Rastafarian Religion and Use of Marijuana
Marijuana is considered as a sacred herb and the people of Jamaica consume this lot. Both ganja and marijuana are consumed in hefty quantities by and Rastafarians stresses a lot on the use of marijuana and they use marijuana for medicinal purposes and for religious practice. The relationship of marijuana with the religion of Rastafarians of Jamaica is discussed in this paper. During the period of slavery marijuana grew on the island but it was not recognized at that time.
After the period of slavery the black Jamaicans utilized marijuana and as the time passes by it becomes the symbol of their pleasant past. As marijuana grew in huge quantities and the production of marijuana increases then ultimately marijuana converted into a “holy herb”. In the paper we will discuss the religion Rastafarian and emphasis is laid on the use of marijuana for medicinal and religious practice by the Rastafarians. Moreover, in this entire paper the development of religious symbolism of marijuana and clinical view of marijuana is presented in detail.
Evolution of Rastafarians
The term Rastafari is also known as “Rastafarianism” is basically a term that actually emerged in working class of Jamaica and it emerged in the early 1930’s. This religion actually initiated from the interpretation of Biblical prophecy. The Rastafari movement is also known as a monotheistic and a new religious movement. The believers of this religion consider the former Emperor of Africa as the embodiment of God. These Rastafarians consider Haile Selassie as the returned messiah that was mentioned in the Holy Bible. The actual name of Rastafari initiated from Ras (Duke) which is known as the pre-coronation name of their leader Haile Selassie I. These movements of Rastafari have spread throughout the world and the musical beats of this religion are quite famous. Bob Marley can be considered as one of the famous musicians that belong to this religion. In the year 2000 there are more than one million Rastafarians worldwide. Rastafarians are mostly vegetarians and many Rastafarians eat limited amount of meat. They strictly follow the dietary Laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy that are mentioned in the Old Testament (Barrett, 1997)
Certain terminologies are quite famous in this religion like ‘Jah’, ‘Haile Selassie’, and ‘Zion vs. Babylon’. Rastafarians call their God as Jah and they consider Jah in the form of Holy Trinity. They believe that Jah is actually present in the form of Holy Spirit and it lives with the humans. That is the reason why they refer to themselves with the terminology of “I and I” (Junique, 2004). Rastafarians strongly believe on the basic principles of Christianity but they believe that the actual teachings of Christianity were corrupted by Babylon.
Another important terminology that is related to Rastafarians is Haile Selassie. He was basically the emperor of Ethiopia from the period of 1930 to 1974. The followers of this religion claim that Haile Selassie was the reincarnation of Jesus. That is the reason why they consider Haile Selassie as the incarnation of Jah onto the Earth. The followers believe that Haile would lead them to the ultimate paradise which is also known as ‘Zion’.
People that follow the Rastafarian religion believed that Ethiopia is the land of Rastafarians which was promised by Jah. The followers of Rastafarian religion reject the teachings and attitudes of the modern western society and they call this society as ‘Babylon’. They believe that those who follow the teachings of Babylon would not enter paradise that is known as the Zion.
Rastafarians and marijuana
Rastafarians consider the smoking of cannabis which is also known as the healing of the nation as a spiritual act. They relate ganja, herb and marijuana as spiritual elements and the followers of this religion most of the times relate this with Biblical teachings. Rastafarians consider that this is an element that cleans the entire body, soul, heart and dignifies peacefulness in the body. This sacred smoke creates a melancholy in the body and brings pleasure as a result of which Rastafarians come closer to Jah. One of the most prominent reasons why Rastafarians use marijuana extensively is because the burning of this herb is considered as an essential element because it will clean the heart of those who perform wrong doings and evil deeds. They believe that ganja and marijuana are mentioned in the Bible in Psalms 104:14 (Barrett, 1997).
In Jamaica marijuana has a unique history and it was used for medicinal purposes too. The Arawak tribes used this herb for the purpose of developing medicines and they taught Jamaicans how to use this drug. Rasta’s don’t smoke but it is considered as a ritual element by many of them. The herb of marijuana is called by different names like ganja, Cashi, collie, Blunt, Grass, Wisdom weed, Konna Gold and etc. All the classes of marijuana are quite famous in Jamaica and all Rastafarians consider the use of marijuana as sacred.
Rastafarians believe that the use of cannabis is the part of their culture and it was actually introduced by Arab traders in the central and Southern African region. The cannabis is also known as dagga and many Rasta’s says that consuming cannabis is part of their culture. The Rasta’s consider that the uses of marijuana have beneficial qualities but it is not compulsory to use it. The Rastafarians believe that it is no illegal and the use of marijuana is legal because it can be considered as a powerful substance that opens the minds of the people and then take them towards the truth. The Rasta’s consider the system of Babylon as an evil and corrupt system because they consume alcohol and other drugs in comparison to marijuana. The use of alcohol would destroy their minds. Another religious aspect of cannabis is that it is one of those herbs which God commanded Moses to include in his preparation of sacred perfume (Junique, 2004). Rastas face many problems with their belief because in many nations the use of marijuana is prohibited. That is the reason why United States gave a legal opinion that under the law drug laws of United States people in United States cannot smoke marijuana. Same is the case in United Kingdom and other major countries of the world.
Rasta’s are associated with ganja from day one and they believe that it is the part of their diet and the use of ganja and marijuana saves an individual from certain other drugs like alcohol, coffee and etc. In this religion Ganja is considered as the key of understanding different phenomena of life and the followers of this religion relate the use of marijuana and ganja with the self, universe and even the God. They believe that God will only help them and will come to a man only when an individual loosen itself by smoking ganja and marijuana.
Religious Implications of marijuana
The religious implications of Rastafarians are not diverse and that is the reason why they don’t possess a specific religious building that is set aside for worship. They usually meet in monthly or on weekly basis in their community centers or in their believer’s home. The meetings of Rastafarians meetings are sometimes referred as reasoning sessions and in these reasoning sessions they offer prayers and smoke ganja & marijuana (Chevannes, 1994). The purpose of smoking marijuana is to produce heightened spiritual states. Marijuana possess huge amount of religious significance in the religion of Rastafarian. One of the purposes of marijuana is meditation. The history of marijuana and the Rastafarian religion goes together and Rastafarians started using Marijuana in reaction to the treatments of blacks in the society. The Rastafarians don’t call marijuana an illegal drug they call marijuana as a wisdom weed or the holy herb. The Rastafarians use marijuana and they gave justifications from the biblical texts:
Genesis (3.18) “Thou shalt eat the herb of the field”
Exodus (10:12) “eat every herb of the land”
The marijuana is usually rolled into a cigarette or in certain cases it is rolled in to a chillum pipe. The marijuana is inhaled deeply when it is smoked and the devotee after smoking the cigarette enters into a trance like state. Certain governments are giving the Rastafarians the right to smoke marijuana because it is a sacrament for them. The followers of Rastafarian religion usually join together smoke marijuana and then discuss the truth. They believe that through marijuana they acquire the ability to speak the truth. Similarly, through this herb they also come closer to nature.
The history of marijuana is quite rich and it is mentioned in the Rig-Vedas of India and their famous god Indra used to drink marijuana. Marijuana at that time was used to remove all the fear present in the soul and through marijuana people can enjoy their lives. The same connotation was used by the black Jamaicans and they also treated marijuana as a panacea that is used to remove illness and indigestion in the body. This takes us to our discussion of the use of marijuana by Rastafarians as a mean of medicine for curing various diseases.
Medical uses of marijuana by Rastafarians
Besides certain religious aspects there are certain medicinal uses of marijuana. Marijuana is referred with the parts of the cannabis sativa plant. This plant is used by medicinal purposes for about 4800 years. Rastafarians use this plant because it helps in the pain relief and it is also used for gastrointestinal disorders and it also helps the patients of insomnia. This medicine was quite famous in the world in the 1800’s. Before the invention of aspirin this plant was used as a pain reliever. Although different countries of the world consider marijuana as an illegal drug and United States of America also passed an act which was known as Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 (Ahkell, 1999). But Jamaica, Ethiopia and certain other countries of Africa declared this drug as a legal one because they believe that controlled use of this drug is beneficial for an individual who is using it. There are about 60 different chemicals known as cannabinoids that are used in marijuana and the main component that is used for mind-altering effect is known as THC. Marijuana is also used for the treatment of nausea. It can also reduce the weight of an individual in people who are suffering from AIDS.
However there are certain disadvantages of marijuana which are vision loss and smoking a hefty amount of marijuana can lead to vision problems. However, in today’s world researchers are trying to develop new medications that are totally based on cannabis to treat pain. Marijuana helps an individual in reducing diseases of multiple sclerosis. In many cases certain doctors and patients suggests that marijuana can be used as a legitimate drug and Rastafarians stresses a lot on the legalization of marijuana. However, the federal government of all the major countries of the world disagrees in the legalization of marijuana. Certain law even classifies marijuana as one of that drugs that have no proper medicinal use. Besides certain positive effects the negative effects of marijuana are wide and varied and the implications of smoking marijuana develop certain problems like memory impairment, hallucinations and withdrawal symptoms. The medical uses of marijuana in certain cases are increasing and some people estimate that marijuana has been used for medicinal purposes for 12000 years now. In the year 1997 a report was released by the National Institutes of Health about the possible uses of marijuana (Benard, 2007). Rastafarians consume marijuana through eating and not smoking. Similarly, the consumption is considered to be a part of religious ritual. They consume marijuana through a pipe which is known as chalice. These gatherings of Rastafarians are considered as an essential element of their religion and Rastafarians consider them essential for health. True Rastafarians do not smoke cigarettes because they consider that it is quite dangerous to their health and on the other hand they consider marijuana as herb and they treat this herb as a medical drug.
The above research into the use of marijuana by Rastafarians brings us to draw very important conclusions. It could be concluded that that the Rastafarian religion could be considered as a minority in major parts of the world and the development of Rastafarian ideology is an appropriate way to study the aspect that is related with the formation of religion. Marijuana is used extensively by Rastafarians and these people believe that it is their religious obligation to use marijuana and ganja. They feel light hearted and through the use of marijuana they are closer to the nature. The relationship between Rastafarians and marijuana is changing and certain people are adopting it but with the increasing trends of negative affects a heft amount of Rastafarians and especially teenagers are minimizing the use of marijuana. The relationship between marijuana and black Jamaicans is first shifted with the contract between East Indians who actually introduced the drug ganja through chillum. After that Jamaicans consider ganja as a gift from the gods and they labeled this drug as a “Holy drug”. Marijuana was once considered as a necessity but now it is treated as reminder of the past when it was known as the Holy Herb of Wisdom. In this religion people can create in and out groups through which people can make sense of their feelings. Today the movement of Rastas has spread throughout the world and one of the most prominent reasons are because of reggae music and association with marijuana. The epic singer Bob Marley can be considered as one of the symbol of Rastafarian religion and he also promoted the use of marijuana because it is present in their religious scriptures. Rastafarians can be treated as a new religious movement has arisen from Judaism and Christianity. However, this religion is not an organized religion but the followers of this religion say that they find peace and harmony in this religion. Women also played their role in promoting this religion and in the initial stages women were excluded from religious ceremonies and gatherings but as the time passes by Rastafarians have changed their mentality and women in this religion are given equal status. Rastafarians and religion both are associated with each other and it is a symbol of their religion because they consider that smoking marijuana will give them relief and it would take them to heaven and they can enjoy their life with marijuana. They have strong belief that marijuana is good for their diet and it cleans their body and their mind.
Ahkell, J. (1999). Rasta: : Emperor Haile Sellassie and the Rastafarians . Frontline Distribution International .
Barrett, L. (1997). The Rastafarians . Beacon Press.
Benard, A. (2007). The Material Roots of Rastafarian Marijuana Symbolism. History and Anthropology , 89-99.
Chevannes, B. (1994). Rastafari: Roots and Ideology . Syracuse University Press .
Junique, K. (2004). Rastafari? Rasta For You: Rastafarianism Explained . Athena Press Publishing Company .
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