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Dreadlocks, Ganja and Reggae: What is Rastafarianism?

The foundations and beliefs of the Rastafarian culture.

Since the mid seventies a reggae artist by the name of Bob Marley has introduced the sound of Reggae music to the western world. Accompanying his music was his long uncut braid-like hair (dreadlocks) and the strong scent of burning ganja (marijuana) which is an integral part of the full picture of Rastafarianism.

Many people are of the impression that there is little more to Rastafarianism than smoking weed and growing your hair into tangled locks. This however is not the case.

Interestingly enough, the Rastafarian religion draws its central belief system from the Christian bible. They believe that the bible has been incorrectly translated from its Aramaic roots and therefore contains mistakes. A Rasta believes that one can use experience and intuition to discern the truth and interpret the words in the bible correctly.

The belief System

At the core of the Rastafarian belief system is the doctrine that black people are the descendants of the early Israelites and were exiled because of their transgressions against God. Their salvation will come through Haile Selassie I (the last crowned black Emperor of Ethiopia) who, they believe, is God and their savior, the incarnation of Jah -or Jehovah. Haile Selassie I is seen as the reincarnation of Christ, the one who will bring them to the Land of freedom, to Africa. For them, Africa and, more precisely Ethiopia, is the home of all Black people, the place where they can be saved. This salvation comes through repatriation. The meaning applied to repatriation varies among those who are believers. For some, it means a physical return to Africa; others, however, think that the return to Africa does not need to be a physical return; most important is to become aware of their African identity, to re-establish their identity undermined by the different kinds of power, and to immediately start changing their reality right where they are now.

Although they believe in reincarnation they are not overly concerned with the after life, as salvation happens here in their search for their home, in the search for Africa which is for them associated with heaven, while Babylon (that is the place of the white man, the white man’s society) is associated with hell.

Dreadlocks and Identity

Growing one’s hair into dreadlocks is also a belief that stems from the bible. The dread locks are one of the ways Rastafarians use to emphasize their identity. It is related to the lions and inspired in the bible. Cutting one’s locks is strictly prohibited in the Rasta culture hence some Rastafarians have hair that is past their waist. To be a Rasta is to live in accordance with the laws of nature, in other words is to live in an African way.In their diet they avoid meat, and above all, pork, alcohol, and food of unknown sources.

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User Comments
  1. Eli

    On August 30, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    it’s not rastafarianism… rastas believe the term is -ism is a bad thing cuz it is in relation of schism.

  2. Judy Sheldon

    On October 21, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    This is an interesting piece. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Brooklyn B

    On December 6, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    thats right fire bun all ism’s and schisms
    and being a rastfarian is a lifestyle NOT a religion


  4. Aidonia's Wife

    On December 7, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Rastafarianism IS a Religion yet it is also a lifestyle… A religious lifestyle so to speak…..

  5. Carm

    On January 9, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Question? Can a rasta be with someone who is not rasta?

  6. zulu-man

    On January 15, 2008 at 10:03 am

    ya man

  7. geno

    On January 20, 2008 at 10:05 am

    rasta is peace and love and power

  8. polar

    On January 22, 2008 at 3:51 am

    mi luv all mi read on this. pease n luv to all true RASTAS

  9. Gaynelle

    On February 4, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Red stands for the blood of martyrs. Red to the ism. RASTAFARI STYLE

  10. dahviaI

    On February 13, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    rastas live in a world of non rasta so to commune with others is only natural..
    Livity is only a theory to Babylon and not really understood so “religion” is the closest thing for them to say..where there is no overstanding there is to be name calling.. no offense from the ignorant shall turn our heads from the truth.. Jah is jah and Rastafari is HIMself.. those who seek understanding should not be rebuffed but educated into truth.. livity and sees too much the rasta lion roar and the smoke and locks only and being associated with badness is not our aim nor destiny…good over evil every time.. where is the one love?
    “we prefer the title RastafarI to disassociate ourselves from organized religion (isms and schisms) and to emphasize the unity and natural bonding with each other, Jah and the planet and all the plants and animals and natural elements of the world (The capital I)”
    peace to all

  11. mrbildo

    On March 15, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    A very informative article. I must stress however how important it is that a rastafari will never call himself “rastafarian” the suffix “ian” brings about isms, ists, and various other labels we apply to ourselves. Rastafari use the suffix “I” in place in many cases. Rastafari has huge emphasis on the individual (IandI). Rastafari also has no structure, i.e it is not an organised religion, there are no priests or ceremonies. This is another reason the “ian” suffix is avoided.

  12. yael

    On March 16, 2008 at 6:49 am

    crazy article, enjoyed it

  13. AL

    On March 22, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    and let man partake and use of all SEED bearing plants. ! now what? It’s not what you put in your mouth but what comes out of it. Thank you Have A Good Day.

  14. golden clay

    On April 1, 2008 at 8:57 am

    whats burn dem.uganda

  15. Danielle Almonism

    On May 1, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I want to be jamaican so bad my mother is rastafarian but im only it by like 39 percent i love all jamaicans

  16. Understand

    On May 14, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Do u mean 50% Danielle?… lmao.

  17. Faith

    On June 25, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    I’m engage to someone whom claim to be rasta. States we must have the same believes always judges my youth states that rasta means I must give up my faith but we have been having sex without the blessing from the creator so I ask what this all about and whats the laws on wedding, marriage, rearing of the youths, sex, do I have to give up my faith when this relationship was build in sin

  18. Brandy

    On July 29, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Unfortunately there are very few true Rastafarians left in Jamaica. The “Rent a Dreds” have caused the loss of lots of respect for the Rastas. A true Rasta is a family man, conservationalist, pure in body and spirit, doesn’t drink alcohol, and tries to be a good example to all people. I hope their culture never dies out but there are fewer and fewer true Rastas. I am a Jamaican-American citizen and have lived in Jamaica many years.

  19. TC

    On August 13, 2008 at 10:17 am

    I believe and practice Rastafari…

    Rastafari isn’t a religion that is amongst one race… Such as Jamaican or African…

    Nor is it a religion built on what sexual preference you have…

    There are people who hail up being a Rasta but str8 up Mash down certain individuals that give praise to the most high.

    They are the ones who never increase in there faith!!!!

    Rastafari is against the oppression of all people of all kinds… no matter what your trod is…

    Any soul giving praise to the most high is worthy of being a rasta.

    Picking and choosing who Deserves the most high love is not of Rastafari!!!

    That is turning the love from Rastafari to there own vanity and pride for fear of the emperor or empress standing next to them.

    Rastafari is 1 love!!!! NOT A LOVE OF DIFFERENT SEXES OR PREFERENCES!!!!

  20. jake

    On August 28, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    can you be white and still be a rasta

  21. LoVelOvE

    On September 22, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    wow. thanks! very nicely written…and very helpful. i’ve been wondering about this. so yeah. thanks.

  22. wanting to know

    On September 24, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    not to be like i know everything but some of your information is not quite the truth it sounds like you are trying to make Rasa as a black thing when it isnt Haile Selassiei is not GOD he is the profit and red green and gold stands for RED the blood of man kind GREEN the lush vegetation of the earth GOLD the son and the all mighty so you might want to watch how you word things!!!!!

  23. myron a bennett .ja. wi

    On September 26, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    very informative and helpful

  24. midnniht

    On October 2, 2008 at 12:56 am

    I could find the word ‘livity’ in the dictionary. What exacly does it mean???

  25. midnniht

    On October 2, 2008 at 12:59 am


    I ‘could not’ find the word ‘livaty’ in the dictionary. what does it mean?

  26. t-more

    On October 2, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    blesinz un2 u ol hu blv in da most high. lets trod on both to our promised land.

  27. mr.tagasa

    On October 12, 2008 at 8:53 am

    i love dreads but i dont considered my self as a rasta

  28. arianna

    On November 6, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    so what exactly do the dreads mean? doesnt it have something to do with well “dread”?

  29. tonylove24

    On November 22, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    dose a true rasta sell weed and make $ off it to kids and black adults also not take care of is family (children). is it also ture they cant not work for the system (or i would like to call normal jobs). and abuse the herb like no 2morro.

  30. collieman

    On December 9, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Rastafari changed my life thanks and praise to the most high Jah. life is one love.Bless all of Humanity and Jah help them who only value vanity.

  31. midnniht

    On December 13, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Does anyone know what “Livity” Means?? I asked the question above but no one gave me an answer. I hear Rastafarians use the word a lot and sure enouth it has something to do with praising Jah.
    I just was not able to find the word in any dictionary. any clue???

    Blessings yea!

  32. Kwan

    On December 15, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    PEACE AND LOVE TO ALL!!! Let your thoughts be free!!

  33. I-DWANE

    On January 31, 2009 at 7:10 pm


  34. Miss Katie +& Miss Alix

    On February 9, 2009 at 5:02 am

  35. Darian

    On February 15, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    “Livity” simply means way of life…

  36. senzi i

    On February 22, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    every1 is running around talking about the end of days soon an all this and dat and yet they have them belly full and they spending like no other….yet the rastafari is denied work for staying true to christ’s kingdom….as this was foretold in revalation.JAH lives Rejoice and live it up….iNi love the most high and praise him a king of kings conquering lion of the tribe of judah as also foretold….shall those who see be blind in the end of days and those that are blind see the truth. the devil is in the church acting as a shepard(pastor) and teacher as he was in the days of Jesus.Lying to the people about the coming suffering lamb messiah of JAH. and even as new jerusalem sets as a glorious kingdom of christ reign foriver more in inity….the old dragon is lying to the very elected.roman washed christianity.

  37. senzi i

    On February 22, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    christ in his kingly character….yess i

  38. shantal

    On March 25, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    it oa o.k but it does not it does not give info like y they do not eat pork and other meat

  39. ahmed

    On March 25, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    i’m personally a 16 year old Muslim living in America, and therefore don’t associate myself with RastafarI as a religion, however as a lifestyle it is present in my life. Allah, God, Jah, Yaweh, any names you have for your God,
    let him live in all of you

    -Salaam (peace)


    On March 30, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    i love ragga muzik so much.. i love the beat and the contents of their song!it gives me peace of mind and inspires me to move on despite of d pains ive experienced because i know JAH would never let me down!

  41. alexis scott

    On April 9, 2009 at 10:12 am

    hey hey i have a rasta boyfriend ans trying to find out how there belief in relationships differ from ours

  42. christafari

    On April 28, 2009 at 9:40 am

    rasta is just a fashion

  43. tafa

    On April 28, 2009 at 9:43 am

    am a christian!!!!!!!!!dont ever get confused with your belief,. jesus is the only way to heaven,. thats it

  44. JL

    On May 20, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Tafa, minds are like parachutes; they only function when they are open!

  45. rae rie

    On May 22, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    i am not a rasta, becasue i was not born a rasta.i smoke the herb though, but did long before i knew of the rasta ways man. i am very interested in learning about rastafarianism, and i have been. i love bob marley and his music and believe it was a testement of his fait the the ratsa.

  46. Riggs

    On June 25, 2009 at 6:57 pm


  47. cmin

    On July 14, 2009 at 8:19 am

    how do i become a rasta????? ya man

  48. MASHAU F

    On July 25, 2009 at 4:00 am


  49. Marley lover

    On August 7, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    hey first of all the hole christians the only way statement that was a little harsh if that is what you believe then why are you looking up this site, second this is a way of love. how can you down that.
    i have a question pple say that im rastafari because i smoke the herb and i have bob marley tattooed on my back i also know pritty much every song bob wrote. i beleive his words and quote him often. my question is to all of you that are rastafari, do you follow all the rules?, no alcohol, no preservatives, no piercing/ tattoos, no pork, no flying, no cutting your hair ect…. to be a rasta do you need to follow everything?
    another thing do you beleive that Haile Selassiei is the savior (jesus) do we not over look that bob marley was baptised into another religion and found jesus.
    where im going is not that rasta is not true i feel that rasta is a clean living and love for one another no matter what. i also feel that just like any other group or religion or following that they evolve and they have choices to make. all of the rules are guidlines. is this right or am i way off. ( i have studied rasta alot seeing as i love bob marley, and i wanted to understand.)
    when life gets to be too much my dad always reminds me you need to live rasta you are getting caught up in worldly problems.

  50. American Mighty

    On October 13, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Marley lover wrote: \”…you beleive that Haile Selassiei is the savior (jesus) do we not over look that bob marley was baptised into another religion and found jesus.\”

    My understanding is that Rastafari believe that Haile Selassie I IS Jesus–that it was He (I and I) who was born in the manger in Nazareth and He (I and I) again who ruled in Ethiopia and that He (I and I) shall come yet again for one final time, as portrayed in Revelation. So Bob believed that Emperor Selassie I was Himself (Iself) Jesus. So when Bob found Jesus, Bob found Selassie I.

    Big up Jamaica!

  51. tyrone

    On December 4, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, Shelly Ann Fraser, Beeenie Man…………………. to the world we represent. straight

  52. Froggy

    On March 23, 2010 at 9:56 am

    there is no rules in life, do what you wana do, be what you want to be,… remembering all, forgetting nothing….. were are all made up of the same thing (elements eg. Carbon, hydogen and oxygen etc)- 115 orso of these make up the earth the water the trees and the yous and the me’s…. we are born the same and die the same , we should live as 1, but take note, we are not the same… otherwise the world would not be this magical place full of all things great and small. If there was no change, no variation, there’d be no evolution. And i wouldnt be here writing this and you wouldnt be here reading it….So, live life, love it, share it … One love….

    Froggy. A.C.T Australia
    (white, dreadlocks, born catholic, now just a lover of life and everything in it, go day to day enjoying every moment…)

    I guess theres probly another place for my comments. but 1 more..

    Im not blessed into this religeon, but i have taken it onboard and its part of my life, so i am part rastafari…

    Thanks Bob for starting the movment, thanks to everyone else for caring it forward.

  53. colours

    On May 10, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    people, you do realise that bob marley (however awesome he was; and i love his music so no disrespect to the legend) is not the be all and end all of the rasta? just because you listen to his music doesn’t mean you are rasta, and just because he became a christian doesn’t mean that any rasta who loves his music has to follow in his footsteps. personally, i believe that rasta as a religion is different from rasta as a culture and way of life, and while some people may not believe the religious citations of rasta, the principles of not poisoning your body and being against oppression etc. are still valuable concepts

  54. wisdom555

    On May 22, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    I have been an agnostic for awhile and I may start to believe in this religion. I need more research to do but this article was a great start. Thank you. Great information

  55. jamaicangyal

    On September 14, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Why does a Rasta have to cut his hair after viewing the dead?

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