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Artistic Metamorphosis 

Fada Legend 

Rastafarian Philosophy  

Rastafarian beliefs

There is no formal Rastafari creed and there are slight differences in the views of different groups.

The most definitive list is found in the 1977 book The Rastafarians, The Dreadlocks of Jamaica by scholar Leonard Barrett who lists what he regards as the six basic principles of Rastafari. He developed the list by attending public meetings and through anthropological research into the movement.

Haile Selassie I is the Living God

The Black person is the reincarnation of ancient Israel, who, at the hand of the White person, has been in exile in Jamaica

The White person is inferior to the Black person

Jamaica is hell; Ethiopia is heaven

The Invincible Emperor of Ethiopia is now arranging for expatriated persons of African origin to return to Ethiopia

In the near future Blacks shall rule the world

But Leonard Barrett's list is itself about thirty years old and so many of the beliefs above may no longer have the same significance to modern Rastafarians. This is especially true since the spread of the movement to the West which has led to the emergence of White Rastafarians.

Early beliefs

The basic tenets of early Rastafari, according to preacher Leonard Howell, included some very strong statements about racial issues, as might be expected in the religion of an oppressed people living in exile:

Hatred of Whites

Superiority of Blacks

Blacks are God's chosen people

Blacks will soon rule the world

Revenge on Whites for their wickedness

Whites will become the servants of Blacks

The negation, persecution and humiliation of the government and legal bodies of Jamaica

Repatriation: Haile Selassie will lead Blacks back to Africa

Acknowledging Emperor Haile Selassie as God, and the ruler of Black people


Modern Rastafarian beliefs

Modern Rastafarian beliefs

From the 1930s until the mid 1970s most Rastafarians accepted the traditional Rastafari beliefs.

But in 1973 Joseph Owens published a more modern approach to Rastafari beliefs. In 1991 Michael N. Jagessar revised Owens's ideas, devising his own systematic approach to Rastafari theology and providing an insight into the changes in the group's beliefs.

The key ideas in contemporary Rastafari are:

The humanity of God and the divinity of man

This refers to the importance of Haile Selassie who is perceived by Rastafarians as a living God. Likewise it emphasises the concept of God revealing himself to his followers through his humanity.

God is found within every man

Rastafarians believe that God makes himself known through humanity. According to Jagessar "there must be one man in whom he exists most eminently and completely, and that is the supreme man, Rastafari, Selassie I."

God in history

It is very important to see all historical facts in the context of God's judgement and workings.

Salvation on earth

Salvation for Rastafarians is an earthly idea, rather than heavenly.

The supremacy of life

Human nature is very important to Rastafarians and they should preserve and protect it.

Respect for nature

This idea refers to the importance and respect Rastafarians have for animals and the environment, as mirrored in their food laws.

The power of speech

Speech is very important to Rastafarians, as it enables the presence and power of God to be felt.

Evil is corporate

Sin is both personal and corporate. This means organisations such as the International Monetary Fund are responsible for Jamaica's fiscal situation, and that oppression is in part influenced by them.

Judgement is near

This corresponds to the nearness of judgement for Rastafarians when they will be given greater recognition.

The priesthood of Rastafarians

Rastafarians are the chosen people of God and are on earth to promote his power and peacefulness.

(Joseph Owens The Rastafarians of Jamaica, 1973 pp. 167-70 and Jagessar, JPIC and Rastafarians, 1991 pp. 15-17.)

To modern Rastafari the most important doctrine is belief in the divinity of Haile Selassie I. Although some Rastafarians still regard Haile Selassie as the black messiah, many modern adherents do not see this as central to their faith.

Haile Selassie's death in 1975 was described by his followers as his 'disappearance', since they refused to believe he has passed away. Following his death and the increased acceptance of Jamaican culture in society many Rastafarian beliefs have been modified.

According to Nathaniel Samuel Murrell:

...brethren have reinterpreted the doctrine of repatriation as voluntary migration to Africa, returning to Africa culturally and symbolically, or rejecting Western values and preserving African roots and black pride.

Nathaniel Samuel Murrell in 'Chanting Down Babylon', 1998, page 6.

The previous belief that white people are evil has diminished and is no longer central to Rastafarian belief systems.

The idea of Babylon has also developed to represent all oppressive organizations and countries in the world.


Nirvana is a place of perfect peace and happiness, like heaven. In Hinduism and Buddhism, nirvana is the highest state that someone can attain, a state of enlightenment, meaning a person's individual desires and suffering go away.

The origin of the word nirvana relates to religious enlightenment; it comes from the Sanskrit meaning "extinction, disappearance" of the individual to the universal. Achieving nirvana is to make earthly feelings like suffering and desire disappear. It's often used casually to mean any place of happiness, like if you love chocolate, going to Hershey's Park would be nirvana. On the other hand, if you're a Buddhist monk, it may take you years of meditating to reach nirvana.