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The Rastafari religion and culture are full of unique concepts and symbols. From their music, hair, clothing styles, and diet, all the way to the unique dialect, phrases, and written symbols, the Rastafarian people have some of the most fascinating symbols and metaphors in the world. Here are some of the most popular Rastafarian symbols.
The Pan-African Colors of The Rastafari
Before we get to any of the other symbols, we have to talk about the 4 key Rastafari colors. Three of them were taken from the original Ethiopian flag before it was changed to its current look. That is because Ethiopia has a very special place in the Jamaica-born Rastafari religion. To the followers of this religion, Ethiopia is literally their Zion or Promised Land.
The Rastafari belief claims that the people of Africa who were taken by the European slave owners were brought to Babylon or Hell, as they view the Americas. They believe that one day they will have their own Exodus and will return to Ethiopia – the first land from which all Africans are said to come.
So, naturally, the Rastafarians have a special love for the three colors of the original Ethiopian flag which they also view as the current Rastafari flag:
Red is the first color of the Rastafari flag and it’s said to represent the blood that the pan-African people have spilled in the American Hell.
Gold or bright yellow is the second color of the flag and represents the royal lineage of all African people. The Rastafari religion – especially in its first several decades – placed a major emphasis on the superiority of the African race over all other races and especially over their Caucasian slavers.
Today, the Rastafari religion is not as aggressive as it once was and there’s more of a focus on peace and love. However, the Rastafari people still believe that they are the chosen people of God.
Green represents the flora and fertility of the Jah’s (God’s) Earth and especially the luscious vegetation of the Promised Land, Ethiopa. The Rastafari people revere the flora and fauna around them and even follow their own vegan Ital diet.
The fourth special color for the Rastafari religion isn’t found on the original Ethiopian flag but is equally important as the other three. The black color represents the people of Africa. It unites this pan-African religion and movement so that it includes all African people and not just those with direct Ethiopian descent.
10 Most Famous Rastafarian Symbols And What They Mean
With the above four colors in mind, we can go over the 10 key Rastafari symbols and what they mean. Many of these are not written or drawn symbols, as the Rastafari culture and religion find symbolism in many things – music, clothes and lifestyle, hand gestures, speech, and more.
1. The Lion of Judah
The Lion of Judah is one of the main emblems of the Rastafari religion. It’s also present in the Rasta flag which we’ll cover below. Another term for this lion is The Conquering Lion and the Lamb.
This emblem symbolizes Zion or the Promised Land/Ethiopia. It also represents the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, whose birth name was Ras Tafari and after whom the Rastafari religion is named. Haile Selassie is believed to be a king and Rastafarians believe that the mention in the Bible of a Lion of Judah is in reference to him.
2. The Star of David
The Rasta Star of David is similar to the Hebrew Star of David in shape and appearance. The reason the Rastafari share that symbol is that they believe Emperor Haile Selassie was a descendant of the Hebrew Kings David and Solomon as well as of Judah.
In fact, as much of the Rastafari religion is based on Protestant Christianity, the Rastafarians believed that they themselves are descendants of the ancient Hebrew people.
The Rasta Star of David symbolizes all this while also having a clear Rastafarian design – it’s painted with the four Rastafari colors and often has the Lion of Judah in the middle.
3. The Rasta Flag
The Rasta flag is based on the original Ethiopian flag we mentioned above. It also often has the Lion of Judah in the middle as the main symbol of the Rastafari religion.
4. Jah Rastafari
Jah, in the Rastafari religion, is the name of God. More accurately, it’s the first part of His full name Jah Jehova. The Rastafari also refer to Haile Selassie as Jah as they believed him to be the next incarnation of Jesus Christ and God in human form.
As a result of that Jah Rastafari is an image of God/Haile Selassie with two lions on his sides and in front of the Rastafari colors.
5. I and I
I and I is a common phrase in Rasta culture that is full of symbolism. It stems from the Rastafari belief that God and His Holy Spirit are in every person, or that God is man and man is God. The Rastafarians say I and I instead of us, them, or you. In other words, this phrase symbolizes the oneness and the equality of the Rastafari people.
In Rastafari culture, Zion is actually a synonym for the Promised Land or Ethiopia. It’s the direct opposite of Babylon or Hell which is what the Rastafari call the American continent.
Zion is supposed to be the birthplace of all of humanity, where God created Adam and Eve. It’s where the first people started spreading across the globe, and where God’s chosen people – the Rastafari – will one day return.
Whether we’re talking about the plant itself or just images of it, marijuana is a key symbol of Rastafarianism. The Rastafari have a strong reverence for all plants and the environment as a whole, but their relationship with marijuana is much more special.
The Rastafari used marijuana as a part of many of their religious rituals. They believe that smoking the plant helps get them closer to Jah and meditate with Him. Believers sometimes form smoking circles called reasoning sessions and would pray to Jah together.
Many people associate dreadlocks today with Rastafarianism and with good reason. While some other cultures across the world have also had dreadlocks as a standard hairstyle, none have viewed it as a sacred hairstyle the way the Rastafari do.
This belief stems from the Rastafarian adherence to the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament. It’s a part of the Nazarite Vow which states that:
They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard nor make any cuttings in their flesh. Leviticus 21:5
Additionally, the dreadlocks hairstyle was viewed as a rebellion against western style and etiquette. However, it is worth noting that the Rastafari people are definitely not against piercing which seems to go against the nor make any cuttings in their flesh line.
9. Reggae Music
Popularized by the famous Bob Marley, Reggae music has become one of the most famous symbols of the Rastafari religion and culture across the world. It’s also one of the most effective ways through which the Rastafari religion has managed to rebrand itself and even change its core tenets over the years.
In its early days the Rastafari religion was outright aggressive and revolutionary against the oppression (or “downpression” as the Rastafari say) of the white man over the Rastafari people.
However, today, there’s much more of an emphasis on peace, love, and the acceptance of Jah’s love and the expectance of His plan’s fulfillment. In fact, today there are even many Caucasian Rastafari! A big part of this switch is arguably due to the power of Reggae music.
10. The Rastafari “Diamond” Hand Gesture
This symbol is closely related to the Rasta Star of David and is derived from a popular hand gesture that Haile Selassie I used to do. Also known as the Seal of Solomon or the Diamond hand gesture, it’s said that Haile made this gesture to indicate that he is in fact a manifestation of the Divinity.
Today, many Rastafarians use this gesture while praying while others believe that it should only be used by Haile Selassie and not other people.
Among the most colorful and unique religions in the world today, the Rastafari religion has an emphasis on peace, love, music, oneness, and the divine. The symbols of this religion represent the ideals and values of Rastafarianism.