Saturday, October 01, 2005

Rastafari-A breakdown

Language As the movement of Rastafarians became more distinct, Rastas inherited and formed their own language. While the widely known fluid dialect of Patois is known–African in rhythm and English in interpretation, Rastas took the diction of Patois and English and formed their own translations, meanings and words. It was necessary for Rastas to use a language that was inclusive, positive and uplifting to the mind. English words connoted backward, negative and often evil thoughts and ideas. Words are living entities and have power by effecting the way one thinks, sees, hears and receives enlightenment. Instead of saying we, our, mine, you and I, Rasta affirms I’n’I, leaving no separation in the identity of things. Instead of saying "understand," Rastas say "overstand," as to not be under anyone’s definitions. Instead of saying "dedicated," Rastas say "livicated," (using the prefix live instead of die). Instead of saying "manifested," Rastas say "I-nifested," to incarnate the I is in everything. Foods are also given new meaning, as "ital," for "vital," means a strictly vegetarian diet, "Inana," is banana, "I-go" is a mango. The I is the spirit of Jah and the spirit of man, and the unification of that divinity. Many Rasta words begin with I and many words also project a positive twist to a word to give it a higher meaning than its regular English comparison instead of "hello," Rastas either say "greetings," or "irie." This language would be called the Kings Iyriac, to distinguish from the British English, which is seen in the culture as Babylonian, and causing all the negative problems in the world.


The role of women in Rastafari has been a complex, yet orderly system of knowing one’s place. Though man is seen as the head of the home, and of his community, women in Rastafari are greatly respected as queens, and their duty is to raise their children and provide a stable community for the men. By teaching health, nutrition, and various elements of life, women contribute greatly to Rasta culture. Though the rules for women seem strict, a Rasta woman has to be able to tell herself apart from the larger society of women in Babylon whose ways, style of dress, and approach to life is all together different. Rasta women realize their potential as queens and honor that title with respect: no short dresses, no pants, no adding chemicals to the hair, and definitely no make up or artificial cosmetic use. Rasta women maintain a sense of identity with nature, their community and their children. The faith requires women to know their place when they are amongst men, while being as wise as any man. In Rasta culture women are not geared into vanity, and are frowned upon when it comes to exploiting their bodies. This exploitation destroys the great potential that women have to become leaders, and becoming closer to God. You can’t travel two roads and expect to get to Jah. You have to travel the narrow road, and for women in Rastafari, this is often not easy. For the temptations of western society that says a woman can dress any way, show her flesh, she can talk any kind of way, and use obscene words to express herself, or she can denounce her community and her children for vanity are misleading concepts that tear the nation apart. The Rasta woman is the holder of the nation, and her awareness of this allows her to live a simple lifestyle while upholding her duties as a woman; she is always revered for that.

It is safe to say that women who recognize Rastafari as their faith do not have to be told what to do, but have learned what works for them. It’s unimaginable that every woman will adhere to every single law of the culture but it is imaginable that Rastafarian women have found a faith that brings them closer to Jah, and binds them to uplifting themselves toward positive I-spirations.


The mainstay of Rastafarian diet has a lot to do with laws that are innately divine to man’s nature. The prohibition of many foods and the strict dietary laws that Rastas are known to have keep in tune with many biblical references to stay clean, healthy and unpolluted. Rastas often use herbs for medicinal purposes, to strengthen, heal and cleanse the body. They refrain from eating red meat, pork, chicken, fish (for some), eggs, cheese, white flour products and processed foods. The purpose is to keep a dietary law that is more in harmony with the Earth. It also is to keep them from digesting any part of blood of animals or their flesh, allowing a more human quality to always be present in man instead of the animal/flesh driven passions that pervade western culture.


Since the early sixties, Jamaica has produced some of the most stellar music and artists in the world. Out of the constant struggle for independence, survival and truth, reggae music emerged--a music that has its roots in R&B, Rock Steady and Mento. However, reggae was a force with which to be reckoned because of its political messages.

Music was seen as a way of staying out of trouble, and not getting caught up in the "rude boy" lifestyle that led to violence, jail or death. The Rasta impact on reggae music would cover a book, but it is clear that the influence of the elders and the teachers of the faith deeply influenced artists who were seeking to distinguish themselves in a business that faded artists out as quickly as they made a hit. For many of these artists, being poor was a daily reality and it became a necessity to address it instead of creating escapist music to deal with it. Rastas, in the early years, were forbidden in many studios and were not allowed to express their creativity. But all that would change as the movement of Rastafari became more appealing to young aspiring singers and musicians, and the voice of Rasta began to take over reggae music.

Rastafarian’s native son, Bob Marley would change the direction in which Reggae was destined to go, and his talent and inspiration created an overwhelming international market that suddenly became interested in Rasta culture, ideology and Jamaica. From the time of Marley’s sudden death in 1981, the world would forever know about Rastafari, and would be intrigued and inspired by reggae and its powerful artistry. The list of artists that contributed to this great music of this unprecedented era include the original Wailers, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, Ras Michael & the Sons of Negus, Yabby You & the Prophets, Michael Rose, Junior Byles, Big Youth, The Abyssinians, The Ethiopians, The Pioneers, Augustus Pablo, The Congos, Lee Scratch Perry, The Mighty Diamonds, Horace Andy, Alton Ellis, Dennis Brown, Prince Far I, U Roy, I Roy, David Jahson, Johnny Clarke, and a host of others whose works and names would fill the books. Reggae music, as a genre, has gone through many phases and changes as the modern era approached, however, the 70s will always be remembered as the "golden era" of the music because of its content, intensely rich and vibrant harmonies, melodies and creative sound. The reggae music of the 1970s was deeply influenced by Rastafari, and remains to this day some of the best work to come out of the island.


The future of Rastafari, like any group, rests on its youth and their distinct relations with their elders. The elders of Rastafari have been the backbone of the culture since its inception, and have led a strong force around the globe teaching the works, mysteries and divine theories of Haile Selassie, Jesus Christ, and most notably, Jah. It’s not important whether one believes in Haile Selassie, as it is important for one to know. Salvation rests in one’s own known destiny with Jah. For Rasta’s sacred forward movement, the elders have always been the most instrumental influence on the young generation and their inspiration to spread the message. Since Rastas don’t consider Rastafari to be a religion, political group, or social campaign, their plight remains illusive, yet straightforward. It is obvious that Rasta culture is no longer a Jamaican ideal, but has now gained international intrigue and followers. Everywhere there are social injustices, there will be a Rastafarian sense of purpose to correct those wrongs through a divine force.

It is also important for Rastas to find their rest and dwelling--a place that they can ultimately raise their youth, protect their elders and have a communal way of life where dependence, self determination and unity are identifiable. It is the ultimate goal to see the total unification of Africa.

To truly identify Rastafari, one should never check the external dress of an individual but s/he should always check for the heart.


  1. Anonymous3:02 PM

    Excellent article.

  2. Anonymous8:12 PM


    This is a really great article. Not only does it provide a lot of useful information, but it's very well written. Thank you.

  3. Anonymous12:51 PM

    This was a very interesting article and I will certainly be passing this on! The role of women has been clearly identified. Would it be possible for you to update to include the role of men.

    Also, (I may be wrong) but my understanding was that Rasta, as a people, were to repartriate to Africa. It would be useful to know how this is being acheived