't be legal nationally, look at the opinions of it being a gateway drug..... A not of negativity too with MJ!!!!

6 years ago

"Can Rastafarians smoke pot legally? Freedom of religion?"-Rhonda

Unless one lives in a state where one has a medical marijuana license,No.

That's another reason we need politicians and judges who take the Constitution seriously!

6 years ago


6 years ago

That's another reason we need politicians and judges who take the Constitution seriously!


You mean the ones we have don't? 


6 years ago

Emndeni is alive with the sounds of children squealing with delight as they bounce on a bright green jumping castle. It is Tshimologo Mofolo's first birthday and her parents have pulled out all the stops.
Outside the house -- which is dotted with red, green and yellow balloons, the colours of the Rastafari -- the adults are swaying to the upbeat sounds of reggae. Jabulisile Mofolo, like many of the women who have come to celebrate her daughter's birthday, is dressed conservatively. She wears a long floral dress and her long sleeved is shirt buttoned to the top, her dreadlocks tied up under a black turban.

The modest attire and the family atmosphere are a bit at odds with the impression some in Soweto have of Rastas, who are often criticised for their appearance. "When people see a hobo in the streets and he has dreadlocks, they think he's a Rasta, so they stereotype us and assume that all Rastas are homeless and dirty," says 25-year-old Amlak Alpha, a friend of Mofolo.

He says that dreadlocks are a sign of the Rasta faith, the length of their hair representing their wisdom and the years they have been loyal to their religion, acting like "antennae" to connect them to their ancestors, God and Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974 and considered by the Rastas to be a living God.

But it is not just strangers in the township who have a bad impression of Rastas -- some of their own families reject the religion, especially at first. "In my home, my mother was surprised when I told her I was Rasta," Mofolo says. "But soon she grew to understand that it's what brings me purpose and peace. She's learned to accept me … we want our daughter to grow up knowing her African heritage, which is a part of our Rasta culture."


Opposite response
For Amlak Alpha, which is the Rasta name he took when he began practising the religion and means "the almighty first", the response of his parents was the opposite. They were shocked when he started smoking marijuana at the age of 13, when he first adopted the culture, and they continue to reject it.

They still hold out hope that at some stage he will grow out of it. But for Amlak Alpha, who grew up in Dobsonville, it's not likely that things are going to change. He came to the birthday party with five of his friends, all band members of D Gang (which stands for Dobsonville gangsters). As they share a joint among them, they talk about the music, Rasta philosophy and the politics that bind them.

Rastas are strongly tied to Pan-Africanism, the belief that all black people of the world should join in brotherhood and work to decolonise Africa. They also believe in the repatriation of all black people of the diaspora. Smoking marijuana, for them, is a form of religious practice

Muzzla Menelek, one of the band members, is dressed immaculately in long white pants, a buttoned up white shirt and a high white turban. He speaks in scripture. Rastas are Christians who have adopted the King James version of the Bible and they are often guided by the Old Testament. But when Muzzla Menelek explains their religious beliefs about marijuana as a sacrament, he refers to the New Testament, Matthew, chapter 13, verse 24, The Parable of the Weed: "… collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned and bring them into my chalice".

"This is why we formed D Gang," says Igxebe West, another band member. "We don't do if for the business but for the love of people and the music. We want to teach them about our ways."

Mamma and Pappa Gad attend a dance session where they socialise with other Rastas in the community. They use marijuana as a sacrament. (Madalene Cronjé

Musical influence
Rastafari became increasingly well known when reggae music soared in popularity in the 1980s thanks to the music of Bob Marley, whose songs are infused with tales of love, relationships and the Rasta's religious beliefs.

Marley's song, Exodus, speaks about the Rastafari who migrated from Babylon and are seeking another Moses to lead them out of an oppressive society filled with injustice and bring them to their father's land -- which is Africa. "Open your eyes and look within. Are you satisfied with the life you're living? We know where we're going. We know where we're from. We're leaving Babylon. We're going to our Father's land."

Music is a fundamental element of the Rastafari and the movement's history can be learned by listening to it.

Later that night D Gang performs at Soweto's Mzimhlope Hall. It is a social gathering known as a dance session. Rasta families with their children and dozens of youths dressed in red, green and yellow fill the space. Some couples wear matching outfits, others wear colourful turbans -- worn high and low -- and every style and length of dreadlocks.

6 years ago

'Celebration of life, God and love'
The nights are mainly about listening to reggae and live poetry; they meditate on marijuana and praise Selassie. Alcohol and cigarettes are strictly forbidden, although they smoke beedies, which are made from tendu leaves and natural tobacco, with no chemicals added.

The Rastafari call these sessions a celebration of life, God and love. Women prepare vegetarian food (without salt) which is laid out for the crowd, and Rastafari memorabilia, such as badges and posters, are on sale.

Most Saturday mornings are spent in church and some of the Rastas who gather at the party have attended what they call a "sabbath". There are formal Rasta churches -- one in Berea, Johannesburg and another in Pretoria -- but the Soweto Rastafari meet on a hill in Dobsonville.

"We prefer to pray in the mountain because it is a part of nature and makes us feel like we become a part of the element," says Amlak Alpha.

Ruby Maketha, a respected elder in the Rasta community, cradles a baby, while a toddler tugs on her skirt. She and her husband, Mcedisi Mzondo, have five children and have committed their lives to Rastafari for more than a decade.

They share their opinions about the importance of raising a Rasta family in modern society.

"I want my children to grow up Rasta and to be righteous and conscious," says Maketha.

"To know the difference between what is good and bad, and I can already see that in them. If my child­ren grow up and decide that they no longer want to follow our custom I will be disappointed, but I cannot control what they do. I know that one day they will come back to the ways that we have taught them."

Mzondo describes the meaning of Rastafari, which he feels is often misunderstood.

"Rastafari is about love," he says. "If we live according to the love that God has given us, we can bring back Heaven on Earth. "God is not a person in the sky. He lives among us and we can be like the Garden of Eden, as it should be on Earth."

Ras Igxebe West, a member of the band D Gang. He says they play not to make money but out of a love of people and music. (Madalene Cronjé

An earthly salvation
Rastafari believe that Haile Selassie I, the former emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974, is the living God. They do not believe that he died in 1975 -- they say he "disappeared" and lives as a spiritual being.

Selassie is believed to be descended from Solomon and Sheba, and Rastafari believe that he is the Messiah prophesied in the King James version of the Bible who will lead the people of Africa and its diaspora to freedom.

Jamaican scholar Marcus Garvey, who died in 1940 and was a vocal advocate of Pan­Africanism, is considered to be the prophet known in the Bible as John the Baptist.

One of his most famous prophecies involved the coronation of Selassie in 1927, with the pronouncement: "Look to Africa, for there a king shall be crowned who will be called King of Kings".

Jesus Christ, who Rastas refer to as Emmanuel, is not the ­chosen Messiah but the son of God.

According to the BBC religions website, Rastafari believe they are the chosen people of God who are on Earth to promote his power.

They believe that salvation is an earthly rather than heavenly concept, and they have the utmost respect for nature, which is mirrored by their vegetarian diet.
They believe that evil is both personal and corporate and often refer to modern society as Babylon.

One of their major celebrations is Groundation Day, April 21, to commemorate Selassie's visit to Jamaica in 1966, says the BBC. It involves dancing, singing, feasting and smoking marijuana; the celebrations can last up to seven days.

One of their religious practices is known as "reasoning", which is an opportunity to discuss their spiritual and philosophical views while burning marijuana as a sacrament. One person is honoured by being allowed to light the herb and say a short prayer.

Marijuana is passed around in a clockwise direction, except in times of war when it is passed counter-clockwise.

5 years ago

Interview with a Rastafarian


5 years ago

Cool vid, David  Thank you.  I'm gonna share it.



That's another reason we need politicians and judges who take the Constitution seriously!


Another reason we need narrow minded politicians and judges who smoke weed.

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