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The Rasta fari movement is a "messianic religio-political movement" 1 that began in the Jamaican slums in the 1920s and 30s. The most famous Rastafari is Bob Marley, whose reggae music gained the Jamaican movement international recognition.
There is significant variation within the Rastafari movement and no formal organization. Some Rastafarians see Rasta more as a way of life than a religion. But uniting the diverse 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 Rasta farian lifestyle usually includes ritual use of marijuana, avoidance of alcohol, the wearing of one's hair in dreadlocks, and vegetarianism.
While we all know that the Rastafari grow their hair into dreadlocks, what is the actual connection and reason?
Rastafari, or more simply Rasta is a monotheistic religion and spiritual/cultural movement that believes that Halie Selasie I, the Ethiopian emperor from 1934 to 1972 is the incarnation of God, also called Jah. They recognize him as the the returning messiah. They believe that Embodiment of God on earth has occured a number of times and will accur again. They generally follow the Christian doctrine with a few adjustments. The movement emerged in 20th century Jamaica predominantly, and became a much needed source of Afro-centrism and Black pride.
Since the Rastas base a lot of their teachings in Christianity, they live by a lot of the commandments from the Old Testament. Not only do they follow the dietary laws of not eating shellfish or pork, but many abstain from meat and dairy altogether. Rastas follow a strict vegan or vegetarian diet during a Dreadlock Preisthood, and many maintain this lifestyle because they believe that this cleanses the body to preserve the "Ark of the Covenant". Rastas also generally abstain from alchohol, believing that consuming items that are pickled or fermented is symbolic of turning the body temple into a cemetary.
As for dreadlocks, they have been associated with the Rasta movement sinc the beginning. Since so much of the commandments in the Old Testament are adhered to , it stands to reason that the rules of hair maintenance and personal hygiene look there for guidance. This passage in Levitcus 21:5 "They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in the flesh." is often interpreted as forbidding the cutting of hair. Perhaps a bit clearer is this section of Numbers 6:5 "All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.". There is evidence that the Nazarites, and the Sufis as well as many others wore dreadlocks, or similar styles. James the Just was described as a man who never cut his hair. While in previous eras, the length of a person's dreadlocks can signify wisdom, as they grow longer with time, in our current time, they more often attest to the time one has spent being a Rasta. Today, many people wear who are not Rasta wear dreadlocks as an expression of Afro-centric pride, or even simply as a hairstyle. The Rastas that abide very strictly to what is stated in the Bible about hair maintenance, wash thier hair only with water and allow the dreads to lock up on their own. Making the growing and development of dreadlocks an exercise in patience. Those who do not adhere so strictly to the laws of the Old Testament for hair care often wil use dread wax and specifc combs to help the hair dread faster and more smoothly.
Whether you want to learn more about Rastafari or just grow dreadlocks for the style, there is much information to be found about how to encourage them in your own hair. If, however, you'd just like to try them on for a bit, or dress as a Rasta for Halloween, there are many online sources for dreadlock wigs.
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