The Rastafari movement is a monotheistic, Abrahamic, new religious
movement that arose in a Christian culture in Jamaica in the 1930s. Its
adherents, who worship Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia,
former Emperor of Ethiopia
(1930-1936 and 1941-1974), as the Second Advent, are known as Rastafarians, or
Rastas. The movement is sometimes referred to as "Rastafarianism", but this term
is considered derogatory and offensive by some Rastas, who dislike being
labelled as an "ism".
Rastafari is not a highly organized religion; it is a movement and an
ideology. Many Rastas say that it is not a "religion" at all, but a "Way of
Life" . Most Rastas do not
claim any sect or denomination, and thus encourage one another to find faith and
inspiration within themselves, although some do identify strongly with one of
the "mansions of Rastafari" — the three most
prominent of these being the Nyahbinghi, the Bobo Ashanti and the
Twelve Tribes of Israel.
The name Rastafari is taken from Ras Tafari, the pre-regnal title of Haile
Selassie I, composed of Amharic Ras (literally "Head," an
Ethiopian title equivalent to Duke), and
Haile Selassie's pre-regnal given name, Tafari. Rastafari are generally
distinguished for asserting the doctrine that Haile Selassie I, the former, and
of Ethiopia, is another incarnation of the Christian God, called Jah. They see Haile
Selassie I as Jah or Jah Rastafari, who is the second
coming of Jesus Christ onto the Earth.
Rastas say that Jesus Christ was black, and that white Christian society (or
Babylon) has commonly depicted him as white for centuries in order to suppress
the truth and gain world dominion over all peoples.
The Rastafari movement encompasses themes such as the spiritual use of cannabis and the rejection of
western society (called Babylon, in
reference more to the metaphoric Babylon of Christianity than to the
historical Mesopotamian city-state). It proclaims Africa (also "Zion") as the original birthplace of
mankind, and embraces various Afrocentric social and political aspirations such
as the sociopolitical views and teachings of Jamaican publicist, organizer, and
black nationalist Marcus Garvey (also often regarded as a
Today, awareness of the Rastafari movement has spread throughout much of the
world, largely through interest generated by reggae music—most notably, that of Jamaican
singer/songwriter Bob Marley.
By 1997, there were around one million Rastafari faithful worldwide. About five to ten
percent of Jamaicans identify themselves as Rastafari.