The word “Rastafarianism” often calls to mind dreadlocks (long braids or natural locks of hair), ganja (marijuana), the streets of Kingston (Jamaica), and the reggae rhythms of Bob Marley.

Rastafarians have no universally acknowledged leaders, no universally agreed-upon defining principles and don’t see themselves as a religion, even though rasta is a religion through its philosophies.

The movement takes its name from the title *“Ras Tafari”* . In the Ethiopian (Amharic) language, *RAS* means “head/prince,” and *TAFARI* means “to be feared/respected.” Within the system of Rastafarianism, the term is a reference most particularly to Ras Tafari Makonnen (1892–1975), Ethiopian Emperor renamed *Haile Selassie I* (his Christian baptismal name) upon his coronation in 1930, when Selassie was lauded with the title “Lion of Judah, Elect of God, King of Kings” , names which belong to Jesus. This sent a shock wave through the Afro-Caribbean culture. In the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, preachers like Joseph Hibbert started declaring that Haile Selassie was *the long awaited Messiah* , the second coming of Christ. Thus was born *one branch of Rastafari,* which looked to Selassie as the living God and black messiah who would overthrow the existing world order and usher in a reign of blacks.

Another branch of Rasta* has sprung up alongside the messianic branch. This group traces its roots to *Leonard Percival Howell* and has clear *Hindu elements*. Sometime in the early- to mid-1930s, Howell produced a 14-page pamphlet, “The Promised Key” which laid the groundwork for a second branch within Rastafarianism influenced by Hinduism and Rosicrucianism. Many of the leaders in this branch have also been Freemasons. The result has been a sort of Rastafarian pantheism that looks for *“the Lion Spirit in each of us: the Christ spirit”,* believing that Christ is in every human, Christian or non-Christian. Pantheism does not believe that God is a person.

By: Wally B.