The colors red, gold, and green are closely association with the Rastafarian Movement. They come from the old Ethiopian flag used during the reign of Haile Selassie. The colors symbolize Rastas loyalty to Selassie, Ethiopia, and Africa, and they are frequently seen on clothing, hats, and other decorations in Jamaica.
Each color of the flag stands for something rastas believe in. Red stands for the blood that bleeds to the Earth, replenishes the land, and helps to grow ganja. Green stands for the vegetation of Africa. And gold stands for the prosperity Africa offered before the extraction of diamonds and gold during slavery. It also represents the sun, which gives life to all. In addition to the colors of the flag, black is also significant to rastas. The colors of the Ethiopian flag, along with black, make up the colors of “Pan-African Unity” for Marcus Garvey, a man who is considered a prophet and a leader in the movement.
It is believed that the first Rastafarian dreadlocks came from Kenya in 1953 when images of the independence struggle in Kenya displayed people wearing dreads. These images made their way to Jamaica through publications and other news sources.
During the Rastafari Movement, rastas grew and wore their hair in dreadlocks to draw a distinction from the straight, thin hair of their oppressors. Dreads were also a way for them to accept personal beauty and the differences between Jamaicans and the white people. In addition, dreads symbolize the mane of the Lion of Judah and the Rasta rebellion against Babylon (the capitalistic, materialistic, and oppressive world).
For Rastas, the growing of dreadlocks is also a spiritual and mental journey that teaches patience. It is believed that it is patience that allows for the hair to grow naturally without the use of cutting, combing, or washing with anything except pure water.
Though many rastas have dreadlocks, not all do. It is not a requirement of the religion, nor is it limited to Rastafari. They are worn by people in a number of different cultures and religions, so dreads alone do not make one a Rasta. For the Rastas who do wear dreadlocks, it is a symbol of loyalty to the religion.
East Indians brought Ganja (also known as cannabis) to Jamaica in the late 1800s when they were taken to the island to work after the end of slavery. The Jamaican climate proved to be the perfect place for the plant to grow.
On the island, ganja started out as medicine used by herbalists. For Rastafaris, the smoking of ganja became a spiritual act often accompanied by Bible reading. Rastas believe it cleans the body and the mind and has the ability to heal the soul bringing one closer to Jah (God).
For Rastas, the illegality of the herb symbolizes the persecution of Rastafari. They see the smoking of ganja as a means to opening the mind to the truth-something that the Babylonian world does not want. It is also believed that ganja aids in meditation and religious observance. Rastas also deem that ganja has Biblical sanction because it is talked about in the book of Genesis, Proverbs, and Psalms: “thou shalt eat the herb of the field,” Genesis 3:18.
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