Historical and Ethnographical Study of the Rastafari Religion

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Historical and Ethnographical Study of the Rastafari Religion The Rastafari people are a group of (primarily) men that originated in Jamaica, especially in and around Kingston, who believe in being repatriated to a designated homeland in Africa. Through their reinterpretation of the bible, an ascetic-leaning lifestyle, and heavy influence of previous Revivalist religions and African Myal traditions, they have carved a religion that is worldly, conscientious, and , now, world renouned. Icons such as Bob Marley, spliffs, their red, gold, and green flag, and their memorable accent make these people very interesting to listen to, and definitely assist in disseminating their belief structure throughout the world. In this paper I will briefly discuss their history, both ancient and modern, their belief structures, theological and material, and current and future trends in the movement today. Being the offspring of a revivalist religious movement in Jamaica in the 1930's, there is the obvious root tracing of the slave owner's Christian religion and the traditional African religion the slaves took with them from their homeland. In this case it is the Myal religion. They placed a large focus on the divination and local spirits in this religion and it carried over in the African religious interpretation of the imposed bible. The Christian focus was always on Jesus, while the Myal influence made the African slaves more focused on the Holy Spirit. They even placed John the Baptist over Jesus because it was John who brought Jesus to spiritual maturity through his baptism. Likewise this placed the focus of Christianity not on the orthodoxy, o... ... middle of paper ... ...This truly traditional and national religion of Rastafarianism is one of the most fascinating and pervasive of the African diaspora stories to come out of the Caribbean. Their combination of rural sentiment, urban problem solving, individual and group perceptions, lovely, flowing language, revolutionary world view, and damn catchy music make for one of the most vibrant and culturally interesting creole religions. They are a noble people and thanks to their increasing internationalization will hopefully influence our cultures for decades to come. Bibliography: Barrett, Leonard. The Rastafarians. Boston: Beacon Press, 1977. Chevannes, Barry. Rastafari: Roots and Ideology. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1994. Lewis, William F.. Soul Rebels: The Rastafari. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press, Inc., 1993.

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