You are on page 1of 9

Rastafari: Ras Bhenda answers 20 questions

Rastafari: Ras Bhenda answers 20 questions

A list of 20 questions made to me in April 2010. This is my first answer. These questions allowed me to rethink my path as a rastafari, and analyzing my thoughts of Rasta Living. It is also very interesting to see how Jung, Kwanzaa, Systemic Thinking, etc. They all get along nicely with Rastafari.

First of all I would like to say that this is my vision of Rastafari. This is what I aim, and some of the things I believe to be important are not yet fully into my life. However this view is a product of my experiences, my quests, and an expression of me and my Higher Self. I make no pretensions to speak in the name of many, some, or even another Rasta. It is my voice, and these are my words. InI RastafarI

1. Why did you choose to become a rastafarian? What makes a rastafarian so different from the average person or people in general? What is it to be true a Rastafarian? What does it mean to be a Rastafarian?
I will refer to myself as Rastafari. Why not Rastafarian? This is not a grammatical statement. Grammatically speaking Rastafarian is the correct word, because it means that that person shares a Rastafari view of the world. But to Rastafari Word is Power, and rastafari use words and metaphors to express and promote thoughts a social awareness, and so rastafari chooses words wisely. Rasta people or rastafari is free from labels, rastafari seeks and aims to build a world where one can be connected to every living being in the Universe. There is no space for isms because they are so many times cause for division. So I will refer to these people as rastafari, for they try to manifest in their lives the Rastafari Principle. That being said, one does not choose to be a rastafari. It is more like a (re)calling, a remembering that Rastafari is within. But one can speak of the circumstances that led to the discovery of the awakening. I am from Angola, but I was born in Portugal. By the time I was born (1974) Angola was still a portuguese colony, and so many Angolans where in Portugal for studies or work. Because of the better access to education, my parents made the decision to let me live in Portugal. This presented many benefits, but also posed a lot of questions regarding my African backgrounds. Am I a product of my genetics, or a product of my upbringing nature vs. nurture? For the first part of my life, Nurture won and I tried to forget my heritage and just make my life here. But it soon proved incomplete, so I started to open my eyes, seeking something to fill the void. I found that reconnecting with my roots had a soothing effect on my soul inner turmoil. I practiced many things, African gastronomy, African lifestyle, African music, African Stories ans Books, African history, African Martial Arts, and African looks. I wanted to assume my blackness, started wearing traditional clothes, and assuming my tight kinky hair. I had spent most of my life shaving my head, because I couldnt have the same hair my white friends had, but now (about 16 years ago) I wanted it to let it grow and express my African Roots! A few months later, I began - Pag. 1 -

Rastafari: Ras Bhenda answers 20 questions

playing with my hair and breeding these little coils of hair, they looked nice, and so I kept on, until one day, a rastafari brother came to me and greeted me I thought he had me mistaken for someone else, but it started happening a lot, and one day one rastafari spoke to me. I told him I see YOU people think I am a Rastafarian, but Im not. I have this hair just because I like it!. He smiled and answered Rastafari is not in the head, it is in the Heart!. Well I had always thought of rastas as a weedsmoking bunch of people, but his answer was strangely enlightening and deeply metaphorical, and I felt he was not just saying the words, he was feeling them. I started searching and he who searches finds. Still today I am learning to manifest Rastafari within me, to live the InI. So, in trying to answer this question, I dont believe in chosen ones, many rastafari think of themselves as the chosen people, to me God has many faces, and he chooses to present an image of Himself that exerts the most impact on the individual. The message is the same across all religions. Love. Inity. Peace. There are a lot of pathways to God, and Rastafari is one of them. We are all rastafari, we call it Rastafari, but there are many names. Rastafari is the Peace Love and Inity principle within each and every one of us, its a soulful energy that pushes us to be the best that we all can be, a kind of collective consciousness. In the rastafari view, there are no boundaries, no difference between me and another living being, no difference between men. InI means I and I, and can be used to say you and me, us, me, Me and God, etc. Its kind of the hindu greeting Namaste (The divinity in me recognizes the divinity in you!). But rastafari is but a form to manifest the content. This content is called Rastafari by rastafari, but has other names in other cultures, like Christ by Christians, Chi or Ki, etc What is a true rastafari? for many years I did not consider myself a true Rasta, many non-Rasta did not also consider me a Rasta, because I did not smoke weed, I worked as a Clinical Psychologist, did not wear ragged clothes, and my hair although long looked cared and even smell good. To me I did not considered myself a true Rasta because I thought it was too Christian for me, it looked like an attempt to blacken a white experience to which I felt little relation. Today I see rastafari as an individual path to God, a path to manifest that Divine Principle. So I believe that if you honestly try to follow that Divine Principle, you are being a true Rasta, more than what others say or do, for each one of us walks a different path. Only I can wear my shoes. To be a true rastafari is to be in synch with Rastafari and every day to try and manifest it in your thoughts, relations, actions and words. Peace, Love and Inity. I think I have answered what it is to be a rastafari it is to manifest the Rastafari principle, to continuously seek a way to reconnect with Jah. To be InI.

2. Have you broken any rules and if not then if members break the rules what are the consequences or punishment for breaking a rule?
Rastafari is a principle and not a set of rules, you can either be aligned with the principle and manifest it, or not! But because there are many ways to reach the same place (this is one of the

- Pag. 2 -

Rastafari: Ras Bhenda answers 20 questions

principles of systemic thinking in Clinical Social Psychology) there are people who have united under one banner, which is called a Mansion. Mansion are groups of people that look at Rastafari the same way, and so study and practice Rastafari together. These Mansions build rules and conducts they believe will help them to manifest the Rastafari Principle faster, safer and better. Although they are not churches, there could be some parallel, some have leaders, principles, dress codes, hierarchy, etc. In those Mansions, depending on which one, I suppose there can be (or not) a penalty for breaking rules but in Rastafari there is no outer consequence or punishment. See it this way. If you make sports, and exercise daily, you will feel good and your body will grow healthy. But if you dont your body will grow weak and health issues may arise. That is your consequence. There is no punishment from God or Church, just a feedback on your actions. Rastafari is Peace, Love and Inity Respect is a consequence of such thoughts you walk your path and I respect you, as long as you dont carry injustice to others I will leave you be. A rastafari does not in principle drink alcohol, mainly because it can keep you from reconnecting with your higher self. But if a rastaman drinks, it will be upon himself, it will be his loss. Other situations may occur that a Rasta behaves unbecoming, and brings rastafari name to a shame. Well that is a known Social Psychology issue (Outer Group Homogeneity: When one watches the behavior of someone not belonging to your group, you will tend to classify the whole group with that behavior), and every Rasta will try to illuminate other rastas who indulge in such behaviors.

3. Does race influence for one to become a rastafarian?

Not to Rastafari. As I said before, Rastafari is a principle, Peace Love and Inity, it is each and every living beings purpose to reconnect to Life. Anyone can be a rastafari, as long as he/she tries to manifest it in his life. Now I will introduce another key aspect of Rastafari. The African Diaspora. A central key to Rastafari is the concept of Africa as a motherland, as the Mecca for Rastas, the Promised Land. The expansion of black people was forced by 500 years of slave trade. Many men, women and children were stolen from Africa and planted in the Americas and other places. As black men developed the rastafari belief system, they based it on this everlasting struggle against slavery and injustice. But black men felt a part was missing, and so It is said that all black men/rastafari must head back to Africa (Repatriation), specially Ethiopia, homeland of former Ras Tafari Makonnen, later know as His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and Elect of God (we shall speak of him further down). To me this had great impact, as I saw it as my own need. In my view this repatriation is a metaphorical way to explain that each and every man must travel to his beginning, to his essence when he was but One with all and the Creator, Jah. This union is called InI. As Carl Gustav Jung says () individuation must not be understood as a linear development, but as a "circumambulation of the self (Jung, Memories 1965). - Pag. 3 -

Rastafari: Ras Bhenda answers 20 questions

Because of this, one might be tempted to believe only Africans can be rastafari, the fact is that the concept was built by Africans in the Diaspora, but the voyage is a personal one, and each and every one of us must undertake it, physically, metaphorically, or both. I do feel that mainly Africans, especially in search of their identity like me will feel connected when dealing with Rastafari, but I have also witnessed that same effect in other ethno-linguistic groups/origins/race.

4. Do rastafarians have a typical dress code or clothing that distinguish them from the average population and if so what does this type of dress code mean and is it necessary?
There is no dress code in Rastafari. Rastafari is a state of being, an energy, a Divine Principle. Ancient Traditions, have taught all of us that certain postures, actions, choices favor the connection to the divine principle. In rastafari colors like White, Green, Gold, Red and Black. Red is said to signify the blood of Black Jamaican martyrs, green the lushness of the Ethiopan and/or Jamaican countryside, and gold the wealth of Africa. Black represents a Afrocentric view, but that does not mean only black people can relate. White is a Peace color. Rastafari people also eat Ital and live Ital, so they might abstain from clothes that either maintain a social class difference (made in Taiwan, China, etc.), a kind of modern day slavery, or made of animal skin, animal tested, etc. The Tam is a known clothing item, it is a wool hat that contains the dreads (hair). Mansions may have dress codes. More than clothes there are symbols that identify Rastas: the colors, the dreads, cannabis, etc.

5. Do you smoke marijuana as part of your religion?

I do not smoke, nor feel it is a must. Rastafari is also freedom. Freedom to smoke and freedom not to smoke.

6. What is the meaning of smoking marijuana for Rastafarians and are there any other activities that are illegal that rastafarians do? Do you have a special permit for the illegal activity or you just do it illegally?
To manifest Rastafari, to reconnect with InI, to be master of your voyage requires a lot of self analysis. You must break barriers to your Babylonian thinking, cast aside harmful habits, etc. To do this rastafari speak and debate. They can also meditate, use art, music, etc.

- Pag. 4 -

Rastafari: Ras Bhenda answers 20 questions

The proper and specific use of cannabis can (if used properly as a sacrament) help you to overcome barriers, allow you to change a mindset and look at things with a different perspective, it can speed this process for some people. It is also a communal act. Rastafari brothers will gather around a circle and share the smoking, share the mindset, etc. The issue of illegality happens because many rastas feel no need to participate in the Babylonian Organization of this society. They become a kind of Anarchy Jah Soldiers. What I mean is that they do not recognize the state as been the authority. God is the only Authority, and if InI is I and God, and InI is my Higher Self, then my Higher Self is God. So each and every person that manifests Rastafari lives his/her Higher Self and so has Kujichagulia which means Self-Determination within the Nguzo Saba (Nguzo Saba means the 7 principles, they are the corner stone of the Kwanzaa celebration, a celebration of African culture worldwide). This can lead to some antagonism from the institutional powers, some rastas dont worry about validating their ID, social security, steady jobs, voting, etc. Other builds communities away from urban centers, so they can fulfill their lifestyle and create parallel economies (legal) based on fairtrade. Some believe the education is tainted with Babylonian attempts to keep people (not only rastafari) mind-slaves to consumism, and apathy, and so prefer to have their children homeschooled. Rasta will resist the downpression (this word is used to substitute oppression, because oppression as a up sound, and no action that brings men down should have that up sound, so downpression is used to emphasize the illness of the action, many other examples exist), and so are easily led to police stations, harassed, denied opportunities, etc. The widely spread vision of dreads and rastas, has softened in some circles the downpression, but rastafari continues to be a minority and marginal group.

7. When was Rastafarians as a subculture created and why was this subculture created?
Rastas belief system was molded by the African Diaspora in Jamaica. As always there ws a need to understand the world around them, so they searched for answers in religious movements. One man, Marcus Mosiah Garvey talked about black pride, and the way one day in Africa someone would arise to lead all descendents of Africa to better living, away from poverty and injustice. At the same time, a man was crowned Emperor in Ethiopia. His name was Tafari Makonnen, and his title was Ras (meaning head or prince). He was renamed Haile Selassie I and that was viewed by many as the realization of Marcus prophecy. Ethiopia official religion is Orthodox Catholic Church, and Catholicism was the widespread religion in the Jamaican Islands, so the set about reading the bible and started mixing elements from popular wisdom, and trying to recover the beauty of African history and Black Pride. This happened around the 1930s. In Jamaica and the islands nearby the movement spread, but I was not until Bob Marley, and other groups exported reggae to the world that this became a wide world phenomena. I believe this subculture appeals to all those that feel this system, this society instead of making us happier has made us slaves of our

- Pag. 5 -

Rastafari: Ras Bhenda answers 20 questions

circumstances. It appeals to finding the real within ourselves and serves as an alternative, and as a weapon of social critique.

8. Is there a higher power within your group that you gain permission or go to when you need help?
I dont belong to a Mansion, so I seek Rastafari on my own, although i sometimes discuss my view of Rastafari with others.

9. Do you have any different type of slang that you use in order to communicate with each other and if so give me a few examples of slang used to communicate?
There is a form of speaking associated with Jamaican Rastas the Patois, a language half slang and half creole. In Portugal and probably in other countries there are specific words, but only some speak Patois.

10.Are there steps to become a rastafarian and if what are they?

To be a rastafari one only needs to see Rastafari as a goal in Life. Everything else is a quest, and the seeker will find clues and masters on his/her way to InI. Changes will be made my the Self in this quest for his Higher Self, new things will sprout. If you which to enter a Mansion, then I believe each Mansion will have its policies on joining.

11.Is there any other way to join to become a rastafarian besides those steps to gain entry?
- there anything about being a rastafarian that you dont like and if so name it and what you would change about it to help yourself or others?
Rastafari is a Divine Principle, nothing needs to be changed, what is needed is for us to discover and learn everyday more about this Divine Principle. I would also not change rastafari people, as long as they bring not injustice. There is a need for Mansions for those who travel in groups, and there is a need for rastas who carry their studies in solitude.

- Pag. 6 -

Rastafari: Ras Bhenda answers 20 questions

Some Mansions view women as a rib of Adam and so forever deem them under man (there are other reasonings that link the ideas behind rastafari to Ancient Egypt, having a radical different approach to women). To me that is injustice, but if that is a enlightened sisters choice, I will respect it.

13.Do you talk/interact with any other rastafarian members that are from other places?
Inity each time I see a rastafari, I will greet him for he is myself (InI), and if possible engage in a conversation. InI have learned much this way, and have had the opportunity to enlighten also.

14.Is there a type of cuisine or diet that rastafarians eat and if name some of the typical cuisines that rastafarians usually eat?
Rastas are Vegans for several reasons. For one, Ancient teachings like hindu, muslim, budhist, etc. speak of meat as a deterrent to spiritual uplifting. Also rastafari respects all life, and if there is a choice one does not have to exchange one life for another; Beside this there is not much I know more about rastafari specific diet.

15.What symbols are important to a rastafarian and explain the main ones?
The Lion represents the king of animals, as Rastafari is Kingly, it is referred in the Solomonic Dynasty, which traced the lineage of Haile Selassie I back to Kind David. The colors associated with rastafari are Red which is said to signify the blood of Black martyrs, Green represents the lushness of the African countryside, Gold the wealth of Africa and Black represents Africa and its people. Dreadlocks were used long before rastafari, and are even described in the Bible. They represent the Nazarite vow, a dedication to Rastafari, they are a man/womans roots. Cannabis is a plant used by many Rastas to facilitate meditation and the connection with God. Music, especially drumming is used to induce a trance like state in which Rastas meditate, this type of religious drumming made its way into music, first in Ska, and latter in Reggae.

- Pag. 7 -

Rastafari: Ras Bhenda answers 20 questions

16.As the lion is a symbol of the Rastafarian what does it stand for if not answered previously?
Check question 15

17.Is there any health risks related to being a rastafarian?

Rastafari are usually vegans, and tend to eat food the most unadulterated possible. As every choice has consequence, it is important to be aware of what you are doing, if you switch to a vegan food regime, be sure to advise with other vegans or nutritionists so you can be sure you are getting the nutrients and vitamins you need. You might even have to do a little research to find food. Rastafari also usually abstain from pharmacy drugs choosing natural remedies, again it is very important to be surrounded with good and experienced people that can help you to take informed decisions.

18.What are the goals of the rastafarians in general?

My view of the rastafari mission is to manifest the values of Peace, Love and Inity. Every Rasta has the power to fight for injustice and build a better world. To abolish all barriers, between Man, gender, sexuality, race, ideology, religion, etc. To abolish all barriers between Man and Nature, promoting sensefull living, ecology, respect for The Garden, etc.. And most of all to abolish all barriers between Man and God, so that everything can be I (I/One). In a local perspective rastafari can promote social, economic, cultural and educational consciousness by gathering and helping societies to reflect on their ways and choices. They can offer other ways of doing, show other actions and logics, etc. Every rastafari is Jah Soldier, and will use his/her weapons of Peace, Love and Inity wherever InI leads him/her!

19.Are there any folkways, values, and mores that are natural to the rastafarians?
Praising life in through the name of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassi I Ras TafarI Only take what you can carry! Above all Peace, Love and Unity When a Rasta sees a brother of the path, may he stop and greet Rastaman.

- Pag. 8 -

Rastafari: Ras Bhenda answers 20 questions

20.Are there any particular sayings that are associated with Rastafarians or represent them and their way of life?
Jah Bless, Seen, InI, Zion, Babylon, Inity, Overstand, Downpression, Star of David, Ital Food and Living, Tsse bem (only in Portugal and Angola)

- Pag. 9 -