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Rastafarianism Fast Facts

Name Means

Ras Tafari Makonnen, who was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia in 1930.


1 million

Place Founded


Date Founded

Generally said to be November 2, 1930, the year Emperor Hailie Selassie I (1892-1975) was crowned, but based in a movement of the 1920s.


Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), a black Jamaican who taught in the 1920s and is considered a second John the Baptist.

Major Branches

Nyahbinghi Order; Bobo Shanti; Twelve Tribes of Israel


The Judeo-Christian God, who is called Jah. In general, Rastafarian beliefs are based in Judaism and Christianity, with an emphasis on Old Testament laws and prophecies and the Book of Revelation. Jah was manifested on earth as Jesus, who Rastas believe was black, and Emperor Haile Selassie.


Many practices based on Jewish biblical Law. Abstinence from most or all meat, artificial foods, and alcohol. Use of marijuana in religious rituals and for medicine. Wearing of dreadlocks.


Holy Piby (the "Blackman's Bible"). The Ethiopian epic Kebra Negast also revered.


Lion of Judah, Ethiopian flag, Star of David, pan-African colors

Rastafarianism Overview

A religion with deep political convictions, Rastafarianism began in the slums of Jamaica in the 1920s and 30s. African religious tradition has heavily influenced the culture of Rastafarianism and biblical themes have heavily influenced the religion's belief system. The most famous Rastafari is arguably Bob Marley, whose reggae music gained the Jamaican movement international recognition.

There is no formal, organized leadership in Rastafarianism, creating a wide variety of spiritual and moral variation within the religion. Some Rastafarians see Rasta more as a way of life, and others see it more as a religion. Nevertheless, uniting the diversity within the movement is belief in the divinity and/or messiahship of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, the influence of Jamaican culture, resistance of oppression, and pride in African heritage.

The Rastafarian lifestyle usually includes ritual use of marijuana, avoidance of alcohol, the wearing of one's hair in dreadlocks, and vegetarianism.


Bowker, John. “Rastafarians.” Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford University Press, USA, 2004.

McAlister, Elizabeth A.. “Rastafari.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. 17 Dec. 2004. Web. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.

  • Rastafarian Beliefs

    Rastafarians believe in the Judeo-Christian God, whom they call Jah. In general, Rastafarian beliefs are based in Judaism and Christianity, with an emphasis on Old Testament laws and prophecies and the Book of Revelation... full article →
  • Rastafarian Branches

    There are three main sects (known as "houses" or "mansions") of Rastafari today: Nyahbinghi Order; Bobo Shanti; and the Twelve Tribes of Israel... full article →
  • Rastafarian Glossary

    Definitions of terms related to Rastafarianism. full article →
  • Rastafarian History

    ## Beginnings of Rastafarianism The Rastafari religion developed in the slums of Kingston, Jamaica, in the 1920s and 30s. In an environment of great poverty, depression, racism and class discrimination, the Rasta message of black pride, freedom from oppression, and the hope of return to the African homeland was gratefully received... full article →
  • Rastafarian Practices

    The two main Rastafari rituals are reasonings (an informal gathering involving cannabis and discussion) and nyabingi (a festive dance). Most Rastafarians are vegatarians or vegans, and the most observant Rastas follow a dietary law called ital, which is based on natural vegetarian food... full article →
  • Rastafarian Symbols

    Common symbols of the Rastafarian faith include the Lion of Judah, Ethiopian flag, Star of David, and pan-African colors. full article →
  • Rastafarian Texts

    The sacred text of Rastafarians is the Holy Piby, the "Black Man's Bible." It was compiled by Robert Athlyi Rogers of Anguilla from 1913 to 1917 and published in 1924... full article →
  • Rastafarian Timeline

    The history of Rastafarianism at a glance. full article →

Article Info

Title Rastafarianism
Last UpdatedFebruary 16, 2017
URL www.religionfacts.com/rastafarianism
Short URLrlft.co/953
MLA Citation “Rastafarianism.” ReligionFacts.com. 16 Feb. 2017. Web. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017. <www.religionfacts.com/rastafarianism>

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