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Sometimes written as Ras Tafari, Rastafarianism is an Afrocentric religion founded in Jamaica in 1930, but based on a movement that began in the 1920s.

Rastafarianism began as a politico-religious movement among the black population of Kingston, Jamaica, through the teachings of Marcus Garvey, who preached that Africans were the true Israelites, who had been exiled to Jamaica and other parts of the world. Speaking to a people who were living in poverty and depression, dealing with racism and class discrimination, he encouraged pride in being black, working to reverse the negative worldview that hundreds of years of enslavement had ingrained in the minds of black Jamaicans.

Heavily influenced by Judaism and Christianity, Rastafarians believe that blacks are God's chosen people. Garvey is considered to have been a second John the Baptist when he prophesied, in 1927, "Look to Africa, for there a king shall be crowned."

In 1930, Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned emperor of Ethiopia, ruling until 1974, when he was overthrown by a Marxist dictator. Upon his coronation, he took the name Haile Selassie, which meant "Might of the Trinity." He also claimed the titles, "Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah," "Elect of God," and "King of the Kings of Ethiopia."

Rastafarians worship Ras Tafari as the Messiah who had been predicted by Marcus Garvey, and a fulfillment of Revelation 5:5 and Ezekiel 28:25. Also known as Rastas, Rastafarians also believe that Ras Tafari's coronation was an indication that their time of exile was over, and their return to Africa would soon begin.

Marcus Garvey's opinion of Selassie was not so reverent, however. He regarded him as incompetent, and in collusion with white oppressors after he had been defeated by the Italians, and accepted assistance from the British to regain his throne.

Haile Selassie himself denied any status as divine. An Ethiopian Orthodox Christian, Selassie said that he had been made aware that he was regarded as divine by Rastafarians, and denied his divinity. In a 1967 radio interview, he spoke of having met certain Rastafarians, saying, "I told them clearly that I am a man, that I am mortal, and that I will be replaced by the oncoming generation, and that they should never make a mistake in assuming or pretending that a human being is emanated from a deity."

His denial did not deter Rastafarians from regarding him as divine. Neither did his death in 1975.

An early leader of the Rastafarian movement, Leonard Howell, taught hatred for the white race, the superiority of the black race, revenge on whites for their wickedness, the overthrow of the government of Jamaica, preparation for a return to Africa, and that Emperor Haile Selassie is the Supreme Being and the only ruler of black people. As the Rastafarian movement progressed, many of these principles were abandoned.

On April 21, 1966, Selassie visited Jamaica, and encouraged Rastafarians to liberate Jamaica before immigrating to Africa. Today, April 21 is a Rastafarian holiday.

Rastafarians believe in the Judeo-Christian God, whom they refer to as Jah. They believe that Jah was manifest on earth as Jesus, whom they believe to have been black, and again as Emperor Haile Selassie. They believe that Selassie's death was a hoax and that he lives in protection until the Day of Judgment.

Rastafarians do not believe in an afterlife, but look to Africa, as Zion, to be heaven on earth. True Rastas are immortal, which they refer to as everliving.

A central concept in Rastafarianism is Babylon, which is a reference to the white power structure of Europe and the Americas. Rastas vow to resist Babylon, which they equate with greed, which is contrasted with the humble simplicity of the Rastas.

Chief rituals in Rastafarianism are Reasonings, which are an informal gathering that involves marijuana and discussion, and Nyabingi, which is a festival involving drumming and dance. Most Rastas are vegetarians or vegans, and many Rastas wear their hair in dreadlocks, which they base on the biblical command not to cut one's hair. Dreadlocks are also viewed as being symbolic of a lion's mane, representing strength, Ethiopia, and the Lion of Judah.

Today, Rastafarians are the most identifiable indigenous movement in Jamaica. Most Rastas are male, working-class, former Christians. Nevertheless, Rastas make up a relatively small percentage of Jamaicans, most of whom are Protestants.

The movement also has members elsewhere in the Caribbean, in Britain, France and other countries of Western Europe, and North America. They are found in small numbers in parts of Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. The movement has even attracted some members from other races, including the white race.

Topics related to Rastafarianism, the Rastafari movement or Rastas are on topic here.



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