10 Things You Should Know About Rastas

I‘ve met some of the kindest, most welcoming and peaceful people to walk the planet since moving to Jamaica – and they happen to be Rastas. Which got me thinking about Rastafarianism. What is it all about? It is much more than a religion, it’s a social movement, a cultural expression- a way of life. Here are 10 Things You Should Know About Rastas:

1.Rastas use Marijuana to  increase spiritual enlightenment.

Three Rasta Men
Marijuana is not thought of as a drug in Rastafarianism, instead it is described as the wisdom weed or the holy herb. The herb is used to help enlighten the mind to reason the ways of the world. The herb is considered an important ritual.


2. Dreadlocks are not just a fashion statement.

The wearing of dreadlocks by Rastafarians is spiritual; They shall not make baldness upon their head. Leviticus 21:5. Another belief that led to dreadlocks among Rastas is that locks resemble the main of a lion. Haile Selassie was known as “the conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah”, thus strengthening the connection to Jah.  The lion is often represented in Rasta art, as is Haile Selassie.

3. A Rasta diet is a healthy diet.

Keeping things raw - the Ital way
In Rastafarianism the body is considered a temple and most Rastafarians follow a strict Ital diet which means natural and raw. No meat, no shellfish and no salt. Rastas do not drink alcohol (it’s considered a drug) and do not eat anything that will not nourish the body. Lots of vegetables and pulses are eaten as they are grown from the earth and therefore good.


4. The Rastafari movement began following a prophecy made by Marcus Garvey.

Marcus Garvey Bust, Kingston.
The Rastafarian movement began in Jamaica during the 1930s following a prophecy made by black political activist and leader Marcus Garvey.  Garvey preached “Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned“.  The prophecy was rapidly followed by the crowning of Emperor Haile Selassie in Ethiopia. Rastafarians see this as the fulfilment of Garvey’s prophecy. Haile Selassie is therefore regarded by Rastafarians as the Black Messiah, Jah Rastafari.


5. A name you need to remember: Haile Selassie.

Haile Selassie Painting
The religion takes its name from Haile Selassie’s birth name –  Ras Tafari Makonnen. Haile Selassie is therefore regarded by Rastafarians as the figure of salvation, the Black Messiah, Jah Rastafari. Haile Selassie visited Jamaica on Thursday, 21 April 1966 and this day is observed as an important holy day – grounation day.

6. Rastafarianism is global.

Rasta man in Kingston
You won’t just find Rastas in Jamaica (though about 5% of the population are). The movement has about one million followers all over the world. One love.

7. Bob Marley did not start the Rastafari movement.

Bob Marley Statue, Kingston.
Bob Marley is probably the most recognisable Rasta of all time. His music and lyrics helped spread awareness and understanding of the Rasta way of life and the inequality experienced by black people the world over. However, he did not start the movement.

8. In Rastafari there is no funeral ceremony to mark the end of life.

Rastafarians believe life is eternal and that reincarnation follows death.

9. The traditional music is Nyabingi.

Niyabinghi drums, used by Rastas.
Nyabinghi Drums

Nyabingi music consists of a blend of 19th century gospel music and African drumming (and the occasional guitar).

10. The Rastafarian colours are red, green and gold.

There is much symbolism behind the Rastafarian colours of red, green and gold. Sometimes black is added.  Red signifies the bloodshed of the black community throughout Jamaican history, black the colour of the Africans who initiated Rastafari, gold symbolises the wealth of Ethiopia and green symbolises Jamaica’s vegetation and hope for the eradication of suppression.