Rastafarianism: Lifestyle, Clothes & Facts

Instructor: Amy C. Evans

Amy has a BA/MA Criminal Justice. Worked with youth for over 20 years in academic settings. Avid reader, history and mystery lover.

In this lesson, we will learn about Rastafarianism. We will look at the Rastafarian lifestyle, the types of clothing Rastafarians wear and explore some of the facts of this Jamaican religious movement. Updated: 06/17/2022

Owning Your Identity

How do you identify yourself? Do you think of yourself in terms of culture, ethnicity, or race? Do you let others define who you are? Rastafarians, or also known as Rastas, make the choice to decide for themselves who they are and what is important to their culture.

Rastafarianism is a religious, as well as a political movement, that originated on the island of Jamaica, which has a mainly black population. Let us look at some of the important aspects that make Rastafarianism a distinctive lifestyle.

Lifestyle

Rastafarian Style Dreadlocks
A man wearing dreadlocks in the Rastafarian style

Rastafarians live in communities that are apart from Babylon, the name they use for the outside, modern world. Babylon is a biblical reference to a city known for its sin and godlessness. Rastas promote a healthy lifestyle, peaceful living, justice, and reject our junk-food, instant gratification modern-society in favor of a slower, more mindful way of living.

They promote social and economic egalitarianism (equality). However, contradictorily, there are gender roles within the culture. The roles are considered of equal importance, but the culture is patriarchal, and males maintain the most authority.

Women are ''Queens'' and the primary caregivers and nurturers who raise the children, teach them to eat right, and take care of their health. Rasta women do not wear make-up, they dress modestly, and identify closely with nature and living naturally.

Most Rastafarians have a strict, natural, vegan diet that excludes red meat, chicken, fish, and processed foods, so if you are a fan of hamburgers and chocolate cupcakes, you will probably not want to live on a Rastafarian diet. Fruits, vegetables, and flax are a common part of their meals.

The Rastafarian style of cooking is called ital cooking which relies heavily on coconut milk as the main ingredient and the preferred use of clay pots over metal pots, the latter of which is seen as a possible vector of metals into the body. Rastas also avoid dairy products and spices, so herbs and peppers are used in their stead and if salt is used, it must be kosher and without iodine.

Rastafarians also use medicinal herbs whenever possible instead of going to the doctor. It is important to their culture to keep their bodies clean from pollutants.

Another important aspect of Rastafarian culture and lifestyle is dreadlocks. Dreadlocks are hair that is uncombed and uncut; allowed to grow out naturally and to mimic a lion's mane, and all the things that can be associated with lions, including strength and intelligence. Rastafarians believe that God wants them to be as natural as possible, so they do not cut their hair or pierce their bodies. Also, part of their lifestyle is the smoking of marijuana. They believe that marijuana, also called cannabis, increases the chances of communication with Jah, which is their name for God.

Clothes

Color is an important part of Rastafarian clothing, which often reflects the colors that represent Ethiopia which they believe is their homeland. These colors include golds, greens, blacks, and reds and each has some symbolic meaning.

Knitted caps often adorn the heads of men and women. Women also wear head coverings for special celebrations, but some women, depending on the branch of the faith tradition they follow, are required to wear head coverings whenever they are in public.

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