A Brief History of Rastafari

By Rolling Up

The roots of Rastafarianism can be traced back to the 18th century, when Ethiopianism and other movements started in Africa. It was a political and religious movement that began in Jamaica in the 1930s by Haile Selassie and adopted by many groups around the globe. 


Rastas beliefs are monotheistic, meaning a belief in a single god, referred to as Jah who resides in each individual. Early Rastafarianism centered around black power and deposing white rule but it quickly evolved into peaceful principles to equality in the texts of the Bible. In the 1960s, global awareness of Rastafarianism spread throughout the globe. Bob Marley and Peter Tosh symbolized the culture in their reggae music which led to a greater awareness of the culture. 


Stereotyping has caused everyone with dreadlocks to be viewed as Rastafarian. Rastas believe that one should not cut their hair because it is where their strength lies. Dreadlocks form naturally over time. It was inspired by the Nazarites in the Bible. Dreadlocks have become increasingly popular and there are many reasons for wearing them. 


Bob Marley has become one of the most influential people to bring the Rastafarian culture into the mainstream with his music and philosophy. Bob Marley didn’t believe that marijuana was to be used recreationally, but rather as a holy rite. He strongly believed that marijuana opened up the spiritual door to creativity, which inspired him to make music. 


The role of cannabis has played a tremendous role in Rastafarian culture. Rastas believe in living close with nature. Ideally, they are vegetarian and grow their own food. The purpose is to maintain a clean body and mind. They don’t believe in consuming coffee or cigarettes and see cannabis as a form of worship. It has been used to aid meditation, gain wisdom, and used as a sacrament. It was first used in the culture in the late 1800s by indentured East Indians who were brought to Jamaica to work after slavery ended. Jamaica had the perfect climate to grow bountifuls of marijuana. 


Rastafarianism is still alive and strong today. The island welcomes many visitors who are looking to learn more about the culture and fascinating religion. Although not a large group, 100,000 approximately, its influence has spread beyond its followers. 

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