Rastafarian Religion: Beliefs and Practices

Rastafarianism is one of the Abrahamic religions practiced throughout the world. Religion places Emperor Haile Selassie at the center of religion and is considered by some followers to be Christ-reincarnated while others see the Emperor as a prophet sent by God (who is called “Jah”). Members of the Rastafarian religion are known as Rastas while the beliefs they prescribe are called Rastalogy. The Reggae music genre is inspired by Rastafarianism and has been instrumental in the global popularity of religion. There are about 1 million followers of religion around the world, and the majority reside in the western hemisphere.

History of Rastafarianism

The origin of Rastafarian religion can be traced back to the early 20th century in Jamaica, which was then a British colony. Religion grew from the poor black community in Jamaica that was inspired by previous ideologies and movements such as Ethiopianism. The veneration of Emperor Haile Selassie in Ethiopia began immediately after his coronation in 1930 after influential priests declared that the crowning of the Emperor fulfilled a prophecy in the Bible. Rastafarianism gained worldwide popularity in the 1970s after global reggae superstars such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, who were devout Rastas, became the global ambassadors of religion. However, the popularity and continuation of Rastafarianism collapsed in the 1980s after the death of the emperor Haile Selassie and Bob Marley. The media attention on religion received through music has also been suppressed by the emergence of new genres such as dancehall.


In the Rastafarian religion, the different denominations in which religion exists are known as dwellings. This term is used for a passage in the Bible in which Jesus of Nazareth affirmed that the sky has “many abodes”. These dwellings refer to doctrine and beliefs. There are three main buildings that form Rastafarianism and these are the Bobo Shanti, the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the House of Nyabinghi.

Nyabinghi’s house

The House of Nyabinghi is the oldest of the three dwellings and represents the first form of Rastafarian religion. The House of Nyabinghi is also the largest of the three dwellings based on the number of followers. Followers of the House of Nyabinghi follow strict rules and are extremely anti-white, with some critics seeing the villa as racist.

Bobo Shanti

Bobo Shanti is a villa founded in 1958 by Emanuel Charles Edwards who established himself as the Christ. It is one of the most rigid, with adherents who follow a strictly vegan diet, in addition to following other dietary restrictions and with regular days of fasting, wearing long robes and turbans on their dreadlocks and separating women from men.

Twelve tribes of Israel

The twelve tribes of Israel is the most recent of the three mansions. The Twelve Tribes of Israel are considered the most progressive and liberal of the three dwellings and its beliefs and customs are very similar to those practiced in Christianity. The villa was founded in 1968 by Vernon Carrington who proclaimed himself the reincarnation of Gad, son of Israel.

Key Figures

Haile Selassie

Haile Selassie is the main figure of the Rastafarian religion. Haile Selassie was an emperor of 20th Century Ethiopia and was the last monarch in a dynasty who ruled the country for hundreds of years. The dynasty is considered the descendant of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, two real figures of the Bible. The Rastafarian religion is founded on Haile Selassie who is believed by the Rastafarians as the divine manifestation of God (Jah). Religion derives its name from the name of Selassie “Ras Tafari” as Haile Selassie was formerly known as Ras Tafari Makonnen before its coronation in 1930. It is from the name of Selassie that Rastas derives the term “Jah Rastafari” which refers to ” God”. During his coronation, Haile Selassie was also given the title: “King of kings, Lord of lords. Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, “a title that Rastas holds with great esteem and belief has meant the divinity of Haile Selassie. Haile Selassie knew the Rastafarian religion and the divinity that religion believed it possessed. However, in an interview, Haile Selassie has discouraged Rastafarian members from worshiping him as a god, since he was a faithful Christian and a mortal human being.Haile Selassie once visited Jamaica and was received at the airport by a huge crowd of Rastafarians who were so great that the Emperor was unable to disembark from his official plane, this day is marked by Rastas as a religious festival and is observed every year on April 21st. Haile Selassie was overthrown by a military coup in 1974 and subsequently executed in 1975, an event that caused great panic among the Rastafarians. Several theories were later developed as an explanation for Selassie’s death with only one being that only the body died, but Haile Selassie survived as a spirit.

Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus of Nazareth is a key figure in the Rastafarian faith. Jesus of Nazareth was a thirteenth-century Jewish preacher and teacher of Judea who became the fundamental pillar of the Christian religion founded on his teachings. Jesus is held in high esteem among the Twelve Tribes of Israel, an important denomination of the Rastafarian religion. Followers of this denomination share the Christian faith of the second coming of Jesus Christ. Other denominations consider Jesus of Nazareth an important religious figure, but they do not agree in his modern representation of being white, but rather believe that Jesus Christ was himself a Rastafarian and a black African.

Marcus Garvey

Another key figure in the Rasta religion is Marcus Garvey. Marcus Garvey was a leader of the 20th century who believed in racial separatism with which he called for the repatriation of blacks from the Americas and Europe to Africa. According to Garvey, racial integration was a futile effort as blacks were destined to live in Africa. Marcus Garvey organized the repatriation of thousands of black people from the Caribbean and North America to Africa in the early 20th century. Many Rastafarians consider Marcus Garvey as a prophet based on his statement telling people to “look at Africa for the coronation of a black king”. The statement preceding the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie is thought by Rastas to have meant the


The Rastafarian religion has no administrative structure as such. Rastafarians believe that God lives in every individual, thus denying the need to have a bureaucratic hierarchy. One of the denominations or abodes of religion, The Twelve Tribes of Israel, has an executive council that guides its work. Before the establishment of the executive council, the twelve tribes of Israel were led by its founder, Vernon Carrington.

Leave a Comment