You might have spotted men and women with locs in colourful gowns and mentioning Selassie or describing themselves as Rastafari. You might have also noticed that while some allowed their locs to be visible, others would cover them with a headgear.
Well, let’s put you out of your suspense and introduce you to the mansions (sects, groups) of Rastafari.
Rasta beliefs are based on a specific interpretation of the Bible. Central is a monotheistic belief in a single God referred to as Jah who partially resides within each individual and who incarnated to Earth as Jesus Christ.
Rastas accord Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia between 1930 and 1974, central importance; many regard him as the Second Coming of Christ and. thus, Jah incarnate, while others see him as a human prophet who fully recognized the inner divinity in every individual.
Rastafari is Afrocentric and focuses its attention on the African diaspora, which it believes is oppressed within Western society or “Babylon”. Many Rastas call for the resettlement of the African diaspora in Africa, referring to this continent as the Promised Land of “Zion”.
Rastas refer to their practices as “livity”. Communal meetings are known as “groundations”, and are typified by music, chanting, discussions, and the smoking of cannabis, the latter being regarded as a sacrament with beneficial properties.
Some accounts suggest Sligoville, located in the northwestern part of St. Catherine, is the first free village in Jamaica where blacks gained emancipation from their colonial oppressors eventually serving as the birthplace of the Rastafarian movement in 1940.
Mansions of Rastafari include the Bobo Ashanti, the Niyabinghi, the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and several smaller groups, including African Unity, Covenant Rastafari, Messianic Dreads and the Selassian Church.
This sect was founded in 1968 by Dr. Vernon “Prophet Gad ” Carrington and is the most liberal of all the other Rastafarian orders. The members of this sect are free to worship in a church of their choosing or within the privacy of their house.
Members of Twelve Tribes sect consider themselves the direct descendants of the 12 Sons of Jacob. The 12 Sons are divided into 12 Houses which are determined by one’s birth month. Each House also has a colour.
Twelve Tribes of Israel accepts Jesus Christ as Master and Saviour, and Haile Selassie I as Jesus Christ in his kingly character, of the seed of David, justified in spirit and manifest in the flesh.
Haile Selassie is seen as a divinely anointed king in the lineage of Kings David and Solomon while he is viewed as The Messiah Christ in his kingly character.
Dennis Brown, Freddie McGregor, Mikey Dread, Luciano and many other roots reggae artists were associated with The Twelve Tribes of Israel (Ysrayl).
Nyahbinghi Order/Theocratic Priesthood and Livity Order of Nyabinghi
The Nyahbinghi order is the oldest of all Rastafarian orders. The name Nyahbinghi is derived from Queen Nyahbinghi who ruled Uganda in the 19th century. She fought against the colonialists in Uganda.
All other orders came from this sect. Members of this sect focus mainly on Emperor Haile Selassie and they proclaim that he is the incarnation of the Supreme deity.
The Nyahbinghi order pushed for their repatriation to Ethiopia, from where they believe all black people came. Ethiopia plays a major role in this sect and is represented in all their symbols, including their flag.
Their flag is a little different from others as the placement of the colours is different: Green (top), the vegetation of Ethiopia; Gold (middle), mineral wealth of Ethiopia and Red (bottom), the blood of Ethiopians.
Niyabinghi preach the ideals of a global theocracy to be headed by Emperor Haile Selassie I, whom they proclaim to be the promised Messiah and incarnation of Jah, the Supreme.
The Niyabinghi resistance inspired a number of Jamaican Rastafari, who incorporated what are known as niyabinghi chants (also binghi) into their celebrations (groundations).
The rhythms of these chants were eventually an influence of popular ska, rocksteady and reggae music. Binghi chanting typically includes recitation of the Psalms, but may also include variations of well-known Christian hymns.
Though Count Ossie is clearly the most influential Binghi drummer, practically inventing the genre, the recordings of Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus, as well as, the Rastafari Elders, have contributed to the popularity of the music.
“Bobo” means black and “Shanti” refers to the Ashanti tribe in Ghana, from which this sect believes Jamaican slaves are descended. Members of Bobo Shanti are also known as Bobo Dreads.
It is believed that most of the slaves brought to Jamaica were from the Ashanti tribe and are the ancestors of many Jamaicans. The late Prince Emanuel Charles Edwards founded the Bobo Shanti order in Jamaica in the 1950s.
The new Bobo Shanti order leader is Trevor Stewart. The Bobo Shanti use Revelations 5 to justify Prince Emmanuel as the re-incarnate of Christ. He is regarded as the reincarnate Black Christ in a priestly state.
The members of this order do not smoke marijuana in public as it is only reserved for worship among members.
The Bobo Ashanti are all strictly vegan and stick to the biblical restrictions regarding their vow; they also add extra restrictions to their diet, for instance, they do not eat mangoes or sugarcane.
From the mid-1990s, many reggae artists have emerged from the Bobo Ashanti; the most well-known among them are Sizzla, Capleton, Anthony B, Lutan Fyah, Turbulence, Ras Shiloh and many others.
Rounding things up, the Twelve Tribes sect is regarded as the most liberal of the three. This sect usually attracts a lot of musicians and entertainers as they are allowed more freedom and their rites are not as strict as the other two. Twelve Tribes is also more open to other races and, as a result, you will find that most non-black Rastas associate themselves with this sect, said Alimirage from Kingston, Jamaica.
He notes the Bobo Shanti are the most rebellious, radical and revolutionary of the three sects. They are frequently seen selling brooms as a symbol of ritual cleanliness and purity while the Nyabinghi is the oldest sect and the ones who push more for repatriation of all Black people to Africa.
The Nyabinghi are also seen as the most organized and structured sect and they usually adhere to strict rites.