If we as tokers have a religion that we can feel a spiritual affinity with, it would have to be the Afro-Caribbean form of worship known as Rastafari. But what do we Northerners actually know about the faith of Bob Marley?
Dreadlocks, reggae, the Lion of Zion, Babylon and smoke that ganja … Right?
Yeah … kinda, sorta. But let’s take a few minutes to flesh things out and learn about the foundation of the sect that reveres cannabis as a sacrament.
Rastafari is a religious and political movement that started in Jamaica in the 1920s and ’30s; it, like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, takes its foundation from the Abrahamic deity of the Old Testament but also maintains an Afrocentric slant and is politically connected at its roots with the teachings of Marcus Garvey. It is a movement centered on the belief that the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Sellassie I was the reincarnation of Christ on Earth – the Second Coming.
The name derives from Selassie’s title, Ras, and first name, Tafari (last name Makonnen), before his coronation as emperor. It is a movement that promotes spiritual growth toward an embodiment of the concept of “Heaven on Earth” known as Zion and eschews all “isms,” especially materialism, oppression of others, and the choice of embracing life’s sensual pleasures instead of maintaining an eye toward spirituality – these things stand in opposition to Zion in the eyes of Rastafari and are known as the embodiment of Babylon (after the location of the Hebrew enslavement in the Bible).
The god of Rastafari belief is called Jah, a Biblical title shortened from Jehovah or Jahweh (think back to the Indiana Jones movies). The Christianity of the Rasta is not that of St. Peter’s Roman Catholicism (or its later Protestant offshoots) but, rather the Ethiopian Coptic Christianity of St. Mark’s Church of Alexandria, founded in the 5th century. The dreadlocks worn by its adherents as a sign of spiritual patience and progress are based in a passage in the Old Testament Book of Numbers (6:1-21), the Vow of the Nazarite – the oath sworn by Samson who wore seven locks upon his head; it involves dietary and ritual restrictions and is an oath of subservience to Jah.
The use of cannabis is a spiritual practice akin to the taking of the Eucharist and is said to aid in penetrating the veil of deception cast over the eyes of humankind by the focus on materialism inherent in the predominant worldview of Babylon. In addition to the ritual ingestion of this plant, which Rastas see as the Biblical Tree of Life, they also engage in sessions of spirited philosophical discussion known as reasonings. The well-known colors of the movement – red, yellow and green are symbolic of the blood that runs through the veins of all humanity, the sun which shines above us all, and the earth upon which we walk together.
Rastafari is often practiced as a deeply personal religion that looks inward for answers to spiritual questions, but there are also groups within it known as the Mansions of Rastafari, the best-known being the Twelve Tribes of Israel, which housed the world-famous prophet Bob Marley. Like any religion, there are fundamental problems within Rastafari, particularly its stance on and treatment of homosexuals in Jamaica, but its transcendent beauty and promise can be heard in this live performance of Bob Marley and The Wailer’s “War” http://bit.ly/1Rirfgs, a song whose lyrics derive from a speech made by Haile Selassie before the United Nations on October 4, 1963.
Burn one down, click that link and soak up the Irie vibes, DGO. One Love!!!
Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected]