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I and I: Rastafari - an introduction (WIP)


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Emperor Haile Selassie (Basquiat) | Reggae art, Rastafari art, Art



"We wish to recall here the spirit of tolerance shown by Our Lord Jesus Christ when He gave forgiveness to all including those that crucified Him."

Haile Selassie I, Address to the World Evangelical Congress in Berlin (28 October 1966)


An OOC preamble: thank you for stopping by this thread. I must adress first and foremost that I am neither african/afro-descendant nor Rastafari IRL, nor do I have the personal cultural or personal understanding of the finer aspects of these beliefs. This is a resource compiled from my own personal reading in exploring Rastafari beliefs through and for Roleplay. I don't mean to misrepresent or pontificate, and responses are open to objections, corrections and healthy conversation about religion if desired.



Introduction: a brief history and definitions of Rastafari


Rastafari is a messianic, millenarian, decentralized abrahamic religion and social movement born in Jamaica during the 1930s, with Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia as its central figure. Being decentralized, beliefs may vary, but some beliefs throughout the movement's history have included (among others): pan-africanism, black supremacism, orthodoxy (f.e. literal readings of the Old Testament), anti-colonialism (White Supremacy), anti-globalization, belief in the idea of the divinity of man ("God is man and man is God"), mysticism, ecologism and use of cannabis.


Rastafari is not part of any Christian denomination per se even if it holds many similar views. Out of the major abrahamic religions it is generally most closely related to Judaism. Many Rastafari claim that the Twelve Tribes of Israel were black, and particularly traditional Rastafari could be described as an african form of Zionism.


Many of these core beliefs are contained in the two main commandments of Rastafari: "Love of God and love of neighbor".


messianic religion: any religion (mainly Abrahamic) that believes in a 'Messiah', or a central figure usually annointed by God (sometimes God in human form!) to lead or liberate a people. In early Rastafari the figure of Emperor Selassie I was widely believed to be a Messiah bringing liberation to the African diaspora (descendants of africans in other countries, particularly those descended from slavery). After his death, there was a split in the belief of Emperor Selassie I as a Messiah, but even those who contest this still regard the Emperor very highly as a divine prophet or a religious leader of tremendous importance and divinity.


millenarian: believing in a Judgement Day. For Rastafari, this is often expected to represent the day that Babylon falls and the chosen ones rise from the upheaval. More on Babylon below.


decentralized religion: meaning it has no central office or teachings. Rastafari have no central figures like the Pope in Catholicism, for example.


abrahamic religion: Religions descended from the God that revealed itself to Abraham, be it through lineage or spirituality. Christianity, Judaism and Islam are the major Abrahamic religions. They share monotheistic belief in God, who is creator, judge, ruler and forgiver. Rastafari refer to the Abrahamic God ("Jehovah" as Jah).


Marcus Garvey


Rastafari has its roots in the philosophy of Marcus Garvey. Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born on the 17th of August 1887, in Jamaica. His teachings of black self empowerment are credited as being the sources behind the founding of the religion. Although Marcus Garvey never actually followed Rastafari or believed in it, he is considered to be one of the religion's prophets, because it was his ideologies that eventually grew into Rastafari. He believed that all black people should return to their rightful homeland Africa (in Rastafari often spoken of as repatriation), and was heavily involved in promoting the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) which he founded in 1914.


Many people believe that what Marcus Garvey said in 1920, ("Look to Africa, when a black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is at hand"), came true in 1930, when Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned the new Emperor of Ethiopia, and became known as Emperor Haile Selassie I. 


Haile Selassie I


Rastafarians use Biblical names such as Lord of Lords, King of Kings and Conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah for Haile Selassie. These terms had been used throughout history to describe Ethiopian Emperors, but with the crowning of Haile Selassie I they were seen as evidence that supported his divine status.


Many Rastafarians trace Haile Selassie's lineage back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. They believe that the Queen of Sheba's visit to King Solomon found in the Book of Kings (1 Kings 10:1-13) provides further proof of the divinity of Haile Selassie I.


  • Rastafarians believe that King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba had sex during the visit, which led to the conception of a child who was in the same line of descendents as Haile Selassie I.
  • To many Rastafarians this shows the divine nature of Haile Selassie, as Haile Selassie is therefore related to Solomon's father King David and therefore to Jesus.


Emperor Selassie himself was a Christian and rejected all claims of divinity himself, admitting that he was in fact a mortal man, but many Rastafari only saw that as proof of his humbleness and purity of soul.



Rastafarians regard 'Ethiopia' as their homeland and believe they will eventually return. During periods of colonisation Africans were divided up and sent to destinations throughout the world, in most cases as slaves to whites. This is why many Africans found themselves in Jamaica and why it is regarded by many Rastafarians as hell.


'Ethiopia', the homeland, was seen as a place of fond memories of freedom and life prior to oppression. This meant it eventually became regarded as heaven. To develop this belief Rastafarians refer to Psalm 137 v. 1:


By the Rivers of Babylon we sat down; there we wept when we remembered Zion.

- Psalm 137

Zion and Babylon


Throughout the years the concepts of Zion and Babylon have evolved to represent different things, as Rastafari as a religion of the oppressed has very effectively used basic symbolism to capture a lot of meaning and feeling.


In Rastafari, "Zion" stands for a utopian place of unity, peace and freedom, as opposed to "Babylon", the oppressing and exploiting system of the materialistic modern world and a place of evil. It proclaims Zion, as reference to Ethiopia, the original birthplace of humankind, and from the beginning of the movement calls to repatriation to Zion, the Promised Land and Heaven on Earth. Some Rastafari believe themselves to represent the real Children of Israel in modern times, and their goal is to repatriate to Ethiopia, or to Zion, referring to the Jewish held captive in the ancient city of Babylon.


Babylon represents the antithesis to Zion, it's the Status Quo or the Establishment, in general terms. It was historically the White colonial world, but the concept has now extended itself to generally encompass globalized capitalist consumerist society. Babylon is actively wicked and oppressive, and seeks to chain those living within it and keep them from spiritual, personal and material development. The police is often cited as an institution in service of Babylon.



Work In Progress, come again soon!



Edited by Koko
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