By: Anna Waggoner
You may recall the famous rapper “Snoop Dogg” changing his name to “Snoop Lion”, but did you ever know the reason? Behind the lifestyle and name change of Snoop was a subculture known as Rastafarianism, or Rastas as they prefer to be called. It is a lifestyle which is very spiritual and built on African pride. They are a very religious group, though the deity to whom they serve is not limited. They accept both Christian and Jewish beliefs, and believe in one true diet that they call “Jah”. They believe that Jah has a son who he sent to earth in the form of Ras Tafari, the Ethiopian emperor for whom the group is named, reining from 1930-1974. They believe that Zion, in reference to Ethiopia, is the origin of mankind, and their mission is to return to Zion; literally, spiritually, and emotionally.
Rastas became widely known by the late 20th century, and the fame of one member in particular brought much awareness and attention to the group through reggae music, which reflects many of Rastas values, believes, and lifestyle choices. Can anyone guess who this artist may be? You guessed it. Bob Marley. Marley was always shown in his red yellow and green colors, which reflect the Rasta flag, and always rocking his dreadlocks, which are a direct reflection of the Rasta belief in wholesome natural living absent of vanity. To this day Marley’s son is still very involved in the cause and his father is said to have been one of the most influential Rastas in history.
Now, when you think Bob Marley, what else do you think of? Perhaps the colors, or the dreadlocks, but undoubtedly you probably associate the use of marijuana with him as well. This actually is not a stereotype, but rather a part of the Rasta culture. The Rastas use marijuana as a spiritual sacrament, which they believe cleanses and purifies the mind and body and brings them closer to Jah.
Another visible symbol of Rastas is the flag they choose to represent them, which is derived from the Ethiopian flag at the time of Emperor Tafari, and is a symbol derived from the book of Revelation proclaiming the return of the messiah to take the form of a lion. Following in these biblical influences, the diet of Rastas is also drawn from scriptural influences. The only eat food that complies with the Old Testament, often abstaining from meat all together, and frequently fasting for spiritual purposes.
Rastas are not encouraged to take any mainstream political beliefs, and instead have historically been known to start their own campaigns for peace during violent elections or times of turmoil. They believe that all are created equal in the eyes of Jah, and do not discriminate base on race. Color is not a qualifier for being a Rasta, as they believe all are seen equal by the one whom they serve.
Rasta’s style have been adapted by mainstream fashion in the form of adopting dreadlocks and reggae music, associating them with a laid back natural lifestyle. Rappers such as snoop dog have made the look trendier and many youths can be seen in Rasta inspired wardrobe year after year.