Rastafarianism began as a religion of the dispossessed. In 1930, a prophecy of deliverance
was fulfilled for Jamaica’s slum-dwellers and rural poor. Ethiopia symbolized Africa and the
homeland for the slave-descended Jamaicans. Ras Tafari Makennen, in 1930, became Emperor
Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. Emperor Selassie claimed to be a direct descendent of King Solomon.
Many Jamaicans were waiting for a black messiah. Selassie, who at his coronation was
proclaimed Negusa Negast (King of Kings), and whose imperial name meant “Power of the Holy
Trinity”, seemed to be the one. A core group of Jamaicans believed Selassie was the “Living God
of Abraham and Isaac/ He Whose Name Should Not Be Spoken.” They took on his original
name and called themselves Rastafarians or Rastas.
Emperor Selassie was not a Rastafarian. He was a devout Christian. It’s not clear what
he thought about this religion and its focus on him. An incident is told about a group of Rastas
who went to his palace in Ethiopia to honor him. A palace official told them to “go away.” This
did not dampen their faith. It only served to strengthen it because they were convinced that God
is not supposed to know He is God. When the world media reported the Emperor’s death, Rastas
believe this was a trick to undermine their faith. Their devotion to Selassie led them to believe
that he did not die. He now had taken on “perfect” or eternal flesh and with his wife, Empress
Menen, he sits atop Mt. Zion in Israel, waiting for judgment day.
Rastas use the Bible for guidance. They invite all peoples of the world to repent and
accept Jah (a shortened form of Jehovah). “Babylon” symbolizes the white political power
structure that has terr...
... middle of paper ...
...or cutting of hair. Their nappy tresses were allowed to mat and twine themselves into
ropy “dread locks.” This hair style was called “dread locks” to mock the non-believers aversion
to their appearance. The way the hair grows has come to represent rebellion against the system
and the “proper” way to wear hair.
Basically, Rastafarians have these core beliefs. The first one is that God is spirit and that this
spirit is represented in Emperor Selassie. The Emperor is black and a descendent, as Christ is, of
the family of King David. This family’s shemetic or dark-skinned physical characteristics are
misrepresented in European art. Blacks throughout the world have been denied the joy and
dignity of knowing how Jesus and Mary really looked. Jesus and Mary were black. A white
messiah coming in the past or future is a white myth. Their redeemer is black.
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