Elements of Rastafarian Culture
It is believed that Rastafarianism is one of the most misunderstood movements in the world. Not only is it a religion but a way of life whose code of behavior and values encompasses all facets of its moral standings, culture and social relationships. Rastafarianism originated from the teachings of the great Black leader, Marcus Garvey, who advocated for unity among the black people and their return to their homeland in Africa. It draws its beliefs from the Bible along with African traditions and beliefs with its main objective being the unification of Africans. This paper examines an element of Rastafarianism and how this element is portrayed by the movement and non-believers of the faith.
Irrespective of the lack of knowledge about Rastafarianism, many people are aware of the fact that the movement incorporates the use of marijuana in its belief. Marijuana is a very important element in Rastafarianism and it is used in religious practices and ceremonies. The plant is seen as a source of conceptualization, wisdom and redemption. Ganja, as it is famously known, was brought to Jamaica from India. The good climate in the region supported its growth and cultivation, and it is still famously grown to date. According to Dubb, the plant has many medicinal uses and it disciplines the mind allowing it to reach a divine state. Rastafarians do not use marijuana for enjoyment or silly behavior. It is a holy weed used as a sacrament and a way to heighten community spirit bringing tranquility to the mind. (Dubb)
Rastafarian core belief and value is the promotion of love and peace in the community. A religious session where the holy weed is used is seen as a way of promoting this as believers come together to worship and pray. They also believe in the use of everything natural for consumption. As such Rastafarians are Vegans, who do not really support the use of modern medicine. Consequently, the use of Ganja is quite appropriate as it is a natural herb with many purposes. In addition, the Rastafarians believe in the Christian Holy Bible which, they claim, justifies the use of marijuana. They quote Genesis chapter 3 verse 18 “…eat every herb of the land” and Hebrews chapter 6 verse 7 “Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.” as true indications to the importance and sanctity of marijuana .
Rastafarians also have another reason for using marijuana. It is known that they are highly affiliated with the defiance and rejection of authority. They think of the authorities as the rulers of Babylon. Babylon is the white dominated world responsible for all the ills done to the black people and it is a Rasta’s goal to escape from Babylon and return home to Africa. In addition, Rastafarians are against paying taxes and capitalism. They do not partake in any activity that will lead to the payment of revenues or that promotes capitalism. They thereby limit themselves to agriculture, mainly the cultivation of marijuana and its sale thereafter in order to make a living. This use of Marijuana is highly viewed as a rebellion against the rulers of Babylon and clearly indicates the Rasta attitude of defiance towards the authority. Due to the illegality of the marijuana plant, its use negatively contributes to the cannabis religion thereby identifying the Rastafarians as criminals and delinquents. (Grant)
The National Institute on drug abuse asserts that marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug with its users ranging from adolescents to young Adults. Many of its users believe that it does not have many negative effects. Nevertheless, the Government, irrespective of its medicinal use, has outlawed its use and people can be arrested for the sale or possession of marijuana. The understanding of marijuana’s long term brain effects is limited and inconsistent. However, society at large continues to portray the drug as an evil to the society and a source of violence, crime, and social disintegration. Users of this drug are condemned and seen as the menace to society.
To the Rastafarian, Ganja is a source of healing and spiritual transformation. On the contrary, a non Rastafarian sees marijuana as a source of social enjoyment. It is a recreational hallucigen and an aphrodisiac that adds sexual excitement. Many young people see it as an exciting concept thus increasing the chances of its use among University and high school students. In addition, it is publicized as a good social drug by the entertainment industry with its use greatly showcased in movies and music. (Spicer) My friends and I see marijuana as a highly addictive drug whose long and short term effect being highly detrimental to a person. We believe that religion should be sober and realistic thus it is perplexing how a drug, that causes intoxication and hallucination, can be used to create spiritual unity.
The use of marijuana in Rastafarianism greatly undermines the Rastafarian ideals. To begin with, the cannabis religion is associated with the promotion of peace and love in the community. On the contrary, Marijuana is associated with crime and violence thus its use negates the whole Rasta principle of peace. How can a people who advocate for peace embrace the use of a drug that promotes violence? Consequently, the respect of God as a form of authority sprinkles down to the respect of the authority of the land. The Bible, a book that the Rasta believes in, says in Mark chapter 12 verse 17, “……Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s…” This was Jesus’ proclamation of the respect that should be accorded to the authority. Therefore, the use of Ganja as a show of defiance is totally wrong and goes against the Bible. Taking into consideration the intense effects of the drug, a great religion should not, by all means, promote its use. Thus the use of such an illegal and dangerous drug greatly undermines the strength and good will of the Rastafarian religion.
In conclusion, Rastafarianism is not all about smoking Ganja. In fact, many believers of this faith and movement have shunned the use of the drug. However, it still continues to be an important element to many other believers of Rastafarianism.