Guidance for Life

Rastafari is more about a way of living than an acceptance of doctrine. An early codification of morality was written as ten principles by the Jamaican Rastafari elder, Sam Brown (1925-1998), who was the first Rastafari to run for political office:

1. We strongly object to sharp implements used in the desecration of the figure of Man; e.g. trimming and shaving, tattooing of the skin, and cutting of the flesh.

2. We are basically vegetarians, making scant use of certain animal flesh, outlawing the use of swine’s flesh in any form, shell fishes, scaleless fishes, snails, etc.

3. We worship and observe no other God but Rastafari, outlawing all other forms of Pagan worship yet respecting all believers.

4. We love and respect the brotherhood of mankind, yet our first love is to the sons of Ham [black people].

5. We disapprove and abhor utterly hate, jealousy, envy, deceit, guile, treachery, etc.

6. We do not agree to the pleasures of present-day society and its modern evils.

7. We are avowed to create a world of one brotherhood.

8. Our duty is to extend the hand of charity to any brother in distress, firstly for he is of the Rastafari order – secondly, to any human, animals, plants, etc.

9. We do adhere to the ancient laws of Ethiopia.

10. Thou shall give no thought to the aid, titles and possession that the enemy in his fear may seek to bestow on you; resolution to your purpose is the love of Rastafari. (reproduced from Barrett 1977: 126)

In general, Rastafari try to live in a way that defends the poor and oppressed, a worldview inherited from the early movement. The white race is seen as oppressive, but not all white people are evil, they accept individual white people on merit unless they are found guilty of racism. Rastafari became less concerned with racial separatism and aggression after the 1960s. There is, however, no uniform view on race. While there is a general principle that Jah is in everyone, Rastafari view themselves as a people apart. For many the sense is that they are a ‘covenant people’ like the Jews with special responsibilities rather than being a superior race, as early Rastafari preachers claimed. This means striving towards the ideal way of life including living off the land, growing their own food, not using the land for commercial profit, and eating only clean ital food (see ‘Ethical Guidelines’ below). This is seen as living in a natural ‘African’ way. This is phrased as being a ‘conscious’ not a ‘careless’ Ethiopian (using Ethiopian as a symbol for all black people). Those who are careless do not follow the Rasta way, the conscious do, and salvation comes from being a conscious Ethiopian.

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