10 Important Lessons About Rastas That Will Blow Your Mind
Misperceptions and Misunderstandings About Rastas
Every person in the Caribbean knows one or more Rastas or has at least met one in person. But do we really know what Rastafari is truly all about?
My image of Rastas was formed through my observation of my Rastafarian uncles and their friends.
Growing up, I had three uncles who were Rastas. Nearly every evening I would come home from school to find them hanging out on the block, smoking weed, listening to reggae (or conscious music as they called it) and playing draughts or dominos. This was their thing.
My uncle Martin, the eldest of the lot, was the strangest one for me. He never used toothpaste. He used baking soda and coconut husk or a branch to brush his teeth. And worst of all, he never showered with soap or shampoo. Instead, he used limes as a substitute for soap and ratchet cactus for shampoo.
Like me, most people generally connect Rastafari with marijuana, reggae and dreadlocks. Some may associate this unique Caribbean movement with the colours of green, red and gold. But beyond that, many, myself included, have little knowledge of what truly constitutes the Rastafari movement.
This Happened and My View of Rastas Changed Forever
My narrow view and limited understanding of Rastafari were forever changed through one unique experience that took place on November 28, 2017.
I had the honour and privilege of visiting the Rastafari Indigenous Village in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I spent half a day there and got the opportunity to see, first hand, the heart of Rastafarian culture and community; a masterclass in Rastafari as it were.
What I witnessed was community, conservation, creativity, cultivation, and a way of life that the whole world should emulate.
What Does it Mean to Be A Rasta?
What I learned from that experience in the Rastafari Indigenous Village is that Rastafari is more than a style (dreadlocks; knitted red, green and gold rasta caps; smoking weed; listening to reggae). Rastafari is more than a religion. It is a holistic lifestyle; a different way of life.
The Rastafarian movement follows King Selassie I (King Selassie the first) of Ethiopia. Before becoming king, he was born Ras Tafari Makonnen. It is from the King’s birth name that the Rastafari movement takes its name.
Rastafari is more than a religion. It is a way of life that focuses in balance, respect for nature, community, naturalness, spirituality, family, the supremacy of life, and that the Divine is found in every human being.
Rastas Promote Positive Vibrations
Rastas believe in positivity and that words have power. For this reason, Rastas have developed their own variation of language to ensure that positivity is always in focus and negativity cannot even enter your mouth even by mistake.
For example, Rastas will never say “enjoy”. Instead, a true Rasta will say “full-joy” because they do not want to “end” their “joy”.
You might have noticed Rastas saying, “I and I”. Rastas prefer to use the first person singular instead of “you and I” or “we” because they recognise the oneness of each person in God. Each person is a reflection of the Divine and as a result each person is a reflection of each other. I see God in you and I see myself in you, therefore it is “I and I” for we are all one.
Many words are transformed to incorporate the sacredness of ‘I’. For example, “vitality” becomes “itality”; “creator” becomes “irator”; “unity” becomes “inity” for there is only “I” in oneness.
This is why reggae, in its truest form, is all about conscious messages and positive vibes.
Chant Rastaman Chant
Music is at the heart of the Rastafari movement. And their rhythmic vibrations and chants are patterned after the beating of the heart. Listen to this song below to get a feel for the chant of the Rastafarians. The song is entitled, “Rastaman Chant”. Notice the clear heartbeat rhythm expressly simulated on the drums.
Rastafarians’ View of Women will Shock You
One of the lessons that was most shocking to me was the way Rastas viewed women. Rastas see the divine in everyone but have a special reverence for women – the mothers that give birth to children or ‘wombwoman’ as she is called.
Christians refer to the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Ghost. For Rastas, this is absurd, that where the woman should be, Christians replace her with a ghost. The Holy Trinity for Rastas is Father, Son and Mother. The three core elements of the family; the three representations in the creation of human life.
Woman is divine. Woman is life. Woman is to be respected and revered.
Rastas Love the Divine Mother Nature
The reverence for the Divine Woman, the Divine Mother, is also reflected in Rastas’ reverence for Mother Nature.
No one could be more environmentally conscious and aware than a Rastafarian. Living in unity with nature and the natural laws is a central teaching of Rastafari. To live in alignment with Mother Nature and with Planet Earth is to live in ‘at-one-ment’ with Jah (the name Rastas call God appearing in the Bible in Exodus 15:2 and 17:16, Psalm 89:9 and elsewhere).
The Rastas Gave Me this to Eat
Imagine eating a meal that was cooked on an open-air flame, with no salt, no oils, no artificial or man-made ingredients, no added sugar, no trans fat, no MSG, totally vegan and completely natural. That’s how true Rastas eat every day. This is what Rastas call Ital food. (Ital means vital in Rastafari lingo – see above section – Positive Vibrations).
The meal I received consisted of roasted breadfruit, fresh herbs, an assortment of steamed organic vegetables, all served in a calabash shell and washed down with freshly picked coconut water. No animals were killed to prepare this meal. And they hadn’t even made a trip to the supermarket. All ingredients were from the garden they cultivated themselves.
The Footprint of a Rasta will Shame the Rich
The Rastafarian way of life sheds a light on the dark, unjust, irreverent, ignorant and selfish ways of modern society. This is what Rastas refer to as ‘Babylon’ – the way of life, the institutions, the corporations and governments that are in opposition to Jah’s will.
Rastas live life in a manner that is near zero carbon footprint. They do not eat meat (for the most part); many are in fact vegan; they do not live lavish lifestyles; they do not use artificial and harmful chemicals in farming; they treat their bodies as temples and are careful of what goes into it; they respect nature, the environment and people. As such, their way of life is completely diametrical to the materialistic, capitalist, consumeristic, harmful and unbalanced way of living of modern society.
If everyone were to live like a Rasta then climate change, oceanic pollution and over consumption would be non-issues. Terms like ‘zero carbon footprint’ or ‘carbon neutral’ probably wouldn’t even exist because they would not be necessary.
Is it possible that Rastas in the Caribbean have been persecuted and prosecuted for decades simply because of the light they shine? Could it be that those in power (Babylon) feel shame and thus lash out at Rastas because of the light they shine on their dark and erroneous way of life?
Have a look at this article on the environmental footprint of a Rasta and the injustices of the rich.
The Real Reason Rastas Smoke Marijuana
Rastas do not view marijuana as a drug. For them, marijuana, a natural herb, created by Jah as a means to open their minds, increase their spiritual awareness and evoke enlightenment.
Bob Marley would often smoke a spliff before writing his music. He was firm in his belief that “herb was the healing of a nation”.
The Rasta Way of Life is a Game Changer for the Whole World
Let’s face it! The Rasta way of life is an example for the world. Let’s consider for one moment some of the key principles we can learn from Rastas:
– A sense of community
– Respect for women
– Reverence for the environment
– Living a simple lifestyle
– Healthy eating and clean living
– Low environmental footprint
– Positive vibes
– Don’t worry. Be happy.
– No need to look for God in some far-away heaven. He’s within us all.
– We are all one.
– One Love
– And a little ganja won’t hurt either
If we all apply those principles to our everyday lives, imagine the difference they would have on the world. With so much trouble in the world today – climate change, Covid-19, crime, consumerism, and capitalism – don’t you think that the world needs a little Rastafari? This song by Bob Marley sums it up nicely – So Much Trouble in the World.
You Don’t Have to Be Dread to be Rasta
So, if you were to take away just one aspect of the Rastafarian way of life, you’d be doing your part to make the world a little better. You see, Rastafari isn’t about red, green and gold or donning dreadlocks or smoking a spliff. It’s about love and unity (I mean inity). You don’t have to have dreadlocks to be a Rasta. All you need is to love and be loved. Here’s another lesson from Bob Marley – Could You Be Loved.
Rastas in the Caribbean
Rastafari Livity began among the black urban poor of Jamaica in 1930, when Selassie was crowned “the Lion of Judah, King of Kings” in Ethiopia. The movement quickly spread in Jamaica and to other parts of the Caribbean. To date, there are approximately 1 million Rastas worldwide, many of whom are located in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. They can also be found in significant numbers in the USA and Britain. 
Rastafari is another example of how the Caribbean is leading the way in sustainable development.
 Edmonds, Ennis B. (2012). Rastafari: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kevon Wilson, is a premier researcher and strategist. He has more than 16 years’ experience in research and digital marketing.
He is co-author of many of Leve Global’s research publications such as Big Data – Delivering the Big Picture to Drive Competitiveness, Everything You Need to Know About Internet Marketing, and The Top Ten Emerging Markets.
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Kevon, this is a great article, and it should help to do away with some of the misconceptions about the Rastafarians. I share a lot of their beliefs. But I just cannot be that consequent about it.
Thank you Christian for your comment. It’s a pity that people poorly judge Rastafarians. We can learn so much from them. And people also do not realize the significant impact that this small community has on the world. Consider Bob Marley alone and what he did for the music world.
Jah Bless, much appreciation for this message to the people of the world. The idea is we shall all Love and Live in Peace and Positivity.
One love Rastafari
Thank you for the enlightenment. I have a Rastafarian hairstyle simply because I am not in support of changing my natural beauty but I am interested in the culture of the Rasta because l love being natural. I long to visit that village to have the experience you had. Jah bless.
Live your life and let others live theirs is my mantra. Your beliefs are yours and mine is mine. Do not attempt to dictate how I must live my life with your rhetoric based on your personal way of life. Rastafarianism takes people way back to pre-slavery days. Eating out of a calabash is proof of that. Of course the entire Rasta way of life is based on a lazy way of life, and the absence of education. Good luck with this backward existence. Bob Marley certainly did not subscribe to such a way of life; he worked and was RICH!
Thank you Cynthia for your comment.
I am not a Rastafarian. But there are many elements of their way of life that I find admirable. And while I do not live entirely as they do. I certainly learned a few lessons from them. My hands-on experience helped me to shed certain preconceived and erroneous ideas that I had about Rastas, one of which was exactly what you expressed in your comment, that they were lazy. My experience at the Rastafari Indigenous Village proved me wrong. No one there was lazy in any way. They were quite industrious and hard working. Because they chose to live off the land and have a simpler way of life does not in any way make them inferior, lazy or outcasts.
And I do believe that one can still be rich and environmentally conscious. Just my opinion.
There are people who wear locks but do not live like a Rasta and are not considered to be a Rasta or true Rasta. Rastas work in many different areas but most important is the cultivation of crops, free of chemicals. Anyone planting food should eat what they grow. Eating anything prepared by others not of your belief may be detrimental to what goes into your body. Eating healthy is better than consuming all the chemicals and artificial preservatives in foods and drinks that break down the body and make us sick. We should not judge others by the way or life they choose to live. Herbivores are natural living.
Thank you Neil for your comment.
I could not agree with you more. People judge Rastas harshly. They put everyone with dreadlocks into one basket and that is not so. Some people who wear dreadlocks are not true Rastas as you said. Similarly, some people do not have dreadlocks but their way of life shows that they are Rastas in their heart.
I live among many Rastafarians and what I can say is that the older ones pray a lot and give thanks for all of their achievements, providence, health etc. compared to the young one who simply wear locs and smoke. I like the lyrics of their music however, in my view they preach racism which I am in total disagreement with for we were all created in the image and likeness by the creator who loves us all once we seek to please him.
Dear Julie, thanks for sharing your experience. I have not personally experienced this, but as with all human beings, there are always good and bad.
The core of Rastafari does not support racism but rather rejects any systems or ideologies that opposes the will of Jah.
It’s a pity that some Rastas do not fully practice or live what Rastafari is all about. But I guess you find ‘bad apples’ everywhere – in every culture, faith or lifestyle.
Congrats to a great article Kevon. Without being a Rasta, I can relate to several aspects.
The brushing teeth with baking soda, eating vegan, love and respect for nature and The Divine.
– Living a simple lifestyle
– Healthy eating and clean living
– Positive vibes
– Don’t worry. Be happy.
– No need to look for God in some far-away heaven. He’s within us all.
– We are all one.
Informative article. But please try to refrain from using the term ‘rastafarianism’ as Rasta is not an ism. You could interchange by just saying Rastafari, or Rastafari Livity. Give thanks.
Thank you for your comment. We are all about educating people about the Caribbean so thank you for sharing with us. We will definitely make the change.
One of the very few articles I’ve ever read that paint the Rastafari faith in an accurate way. Though there are many Rastafari who live in the city, I would think this is pretty spot on for the most Ital Rastafari. It’s very hard to fit all followers of the faith under one umbrella, as there are many different personal beliefs among the bredren and sistren. I remember hearing in Jamaica the phrase “No two Rasta agree on everything”. But as far as a general consensus, especially for the rural members of the faith, this is pretty spot on. Give Thanks.
Thanks so much for your comments and kind sentiments on “10 Important Lessons About Rastas That Will Blow Your Mind”. We felt that we needed to try and change the way people view Rastafarians. They are truly part of the Caribbean experience and we need to understand who they are and celebrate them, rather than have closed minds and erroneous ideas about them.
A very interesting article and very informative about the Rastafarians. I always look upon them as just another cult but now, due to your article I am more interested about the movement. Thanks.
Thank you Michael for your comment. We are delighted that our article was able to shed some light on Rastafarians. Most people form their opinions about Rastas and Rastafari based on hearsay and preconceived ideas. It’s only when you experience something for yourself that you become truly educated.
Each to his own….observe the teachings of the root & offspring of Yisreal Negus Negast….
Great article Kevon!! Loved it!!
Nicely written piece. However, there are some inaccuracies. For example, Rasta was not started in urban Jamaica but by rural Jamaicans in St Thomas, Jamaica.
Secondly, the worldwide population for Rasta is far more than a million. South Africa alone has more than that.
Very enlightening , informative and educational
Beautifully crafted when I was a young person I had the opportunity to be among Rastafarian brothers and sisters. It was very difficult to grasp the true belief of the rastafari faith because my religious beliefs were Christianity following in my mother footstep
I all ways admire the strange behavior of a rastaman but I was confused because watching the things a restaman did and Christian did were completely opposite and a lot of people were laughing and making fun of the life of a rastaman.
Moving into adulthood my favorite music was conscious music and eventually I denounce Christianity and started growing my dreadlocks but I still didn’t dive fully into the life of becoming a real rastaman so they called me a “salon dread” the morel is my heart wanted to be a rastaman but the ills of society scared me to be me and just me confuse on the way forward on how I shall live my life. #TRUERASTAMANHEARTBEAT
Thanks Winston for sharing your story.
Unfortunately, many Rastas still face discrimination to this day. Such a shame. This is why we at Exceptional Caribbean is trying to spread the positive stories of our Caribbean peoples and cultures.
Very interesting! I enjoyed learning more of this culture! Would love to learn more, it is an adventure!
Is to love and be loved
It’s all about love and inity
Ah Lesson is to be thought and learnt
with more relent….
Am Iceman D man
I enjoyed reading this but completely disagree that Rastafarians treat or view women with a high level of respect – I also find it interesting that it’s a man who has written this article and hasn’t provided the real view of women, i.e.
Women are Queens around to look after their King
Women are regarded as subordinate to men
Women are regarded as housekeepers and child bearers
Women are not called to Rastafari except through their husbands
Women cannot be leaders
Men are the spiritual head of the family
Women must not cook for their husbands when menstruating (what the hell?!)
Women must not wear makeup, dress in promiscuous clothing, or use chemicals in their hair
Women must not use birth control etc …
I have also read that Rasta men can have multiple partners however women cannot. How is any of this respectful or acceptable?