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“Rastafari” unpacked

Updated: May 20, 2020

Yeees, it’s no lie when they describe this sea in this beautiful part of the world; blue, clear warm, could get you relocating to this other Promised Land without notice because it is unarguably the most beautiful sea I have been to in the whole world.

This trip was beautiful in so many ways and opened my eyes to what I have been dreaming of all my life. Besides the ‘tweng,’ the food, the weather, the roots & culture, the Rasta, the music and so much more, I learnt l whole lot about the ‘Rasta’ that I never knew and neither did you.

Back in the days up to a month ago, I thought like you thought that ‘Rastafari’ was all about the #Dreadlock #GanjaSmoking #PlantEating #Rastas . However, as I took an evening walk on the beautiful shores of Negril on my 3rd night in Negril, I got to meet Rasta Delroy who opened my eyes to the world of “Rasta. ”Story after story and after a few more stories later and I was officially on #RastafariInformationOverload.

When I first saw Rasta “D,” I was literally staring, almost tripping over on the beach. I was fascinated by the length of his dreadlock beard, leave alone the fact that he was the first “Rasta” I actually met and connected with in Negril. I tried to keep my excitement low-key but as usual, I could not contain it. So, I pleaded with my husband to come along and hang out with the Rasta.

The connection was so beautiful and authentic and because he had so much to share around my curiosity on the Rastafari movement, he soon became my one-stop-a-day information hub, shedding light on “The Real Rastafari;” coming straight from a true Rasta’s Soul.

The Rastafari movement takes its name from the title “Ras Tafari.” In the Ethiopian (Amharic) language, ras means “head,” “prince,” or “field marshal,” and tafari means “to be feared.”

Within the system of Rastafarianism, the term is a reference most particularly to Ras Tafari Makonnen (1892–1975), who became the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I upon his coronation in 1930, when Selassie was lauded with the title “Lion of Judah, Elect of God, King of Kings.” This sent a shock wave through Afro-Caribbean culture.

In the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, preachers like Joseph Hibbert started declaring that Haile Selassie was the long awaited Messiah, the second coming of Christ. Thus was born one track of Rastafari, which looked to Selassie as the living God and black messiah who would overthrow the existing order and usher in a reign of blacks.

The ital diet

So Rasta ‘D’ like many of the few who still practice Rastafari authentically, he only eats plant-based and unprocessed foods. The Rastafari have a specific a proto-vegan diet called Ital, a word that stems from vital.

Ganja smoked in a ritual way

Sounds like a hectic conversation coming me who has no clue where to put my head while the rest spliff their minds away, however for the “Rasta,” it’s not a mindless engagement.

One of the first aspects of Rastafari that come to mind when people hear of Rastafari is marijuana. The smoking Ganja for a Rasta is a special experience. They use the Ganja to help enlighten their mind so they can correctly reason the ways of the world. The Ganja is always smoked in a ritual way. Before smoking the plant the Rasta will say a prayer to Jah (God) or to Haile Selassie I. The Rasta calls them reasoning sessions when they use Ganja for Nyabinghi. A Nyabinghi session is much different from a casual marijuana smoking session that the rest of the world “western people” take part in.

The Rasta’s use of Ganja stems back to the beginning of Rastarafi in Jamaica. In 1941 one of the early teachers of Rastafari, Leonard P. Howell, set up a Rasta community of sixteen hundred Rasta’s. This community was named Pinnacle.

The Rastafari Lyaric Dialect

The Rastafari as an empowerment movement took the language and modified it both in dialect and philosophy to meet their needs, forming a new dialect known as Lyaric.

E.g. the changing of the word understand to “overstand” is an example of this. To “overstand” means to fully and entirely have a grasp of a concept. This Rasta reasoning for this is that something that is under is worse than something that is over it, so they change “under” to “over”.

Rasta colours:

Lots of people associate the Rasta colors with ganja or Bob Marley, not realizing that they actually have meaning.

Yellow symbolizes the wealth of their homeland, Africa.

Red symbolizes bloodshed and the martyrdom of Rastafari.

Green symbolizes the abundant plant life of their native homeland.

Black symbolizes the black race who started the Rastafari movement to help them trace their roots.

The bible link

Besides my love for conscious reggae music where I have heard a lot of bible verses spit through different tunes, during my connection with Rasta “D,” he used a lot of real bible verses, which struck me.

The Bible serves as the official source of knowledge in the Rastafarian movement. Rastas take Biblical study very seriously and spend much time citing and discussing scriptural passages (Murrell, 326).

Honoring the body

In Rastafari, your body is considered your temple, so you need to really take good care of yourself. Part of this can be seen in the philosophy of the Ital diet. However, it goes much further than just eating good food; you don’t cut your hair, tattoo your skin, or eat bad food and some don’t even smoke ganja.

Africa, The Promised Land

“Mi cyan wait to guh back to Africa,” Delroy states with so much enthusiasm.

The Rastafari believe Africa is their home and feel that their ancestors were removed from their homeland against their will and they will return to the promised Land very soon.

I am still high on Jamaica and I am more informed than I was before I arrived into Jamaica.

Information/knowledge is power and I am empowered. On that note, I hope you feel more informed and change your mindset around “Rasta” before you cast the 2nd stone.

Yours fabulously,

Liz Ogumbo-Regisford

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