Is the Rastafarian a Christian?
In order to understand the concept or the culture called of Rastafari, one must analyze the word in two contexts. The first context is the birth of the movement in Jamaica, and the second context is the spiritual vision of the movement.
The Rastafari movement
The Rastafari movement is an Abrahamic religion. Abrahamic religion mainly describes Judaism, Christianity and Islam, whose holy books are the Tanakh, the Bible and the Koran. They evoke Abraham, an expression which appeared around 1950 in Islamic studies to describe the religion of Abraham as it is conceived in Islam and in the three religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The movement in Jamaica
Rastafari developed in Jamaica around the 1930’s, after a political crisis. Depression hit the heart of the economy in Jamaica which resulted in strong drops in the prices of sugar and banana. During that era, unemployment skyrocketed which triggered a movement to call for a return to Africa. Old free Jamaicans who wanted to escape the crisis used the coronation of the Emperor Haile Selassie in 1930 as a way to join a movement with him as the figure head. These men were seeking a living role model, a political figure who could resemble Jesus or God to fight the oppressive system in place in Jamaica at the time.
The spiritual vision of the movement
The spiritual context of the movement begins with the birth of the Nazirs, or Nazirites or Nazarians, who are people, according to the Hebraic Bible, making a wish to become ascetic. What is ascetism?
Ascetism is a voluntary discipline of the body and mind reaching for perfection, as a way to renounce to the abnegations of the earthly existence.
The Nazir is also a person who devotes himself/herself to God during a determined period, by engaging himself/herself to remain in a state of purity. In the book of Numbers (Numbers 6: 1-21), the law is specified for the Nazirs: Yaweh says to Moses- if a man or a woman formulates the wish to be a Nazir to honor the Eterna, he will abstain from wine and alcoholic beverages, he will not drink vinegar or alcoholic vinegar, he will not eat grapes, nor raisins, he will not shave his head, during those days which he has set apart for Yaweh, he will not approach a dead person”.
Why do some Rastas use marijuana?
Rastas who smoke marijuana do not abuse it. It is not a drug and they use the plant to a spiritual and sacred end to exalt their conscience to a superior rhythm to the average human conscience which remains a basic and bestial conscience. Since 1,500 to 2,000 years B.C., the first humans of the ancient word already used marijuana for spiritual ends. Marijuana is rich in resin. That resin contains millions of temporal energy which can grow the consumer’s conscience who smokes daily. Imagine a world, or art without marijuana consumers. There would be no rhythm, no heart, no sense without marijuana consumers in the world and in art. Imagine reggae without the birth of Robert Nesta Marley, a man who spent his adult life smoking two to three joints daily and who left us inspirational albums. The greatest thinkers, the greatest philosophers of Africa or ancient Greece were marijuana smokers. Humans smoke because they need carbon in the brain. Carbon is at the heart of technology- an electric appliance could not function without carbon. It is as if man was an electric appliance who smokes to find carbon to elevate his or her spirit towards all things divine.
How does one become a Rasta?
One does not become a Rasta by growing dreads, by smoking marijuana or by listening to One Love by Bob Marley. Becoming a Rasta is a personal sacrifice. Being a Rasta means against a system of exploitation in this world and being for God. God is against the system which currently rules the world, this system which creates money which then creates misery and wars to destroy all sacred aspects of the planet. One is not born a Rasta. It takes a lot of integrity and spirituality to devote oneself entirely to God.
The Rasta and politics
Rastas since the foundation of the movement in 1930, or with the birth of the Nasirs, never defended political classes which dominate the state system of conscience which we currently live under. Political parties of Black countries always used the notoriety of Rastas to grow their political profile, or found a way to corrupt the Rastas by using the image of the Rasta as a violent being who abuses marijuana. They also used the image of the Rastas to launch peace or political campaigns. Nowadays, a few people identify themselves to the Rastafari movement and hold high political or social posts. If these people are not strong spiritually, they run the risk to be thought controlled by society and political classes.
Has Rastafarianism become a global culture?
Through reggae music, which is a 4/4 music form derived from the blues and the use of marijuana as a plant and symbol. The Rastafari has become a global movement. Many world renowned musicians such as Bob, Peter, Lucky, Jimmy, and Isaac, among a long list, identified themselves to the Rastafari movement. It gives great power to the movement. Now there are big music festivals across the planet which list artists who identify themselves to the Rastafari movement. There are also many industries which manufacture products to conform to the Rastafari culture. Even tourists travel nowadays to bask in the Rasta culture in Jamaica or Haiti.
The Rastafari movement in Haiti
In Haiti, the movement was created since before 1804`with the arrival of a slave on the island who was named Detty Bookman. Bookman was an expat slave from Jamaica. He had dreads, and was a voodoo priest who used marijuana to spiritual ends. Bookman taught the slaves to read and write in Jamaica. His master sold him to a French colon. When Bookman arrived in Haiti, he began to practice ceremonies of spiritual rituals and smoked marijuana with the slaves. He used to tell the slaves they should rebel against the White colons, which triggered the fight for Haitian independence. The song Buffalo Soldier by Bob Marley and the Wailers described Bookman’s identity as a warrior who brought freedom and freedom of expression in the sugar cane plantations.
Jah Rastafarian !
Dieu le Premier Rasta!
Poete, Musicien, Filmmaker
Translated by Monica Artshack