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Rastafari, also known as Rastafarianism, is a religion that started in Jamaica in the 1930s. Although the faith was marginalised for decades, it became popular worldwide as people became turned on to it through the music of its most famous practitioner, Bob Marley.
Some of the fundamental tenets of Rastafari include:
- The divinity of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (from whose birth name Ras ("Prince") Tafari Makonnen the word Rastafari is derived).
- A vegetarian, no-salt diet (called "ital" by Rastas).
- The sacramental smoking of marijuana (ganja).
Rastafari's more fundamentalist strains can be extremely sexist, racist, moralistic and deeply homophobic. Anti-papism is also widespread, due at least in part to Mussolini's treaty with the Vatican and his war of aggression against Emperor Selassie's Ethiopia. Rastafarians are highly critical of Western society, regarding it as decadent, corrupt and sinful, and describing it as "Babylon", a name which appears in many reggae lyrics. Rastafarianism is also Afrocentric, identifying black Africans, particularly ethnic Ethiopians, as the descendants of the biblical tribes of Israel. Some Rastafarian sects and movements have been explicitly black supremacist,[notes 1] while other Rastas, such as Marley, reject the religion's racial aspects.
In the 1930s, Haile Selassie was the only black(ish) ruler of any significance in all of Africa, from a family that has claimed to be descended from King Solomon through unique interpretations of the Bible. As such, he was pretty much the only choice for the Rastafaris to choose as their mascot. He himself denied his divinity, much to the Rastafaris' chagrin. He was very much mortal, dying at the respectable age of 83… after the people that actually had to live under his boot got fed up with him. Many Rastas refuse to believe he actually died, or that he wasn't the greatest ruler ever.
Bob Marley was a seminal reggae musician, and was largely responsible for the spread of Rastafarianism beyond Jamaica. Marley died from cancer in 1981 at the age of 36. After receiving his diagnosis, he refused the recommended procedure of amputating his cancerous toe, citing his Rastafari faith, which decrees that that which Jah (i.e., Jahweh) has made cannot be undone by man. He also rejected conventional treatment and instead sought treatment from a practitioner of alternative medicine named Josef Issels. He died less than a year later. The Issels treatment involves diet, laetrile, chelation therapy, and the removal of fillings from the patient's teeth. Marley's decision to seek an alternative medicine treatment for his cancer did not come from nowhere, as one of the Rastafarian beliefs is that of seeking "Livity", a concept that is comparable to vitalism.
- Krishna Rau, "Rastafari homophobia is biblical." (Archived at archive.is)
- Chanting Down Babylon: The Rastafari Reader, edited by N. S. Murrell et al. (1998). Temple University Press, page 368. ISBN 1566395844.
- Ian Sansom, "Great dynasties of the world: The Ethiopian royal family", 9 October 2010, The Guardian
- Google Answers — Was Bob Marley killed by the CIA?