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Historical And Ethnographical Study Of Rastafari Religion

2922 words - 12 pages

The Rastafari people are a group of (primarily) men that originated in Jamaica, especially in and around Kingston, who believe in being repatriated to a designated homeland in Africa. Through their reinterpretation of the bible, an ascetic-leaning lifestyle, and heavy influence of previous Revivalist religions and African Myal traditions, they have carved a religion that is worldly, conscientious, and , now, world renouned. Icons such as Bob Marley, spliffs, their red, gold, and green flag, and their memorable accent make these people very interesting to listen to, and definitely assist in disseminating their belief structure throughout the world. In this paper I will briefly discuss their history, both ancient and modern, their belief structures, theological and material, and current and future trends in the movement today.Being the offspring of a revivalist religious movement in Jamaica in the 1930's, there is the obvious root tracing of the slave owner's Christian religion and the traditional African religion the slaves took with them from their homeland. In this case it is the Myal religion. They placed a large focus on the divination and local spirits in this religion and it carried over in the African religious interpretation of the imposed bible. The Christian focus was always on Jesus, while the Myal influence made the African slaves more focused on the Holy Spirit. They even placed John the Baptist over Jesus because it was John who brought Jesus to spiritual maturity through his baptism. Likewise this placed the focus of Christianity not on the orthodoxy, or knowledge of the religion, but the orthopraxy, the actual feeling and experience of the religion.Following a period of nearly 50 years of post-slavery Revivalism, particularly Zion and Pukumina, efforts in Jamaica, some of the adherents were growing tired of the obeah, or the carried over mysticism. Zion Revivalism was more traditionally Christian, while Pukumina was much more varied and allowed for any spirit to possess, thus it was the more influenced by Myal.The Rasta religion was partially founded on attempts to eliminate these mystical elements, but there were many more causes that formed the religion. It originally rose up out of the black urban masses of Kingston. In the 1920s-40s there was a massive influx of migration into Kingston. Most had no guarantees of jobs, shelter, or survival, but the dwindling sugar trade, increased corporatization of agriculture, and lack of farmable land forced many into the slums around Trenchtown and Old Spanish Road. It was in these slums and ghettos that the early militancy and anger of Rasta was kindled. Some of Rasta's predecessors were very charismatic people and led hundreds of their followers in street services, marches, and demonstrations against the downpressors, those that were part of Babylon, or the white establishment. They rallied around the calls to end European colonialism in Africa, increased the quality of living in their...

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