What Do Dreadlocks Symbolize to Rastafarians: Exploring the Meaning Behind the Iconic Hairstyle

Dreadlocks have been a popular hairstyle for centuries, stemming from various cultures and traditions across the globe. However, for Rastafarians, the twisted locks hold a much deeper symbolic meaning. In this article, we’ll explore what dreadlocks represent to the Rastafarian community and their significance in their religious and spiritual practices.

To Rastafarians, dreadlocks are more than just a hairstyle – they symbolize a spiritual journey towards enlightenment. The matted, twisting locks are viewed as a powerful and sacred symbol that represents a connection to Jah, or God, and a rejection of Western societal norms. For many Rastafarians, the decision to grow their hair into dreadlocks is an act of rebellion against a system that they feel does not represent their values or beliefs.

Dreadlocks also hold a personal significance for many Rastafarians, symbolizing their connection to their African heritage and their desire to embrace their natural selves. For those on the path to Rastafarianism, growing and maintaining dreadlocks is seen as a process of purification and rebirth, a physical manifestation of their spiritual journey. It’s evident that there’s a whole lot more to dreadlocks than meets the eye, and they represent a way of life and a spiritual connection that runs deep in Rastafarian culture.

History and Origins of Rastafarianism

Rastafarianism is a religious movement that emerged in Jamaica during the 1930s. Its origins can be traced back to the teachings of Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican activist who preached that black people should be proud of their African heritage and work towards creating an independent homeland in Africa. These ideas had a profound impact on Jamaican society and laid the groundwork for the Rastafarian movement.

  • The name Rastafarianism comes from Ras Tafari, the pre-coronation name of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. Many Rastafarians believe that Selassie is the messiah and that he will lead black people to a new era of freedom and prosperity.
  • The Rastafarian movement gained momentum in the 1950s and 1960s, largely due to the popularity of reggae music. Artists like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh espoused Rastafarian beliefs and helped to spread the movement across the globe.
  • Today, Rastafarianism has an estimated one million adherents worldwide, with significant populations in Jamaica, Ethiopia, and the United States.

One of the central tenets of Rastafarianism is the belief in the divinity of the Ethiopian emperor. Rastafarians see Selassie as a holy figure who has come to save black people from oppression and poverty. They also believe in the importance of dreadlocks, which they see as a symbol of their African identity and their rejection of Western culture.

DreadlocksA symbol of African identity and resistance to oppression.
GanjaA sacrament that is used for spiritual and medicinal purposes.
Red, gold, and green colorsColors of the Ethiopian flag and symbols of Rastafarian identity.
Lion of JudahA symbol of Selassie’s royal lineage and the strength and courage of the Rastafarian people.

In conclusion, the history and origins of Rastafarianism are deeply rooted in Jamaican society and the teachings of Marcus Garvey. Today, the movement is a global phenomenon with millions of adherents around the world. Dreadlocks, along with other symbols like ganja and the colors red, gold, and green, all represent important parts of Rastafarian identity and resistance to oppression.

Importance of the Lion of Judah in Rastafarianism

Rastafarianism is a religion that originated in Jamaica in the early 20th century. One of the most significant symbols of Rastafarianism is the Lion of Judah, which represents Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, who Rastafarians believe is the messiah.

  • The Lion of Judah symbolizes strength, courage, and leadership, all of which are important values in Rastafarianism.
  • Rastafarians see themselves as direct descendants of the tribe of Judah, which is why the Lion of Judah is such a powerful symbol for them.
  • Haile Selassie I was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930 and was seen by Rastafarians as the second coming of Jesus Christ.

The Lion of Judah is featured prominently in Rastafarian art, music, and literature. It is often depicted on the Ethiopian flag, which is also important to Rastafarians.

Rastafarians believe that the Lion of Judah will lead them to liberation and freedom. They see themselves as part of a larger movement towards social justice and equality, with the Lion of Judah as their guiding symbol.

LionStrength and courage
JudahRepresentation of the tribe of Judah, of which Rastafarians see themselves as direct descendants
Haile Selassie IMessiah and leader of Rastafarianism

In conclusion, the Lion of Judah is a powerful symbol in Rastafarianism, representing strength, courage, leadership, and the second coming of Jesus Christ in the form of Haile Selassie I. It is an important symbol for Rastafarians as they seek liberation and freedom and fight for social justice and equality.

The Role of Reggae Music in Rastafarian Religion

Reggae music has been an integral part of Rastafarian culture since its inception, with many considering it as the voice of the movement. The genre’s lyrics have often touched on the themes of oppression, poverty, revolution, and redemption, mirroring the struggles of the Rastafarian community. Here, we explore the different ways that reggae music has played a significant role in the Rastafarian religion.

  • Messenger of the Movement – Reggae music has been a powerful tool for spreading Rastafarian teachings all over the world. Through the songs of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and other reggae icons, the principles of Rastafari, including anti-oppression, love, and unity, have reached millions, creating more awareness and acceptance of the movement.
  • Expression of Rasta Spirituality – Rastafarian beliefs about spirituality permeate reggae music in various ways. The genre offers space for the expression of deep spiritual beliefs, including the worship of Jah, the importance of self-determination, and the fight against Babylon’s corrupt society. Through their music, reggae artists help listeners to connect with their spirituality and understand the Rasta way of life.
  • Creating an Identity – Reggae music has helped to create a cultural identity for Rastafarians worldwide, fostering a sense of pride in their African roots and culture. The music represents more than just entertainment; it creates a space for social and cultural dialogue and serves as a platform for promoting understanding and tolerance.

Influence on Rasta Culture

Reggae music is not only a soundtrack to Rastafarianism but has also influenced many aspects of Rasta culture. Here are some of the ways that reggae music has impacted Rastafari:

  • Visual elements – Some of the iconic identifiers of Rasta culture, such as the dreadlocks hairstyle, the red, black, and green colors, and the lion symbol, have been inspired by reggae music and the artists who represent the Rasta movement.
  • Language – Reggae music has also added new vocabulary to the Rasta language, including words such as irie (feeling good), Babylon (corrupt system), and chalice (a smoking device).
  • Clothing – Many Rastafarians identify with the reggae music scene and have adopted certain clothing styles like berets, dashikis, and colorful clothes as a symbol of their cultural heritage.

The Rasta Music Scene

Reggae music has been the catalyst for several music genres in the Rasta music scene, giving voice to young and upcoming Rasta artists. The scene continues to evolve and influence many aspects of Jamaican culture. Here are some of the key players in the Rasta music scene, past, and present:

ArtistContribution to Rasta Music
Bob MarleyOne of the most popular and influential ambassadors of reggae music. He used his music to express Rastafarian ideals and promote Rasta culture worldwide.
Peter ToshA founding member of the Wailers, Tosh’s music was a powerful tool for political and social messages, promoting African pride and the fight against Babylon’s oppressive system.
Burning SpearWinston Rodney, aka Burning Spear, used reggae music to celebrate Rastafarian culture and pay tribute to the history and traditions of the African people.
Nyabinghi DrummingA style of drumming that forms the backbone of Rastafarian music. It involves the use of multiple drummers playing together in a rhythmic and harmonic fashion, creating a trance-like state ideal for meditation and worship.

Reggae music has become a symbol of hope, liberation, and spiritual progress for Rastafarians all over the world. It is an essential element of the Rasta culture, providing a means of expression and a platform for activism, education, and cultural awareness.

Significance of the Color Red, Yellow, and Green in Rastafarianism

The colors red, yellow, and green hold a lot of significance for Rastafarians, as they are a representation of the Ethiopian flag. The colors were incorporated into Rastafarianism during the early years of the movement, and are still an important part of its symbolism today.

  • Red: The color red represents the blood of those who have died for the liberation of the African people. It is also a symbol of the life force that flows through all living things.
  • Yellow: Yellow symbolizes the wealth of Africa, both in its natural resources and its people. It also represents the African sun, which is the source of all life.
  • Green: Green is the color of the earth, which provides sustenance for all living things. It also represents the hope and optimism that Rastafarians hold for the future of Africa, and the world as a whole.

The use of these colors in Rastafarianism is not limited to the colors themselves. They are often used in combination with other symbols and imagery to create a powerful message about the movement’s goals and beliefs.

For example, the image of a lion is often used in combination with the colors red, yellow, and green. The lion represents Haile Selassie, the former emperor of Ethiopia who is regarded as a messianic figure by Rastafarians. The red, yellow, and green colors, when combined with the image of a lion, create a potent symbol of African strength and unity.

Another example of the use of these colors is in the Rastafarian flag, which is made up of horizontal stripes of red, yellow, and green. The flag is often used as a symbol of Rastafarianism, and is flown at events and gatherings to show solidarity with the movement.

RedBlood of those who died for African liberation, life force
YellowAfrican wealth (resources and people), African sun/life source
GreenEarth, sustenance for living things, hope and optimism for the future

The colors red, yellow, and green are an integral part of Rastafarianism, and represent important values and beliefs within the movement. The symbolism of these colors is used in a variety of ways to express the goals and ideals of the movement, and to inspire a sense of unity among its followers.

Dreadlocks as a Sacred Hairstyle in Rastafarian Culture

As we delve deeper into the symbolism of dreadlocks in Rastafarian culture, it is important to understand that for the Rastas, their hair is seen as an extension of their soul. It is believed that by growing and wearing dreadlocks, they are bringing themselves closer to their spirituality and identity.

  • Connection to the Roots: Dreadlocks are seen as a connection to the roots of African history and culture. It represents the lion’s mane and the dreadlocks are believed to hold the spirit of the lion, which is a symbol of strength, courage, and leadership.
  • The Covenant with God: The Rastafari movement believes in a covenant they made with God called the Nazarite vow (Numbers 6:1-21). It signifies a separation of oneself from the mainstream society and a deeper commitment to spirituality. Dreadlocks are a visible sign of this vow.
  • Non-conformity: The Rastafarian movement originated in Jamaica as a response to oppression and inequality faced by the African people. Growing dreadlocks was a form of rebellion against the western standards of beauty and conformity thrust upon them.

The symbolism of dreadlocks can be seen in Rastafarian music, art, and literature, where it is revered as a sacred hairstyle. It is not just a hairstyle but a way of life, a connection to their past and a symbol of their faith.

In addition to the spiritual significance, Rastafarians take great care in maintaining their dreadlocks. It is seen as a form of self-care and is done with natural oils and unprocessed products.

Overall, the symbolism of dreadlocks is deeply rooted in Rastafarian culture and is a visible representation of their spirituality, identity, and history.

The Spiritual Significance of Smoking Marijuana in Rastafarianism

Smoking marijuana, also known as ganja, is an integral part of Rastafarian culture and spirituality. It is considered a sacrament and a means of communication with the divine. The use of marijuana dates back to ancient times when it was used by different cultures for medicinal and spiritual purposes. In Rastafarianism, smoking ganja is believed to have many spiritual benefits and symbolizes different things to different people.

  • Connection to nature: Rastafarians see ganja as a natural herb that comes from the earth, making it a sacred plant that connects them to nature. By smoking ganja, they feel a sense of oneness with the environment and the universe.
  • Relaxation and meditation: Marijuana is believed to have a calming effect that helps Rastafarians meditate and reflect on their lives and their faith. It opens their minds to new ideas and insights and facilitates introspection and self-discovery.
  • Divine inspiration: Rastafarians believe that smoking ganja allows them to communicate with Jah (God) and receive divine inspiration and guidance. It helps them to tap into their spiritual energy and connect with the universe on a deeper level.

However, it is important to note that Rastafarianism is not just about smoking marijuana. It is a complex religion with many beliefs and practices that go beyond the use of ganja. In fact, some Rastafarians choose not to smoke marijuana at all.

Here are some other beliefs and practices that are important in Rastafarianism:

  • Belief in the divinity of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia
  • Focus on living a natural, healthy lifestyle
  • Emphasis on social justice and equality
Red, gold, and green colors of the Rastafarian flagSymbolize the African continent, the blood of martyrs, and the vegetation of Ethiopia
DreadlocksSymbolize Rastafarian identity, rebellion against Babylon (oppressive society), and the Nazarite vow of not cutting one’s hair
Ganja (marijuana)Symbolize connection to nature, relaxation and meditation, and divine inspiration

In conclusion, smoking marijuana is an important part of Rastafarianism and has different spiritual meanings for different people. It symbolizes connection to nature, relaxation and meditation, and divine inspiration. However, it is essential to understand that Rastafarianism is a complex religion with many beliefs and practices that extend beyond the use of ganja.

Use of Ital Food in Rastafarianism

Ital food is a fundamental part of Rastafarianism and lifestyle. The term “Ital” comes from the word “vital,” meaning essential for life. The concept of Ital food is based on the belief that food should be consumed in its most natural, pure form, free from additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. The Rastafarian diet mainly consists of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

  • Rastafarians view food as medicine and a source of healing.
  • Ital food is believed to provide nourishment for the mind, body, and soul.
  • The consumption of Ital food is also seen as a way to promote compassion and respect for all living beings, including animals and nature.

The use of Ital food also relates to the concept of the number 7, which holds significant meaning in Rastafarianism. In this belief system, the number 7 represents completeness and perfection. It is believed that there are seven colors in the rainbow, seven notes in the musical scale, and seven days of the week.

The use of Ital food in the Rastafarian diet is also guided by the principles of the Nyabinghi order, which is one of the most significant Rastafarian groups. The Nyabinghi order considers the use of salt and meat to be impure and therefore prohibits their consumption. The Rastafarian diet is also heavily influenced by the practice of farming and agriculture, which is viewed as a way of preserving the natural order of things.

Ital FoodNon-Ital Food
Fruits and vegetablesProcessed and fast food
Nuts and grainsMeat and dairy products
Herbs and spicesArtificial additives and preservatives

The use of Ital food in Rastafarianism goes beyond just dietary practices. It is also seen as a way of connecting with African culture and traditions and promoting a sense of unity and community. The preparation and sharing of Ital food is often seen as a sacred act that involves love, respect, and mindfulness.

In conclusion, the use of Ital food in Rastafarianism is a way of promoting holistic health and wellbeing, compassion, and respect for nature. It is also an expression of cultural identity and community-building that plays a significant role in Rastafarian lifestyle and belief system.

Concept of Babylon in Rastafarianism

Rastafarianism, a spiritual movement that emerged in Jamaica during the 1930s, developed as a response to oppressive forces that threatened the unity and well-being of black people. It is a religion that places great emphasis on African roots, black pride, and resistance to Babylon, which symbolizes the western world and its oppressive nature. The concept of Babylon is a central theme in Rastafarianism, symbolizing the corrupt, oppressive, and materialistic forces of the modern world that have led to the spiritual impoverishment of humanity.

  • Babylon in Rastafarianism represents everything that is harmful to human dignity and the roots of African culture. It stands as a metaphor for the capitalist, materialistic, and colonial ideologies that have thrived in the western world.
  • The primary reason why Rastafarians reject Babylon is that it represents everything that goes against the principles and teachings of their faith. Babylon represents the exploitation of the African people, and rejection of African culture and religion, which are central to Rastafarian beliefs.
  • Another fundamental aspect of the concept of Babylon in Rastafarianism is its link to the number 8 or “eighty.” Rastafarians consider the number 8 as holy, and it symbolizes the end of Babylon’s reign and the start of a new era of freedom and peace.

Rastafarians believe that the number 8 is significant because it is the number of glasses of water one should drink in a day to maintain optimal health. It is also the number of years that Ethiopia, the promised land, was under Italian fascist control during the colonial period. The number 8 is also symbolic of the eight notes of the musical scale and represents harmony and balance.

The importance of the number 8 in Rastafarianism is further emphasized by the Nyahbinghi drumming, which consists of eight drummers playing a set of different-sized drums. The drumming is believed to induce a trance-like state, leading to spiritual enlightenment. Rastafarians also wear dreadlocks, which are said to represent the number 8, signifying the rejection of Babylon and the acceptance of the Holiness of Jah (God).

The Rastafarian belief in the number 8 is also reflected in their ceremonies, with the eighth day of the week (Sunday) being a special day reserved for worship, meditation, and reflection. The Rastafarians believe that the eighth day of the week is a holy day, marking the end of one cycle and the start of another.

Number 8 in RastafarianismSymbolism
Eight glasses of waterOptimal health and well-being
Eight years of Italian fascist control in EthiopiaThe end of Babylon
Eight notes of the scaleHarmony and balance
Eighth day of the weekHoly day

Rastafarian’s devotion to the number 8 is all about aspiring for spiritual enlightenment to turn attentions from the Babylonian System that promotes material success while ignoring holistic wellness.

Rastafarianism’s Views on Race and Colonialism

In addition to the music, rituals, and iconic hairstyle, Rastafarianism is known for its strong views on race and colonialism. Here are some key aspects of this worldview:

  • Rastafarians believe that black people were marginalized and oppressed by white colonial powers for centuries. They reject the idea of a hierarchy of races with white people at the top and black people at the bottom.
  • One of the central figures in Rastafarianism is Haile Selassie, the former emperor of Ethiopia. He is seen as a symbol of hope and inspiration for black people worldwide, having successfully resisted Italian colonization in the 1930s.
  • Rastafarians also believe in the concept of repatriation, or the return of black people to their spiritual homeland of Africa. This is seen as a way to restore dignity, pride, and a sense of identity to people whose ancestors were forcibly taken away as slaves.

One intriguing aspect of Rastafarianism is its use of the number 9 as a symbol of spiritual and cultural resistance to colonialism and oppression. Here’s a closer look at what this number means:

Number 9 in RastafarianismMeaning
Bob Marley’s birthday (February 6)A celebration of the music, messages, and influence of one of Jamaica’s most famous Rastafarians, who used his platform to promote peace, love, and unity.
The date of Haile Selassie’s coronation (November 2)A reminder of the power and resistance of Ethiopia’s former emperor, who is seen as a symbol of black liberation and African pride by many Rastafarians.
The number of fruits of the spirit in the Bible (Galatians 5:22-23)A biblical reference to the qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that Rastafarians cultivate as part of their spiritual practice.

Overall, the use of the number 9 in Rastafarianism highlights the movement’s emphasis on spiritual and cultural resistance to oppression, as well as its connection to Jamaica’s rich history, music, and cultural heritage.

Role of Haile Selassie in Rastafarian Beliefs

Haile Selassie, also known as Ras Tafari, was the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. Rastafarians believe that he is the reincarnation of Jah, a term used for God or the divine, and that he is the messiah promised in the Bible. This belief is central to the Rastafarian religion, and has had a significant impact on the movement since its inception in Jamaica in the 1930s.

  • The number 10 is significant in Rastafarian belief because it represents completion and perfection. This is because Haile Selassie was the 225th ruler of Ethiopia, and when the digits in 225 are added together (2+2+5), they equal 9. Rastafarians believe that Haile Selassie is the 10th and final ruler in the line of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba, which symbolizes the completion of the prophecy in the Bible.
  • Rastafarians also hold Haile Selassie in high esteem because of his role in the Pan-African movement. He was a strong advocate for African unity and played a key role in the formation of the Organization of African Unity, which helped to bring an end to colonialism and promote self-determination for African nations.
  • Haile Selassie is often referred to as “Negus,” which means “king” in Amharic, the language spoken in Ethiopia. This title is used to show respect and honor for his leadership and his role in the Rastafarian religion.

In addition to his significance in the Rastafarian religion, Haile Selassie’s teachings on equality, justice, and liberation have also influenced social and political movements around the world. His speeches to the United Nations and other international organizations are still celebrated today as powerful calls for peace and unity.

Overall, Haile Selassie’s role in Rastafarian beliefs is one of great importance, representing the completion of prophecy and a powerful symbolic figure for unity and liberation.

Role of Haile Selassie in Rastafarian BeliefsSignificance
Believed to be the reincarnation of JahCentral to Rastafarian belief system
Final ruler in the line of King Solomon and Queen of ShebaSymbolizes completion of prophecy
Played a key role in formation of the Organization of African UnityAdvocate for African unity and self-determination

Overall, Haile Selassie’s teachings and influence on Rastafarian beliefs and other social movements continue to resonate today, highlighting the importance of unity, equality, and justice in our world.

FAQs – What do dreadlocks symbolize to Rastafarians?

1. What do dreadlocks represent in Rastafarianism? Dreadlocks are seen as a symbol of Rasta identity and culture, representing the Lion of Judah, which is a central symbol of the Rastafarian faith.

2. How do Rastafarians view their dreadlocks? Rastafarians view their dreadlocks as a reflection of their spirituality and an outward sign of their commitment to the Rasta way of life.

3. How long does it take to grow dreadlocks as a Rastafarian? The length of time it takes to grow dreadlocks varies from person to person, but it typically takes several months to a year or more to cultivate them.

4. Can non-Rastafarians wear dreadlocks? Yes, anyone can choose to wear dreadlocks, but it is important to understand the cultural significance and respect the traditions behind the hairstyle.

5. Why do Rastafarians sometimes use the term “Natty Dread”? The term “Natty Dread” is a nickname given to Rastafarians with dreadlocks, which is a play on words of “knotty dreadlocks.”

6. Do Rastafarians cut their dreadlocks? Some Rastafarians choose to cut their dreadlocks as a personal choice or for practical reasons, but others view it as a form of disrespect to their faith and cultural identity.

7. Can Rastafarians have different styles of dreadlocks? Yes, Rastafarians can choose to style their dreadlocks in different ways, but the basic principles behind the hairstyle and its significance remain the same.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for exploring the symbolism of dreadlocks to Rastafarians with us. We hope this article has been informative and has deepened your understanding of the Rasta faith and culture. Remember to always approach other cultures with respect and an open mind. Visit us again for more insights and knowledge on diverse topics. One love!