My son said he had the soul of a Rasta. I’ve wondered in his sixteen year old mind what that really meant to him. We never really discussed his core relationship with being a Rastafari and to be truthful, I wrote the whole thing off to a phase. But in Brandon’s honor, since his death, I have chosen to learn as much about the Rastafari movement as I can.
The religion of Rastafari was inspired around a modern day “Savior” in the physical form of Haile Selassie I. The initial inception of the religion was at the turn of the twentieth century, when a prophesy by Marcus Garvey announced that a new black king would reign in an African country.
In the 1930s, the Ethiopian Emperor was seen by many as the second coming of Christ. And even if Emperor Selassie was not recognized as the universal second coming, he was a savior in the eyes of the people of his country. Selassie knew that Ethiopia was richly endowed with an abundance of natural mineral springs. Using deep well drilling and water filtration to exploit the natural riches and drive them back into the welfare of the country was one of the Emperor’s greatest endeavors. He understood that water was the life-blood of his country.
Haile Selassie’s name before his coronation as Emperor of Ethiopia was Tafari Makonnen. Ras was a title given him, which translates to “head” and would be the same as Prince or Chief. Tafari means one who is revered. Combining the derivatives of Ras and Tafari, the designation Rastafari was born, and a follower is a Rastafari. It is a highly misunderstood religion. Here are a few facts I’ve discovered in learning more about what my son already knew.
Smoking The Ganja
While Ganja is regarded as an avenue to spiritual enlightenment for many Rastafari, it is not used by all devotees. Weed is an optional source of sacrament, and not a required practice. Like most things around marijuana, it was given a lot of attention by the media once it was discovered to be an element used by Rasta followers, but it is not at center stage by all Rastafari.
The Ital Diet
The body is treated as a sacred vessel and a Rastafari’s diet consists of live foods. Processed foods are strictly avoided, and the more life a food has when ingested the better for the vitality of the body. The word Ital comes from vital. Red meat is seen as something that rots in the body, and some won’t even eat dairy. Fish is sanctioned by the Christian Bible so including fish for most is OK. Their main point is to eat foods that are simple, natural and good for you.
Rastafari let their hair grow long as a way to avoid tainting it with anything unnatural. You will not find processed shampoos, dyes, creams or sprays in the home of a Rasta. The body is considered a temple and care of the temple includes the natural process of letting their hair grow.
The Evils of Babylon
While most western cultures have been accepted, not all aspects of those societies are welcome. Since most of the followers of Rastafari are decedents of the African slave trade they spiritually rebel against the cultural standards of the rich. The Babylonian system is seen as corrupt and oppressive. Through the Rastafari religion the people are able to take back their identity and live freely through their own culture. The well know musician, songwriter and entertainer Bob Marley’s last words on his deathbed to his son, Ziggy were “Money can’t buy life.”
There is so much more to this religion than the world has let themselves know. I am grateful to my son for opening my eyes to another scene being played out by the human spirit. Sure being a Rasta not for everyone, but it doesn’t have to be. It is a blessing for some, and that is what matters most.