Rastafarians - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs and Practices. Rastafarians believe in the existence of one supernatural spirit, whom they call Jah and associate with Haile Selassie. They hold that Jah exists in every Rastafarian, who thereby shares in his divinity. They eschew salt, pork, and processed foods, a practice called ital, and many exclude all meats and fish from their diet. Rituals are of two kinds, the reasoning and the binghi. In the reasoning, small groups gather to take part in informal discussions of matters of faith, and the ceremonial smoking of the sacred herb. Participants sit in a circle, uncover their heads, pray before the chalice is lit and passed in a clockwise direction. The binghi is a celebration of a liturgical event that lasts several days; it involves reasoning by day and drumming, singing, and dancing by night. Binghis are held to commemorate the coronation of Haile Selassie, Ethiopian Christmas, Haile Selassie's birthday, and Haile Selassie's state visit to Jamaica.

Religious Practitioners. Unlike other forms of religion in Jamaica, Rastafarianism does not have a priesthood.


Arts. Rastafarians have been closely associated with Jamaican folk and popular art, particularly reggae music, which rose to prominence nationally in the 1960s and internationally in the 1970s, and intuitive painting and wood carving.


Death and Afterlife. In keeping with a philosophy that celebrates life, many Rastafarians deny the possibility of death, except as a consequence of sin, and believe that the doctrine of the existence of, and reward in, the afterlife is the White man's teaching aimed at deflecting Blacks from the pursuit of their just rewards in this life.

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