A religious and political movement originating in Jamaica in the 1930s, under the influence of Marcus Garvey and his “Back to Africa” movement. This movement saw black people as the true biblical Jews, superior to whites. They believed their homeland was in Ethiopia, but some of them had been exiled to Jamaica as punishment for the sin. When Ras (i.e. prince) Tafari became emperor of Ethiopia in 1930 as Haile Selassie, they believed this was a sign that the sentence was complete and they would be returning soon. Haile Selassie was seen as a Messiah. The return to Africa began in a very modest way and did not get very far. After the Haile Selassie’s death in 1975 the hopes tended to become transmuted into rehabilitation rather than repatriation – the idea of finding “Africa” in Jamaica.

The Rastafarian community, consisting mostly of young landless and unemployed men, developed its own modes of language, music (reggae), hair style (the dreadlock), and general lifestyle. They adopted ganja (marijuana) as a sacramental herb for healing and mediation. European culture and the Christian churches were rejected as “Babylon”. It is a mixed movement, including antisocial and criminal elements, black power, and also self-help enterprises and a culture of love and peace. The movement was popularised in other countries mainly through the music of Bob Marley. Total membership in Jamaica is probably about 100,000.

For Rastafarian congregations in the Faith Wales area, click here.


The Chaplaincy to the University of Glamorgan provides the following information from its own researchers. Each page has been checked by the chaplaincy advisor from the relevant faith group. Within every major religion, there are differences of opinion between leaders, and between leaders and followers. We only aim to provide an overview.