A Simple Guide to Rastafari Sects & Ceremonies

Rasta Redemption11
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Rastafari is organized into three main sects, branches or orders, also referred to as Houses or Mansions, but many Rastafari do not belong to any sect.

All three houses agree on basic Rastafari philosophy and principles like black pride and the divinity of Haile Selassie.

The three Mansions of Rastafari are the “Nyahbinghi Order”, “Bobo Shanti” and the “Twelve Tribes of Israel”.

Nyahbinghi means “Black Victory” and is name of the First House or Mansion of Rastafari, emerging from a militant wing in Howell’s early Pinnacle community – the Youth Black Faith (YBF).

The Nyahbinghi were named after Queen Nyahbinghi of Uganda, who fought against colonialists in the 19th century, and they are considered the strictest Rastafari mansion – waging spiritual war for King Selassie’s Righteous Throne as defenders of “Earth’s Rightful Ruler”’.

The Nyahbinghi Order holds firmly to ancient biblical values, consuming nothing that harms their bodily temple and consider themselves Nazarites.

Nyahbinghi tams almost always include the color black and their drum-chant ritual of dancing and leaping around the fire became a signature feature of the early Rastafari movement.

The Nyahbinghi Order is a non-violent order, overseen by an Assembly of Elders, that calls upon Jah to execute judgment and smite down Babylon. Nyahbinghi focus directly on Haile Selassie, Ethiopia and the eventual return to Africa.

Many leaders from the Nyahbinghi House went on to become leaders of other Mansions.

The Bobo Shanti Mansion was founded in 1958 and members of this House are known as Bobo Dreads.

Bobo Shanti are unique in their worship of their leader, Prince Emmanuel, as the reincarnation of Black Christ and an embodiment of Jah in a Priestly State.

Prince Emmanuel, along with Haile Selassie are seen as Gods while Marcus Garvey is viewed as a prophet, with all three hailed as a Holy Trinity.

Bobo Shanti Rastas consider themselves Nazarites and believe in full repatriation of all black people to Africa, including monetarily compensation for slavery. They live away from Jamaican society, and even other Rastafarians – self sufficient and growing their own food.

The word Bobo Shanti is derived “Bobo” meaning black and “Ashanti” referring to the Asante Tribe from Kumasi, Ghana, where most of the slaves brought to Jamaica were descended.

Bobo Shanti wear long robes and tightly wrap their locks with turbans, keenly compliant with Jewish Law – including a disciplined lifestyle, observance of Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday and hygiene laws for menstruating women.

Bobo Shanti strong moral codes and popular reggae singers have helped to attract a younger generation of Rastafari to this Mansion.

The Twelve Tribes of Israel is a Rastafarian sect was founded in 1968 by Dr. Vernon “Prophet Gad” Carrington in Kingston, Jamaica, and is now a worldwide Mansion.

Prophet Gad, taught his students to read the Bible “a chapter a day” and the Twelve Tribes is the most liberal of all Rastafarian orders with members free to worship in any church of their choosing.

The Twelve Tribes of Israel, more than any other Rastafari Houses, accepted all nations into its ranks and is relaxed in its dietary laws. Their members consider the wearing dreadlocks an option and do not consider themselves to be Nazarites.

Twelve Tribes headwear include equal bands of red, green and gold.

Their theology is based on an acceptance of the Messiah (Yesos Kristos) and Haile Selassie is viewed as the Returned Christ revealed in His Kingly Character.

Due to inclusion for all races, Bob Marley’s personal support and acceptance of the Holy Scripture (Bible), the Twelve Tribes of Israel has grown to be the largest of all Rastafari houses.

Each member belongs to one of 12 Tribes, each with certain attributes and characteristics, determined by birth month and is represented by color.

For example, Bob Marley was from the Tribe of Joseph and Haile Selassie from the Tribe of Judah.

Some scholars argue that from the very beginning of the Rastafari movement, different doctrines were taught by early leaders, leaving adherents to follow their own interpretations.

Undoubtedly, each Rastafari House has contributed to the faith and some Rasta have no problem belonging to more than one branch. At any rate, the number of “Unaffiliated Rastafari” numbers in the millions worldwide!

Marijuana is used during the two main religious ceremonies – Reasonings and Groundation.

A “
reasoning ceremony” is a simple informal gathering where a small group of Rastas gather, smoke cannabis (“ganja”) and group meditate.

The ritual begins when the person lighting the pipe, or “chalice” says a short prayer beforehand, and the ganja is passed in a clockwise fashion until all of the people have smoked, except in times of war when it is passed counterclockwise.

A “groundation” (or “grounation“) or “binghi” is a holy day celebrated by dancing, singing, feasting and the smoking of cannabis which involves members from many areas – sometimes hundreds of Rastafarians from all over Jamaica.

Binghis are comparable to a convention or synod and can last for several days.

Rastas camp on land owned by the host Rastas sing and dance until the early hours of the morning.

Some important dates for groundations are:

January 7 – Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas

March 25 – The birthday of Empress Menen

April 21 – Haile Selassie’s visit to Jamaica, also known as Grounation Day.

May 25 – African Liberation Day

June 16 – The earthday of Leonard P. Howell (1
st Rasta)

July 23 – The earthday of Emperor Haile Selassie

August 17 – The earthday of Marcus Garvey

September 11 – Ethiopian New Year

November 2 – The coronation of Haile Selassie

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