Rasta Symbols are everywhere. Rastafari can be identified by the colors they wear, the way they dress, their diet and more.
Whether its the Star of David or the Rasta flag, the symbols of the Rastafari religion are strong reminders for believers.
You may recognize some popular Rasta symbols throughout society. But how much do you know about them? And What do these iconic Rasta Symbols mean?
For starters, Rasta symbols are an integral part of Rastafari beliefs and practices.
In this post, you are going to learn about some of the most important Rasta symbols which guide believers in this faith. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the Rastafari religion and the symbols that shaped it, and made their way into western pop culture.
Popular Rasta Symbols
Basically, most Rastafari doctrines have specific symbols associated with them. Certainly, some of the most common Rasta symbols include the Ethiopian flag, Pan-African colors, and the Lion of Judah.
12 Most Recognized Rasta Symbols
1. The Original Ethiopian and Current Rasta Flag
The Original Ethiopian flag has the colors red, green, and black, similar to the pan-African flag colors. However, the current Rasta flag has the symbol of the Lion of Judah and red, gold and green as the flag main colors. You can see an example of this pictured above.
In reality, the flag colors have important meanings.
Red represents the blood of dead activists, shed around the world during the struggle for liberation, equal rights and justice. Gold symbolizes sunshine, religious freedom, and the natural wealth of Africa. Lastly, Green represents Jahs good Earth, and the fertile vegetation of the Promise Land, Ethiopia.
2. Rastafari Colors
In addition to being flag colors, red, gold, and green are some of the most important Rasta symbols.
They hold deep meanings for a lot of Rastafari, such as love, strength, peace and hope. Rastafari use these colors to represent their faith, show their love for Jah, and to identify other Rastas by wearing these colors.
Do you know the correct order of the Rasta Colors?
If you guessed red, gold, and green, then you guessed right.
Admit it, you probably didn’t know that there was a correct order to the Rasta colors. In fact, the Rasta colors are taken from the original Ethiopian flag, created by King Menilik I in 1897. Moreover, the nation reversed the colors, changing to the present order in 1914. The Ethiopian flag color order then became Green, Yellow, followed by Red. As any Rasta they will tell you, the order should always begins with Red, the blood sacrificed.
However, black is also a Rasta color. Taken from the Pan-African colors of red, black and green, they were the original Ethiopian flag colors. Black symbolizes the color of true Africans. However, depending on the person, black and white are optional colors.
Keep in mind that these Rasta symbols have different meanings for individual Rastas.
For example, if the color red is on the bottom, that means war to some, and green on the bottom means peace to others. It can also mean love, peace and brotherhood, and so on. So the meaning really depends on the person.
Black, Red, gold/yellow, green, are the colors of Rastafari Movement, in that order. Rastas love these colors and see them as spiritual, as they represent the Rastafari way of Livity.
Lastly, next time you see a Rasta, look to see if they are wearing any Rasta Clothing. The Rastafari love displaying these colors. They more than likely will be wearing a hat, a shirt, or an entire outfit signifying their devotion to the Rastafari movement.
3. Jah Rastafari
Rastafari believers refer to Haile Selassie I to as Jah, a part of Gods name Jah Jehovah. This is why you will hear the phrase King Selassie I (Jah Rastafari) spoken by Rastafari.
Surprisingly, most people believe that its a short form of Jehovah, but it’s not. Jah is biblical. Check Psalm 68:4 and see.
But wait – there’s more
What Do Rastas Mean By “I and I”?
Rastas worship one God and that God is Jah. Moreover, Rastafari believe that Jah exist within every human being as the Holy Spirit. Because of this belief, Rastas refer to themselves as “I and I“. This is explained by the saying “God is man and man is God“. They say “I and I” instead of “us“, “you“, or “them” because it is a sign of oneness and equality with all people.
This saying is also one of the important Rasta symbols, since it indicates Jah and the Holy Spirit exist within every person.
For this reason, Rasta believers say they know Jah, not that they believe in Him.
The Rasta Symbol Jah can be found throughout the Rasta Culture, paired with other Rasta Symbols and phrases such as “Jah Bless“.
Another famous Rasta symbol is Zion, the Biblical Heaven on Earth. Thats right!
In reality, they are referring to the earthly heaven where King Selassie reigned as the savior of Africans, the lost tribe of Judah. Therefore, Zion is a reference to Ethiopia, believed by some to also be the original birthplace of humankind! The Rastafari Movement uses Zion as a symbol for the idea of blacks worldwide returning to Zion, the Promised Land, and Heaven on Earth.
Rastafari view Babylon as the ultimate Evil, and oppose it.
Quickly, Babylon is a term used to describe the oppressive and exploiting system of the materialistic modern western world (e.g. colonialism and global capitalism). Any “authority” is suspect, and most Rastas see them as manifestations of Babylon. Zion is the only refuge from Babylon.
If you immerse yourself in the Rasta culture enough, you will notice Zion among the Rasta Symbols mentioned in a lot of reggae music, The best part is a lot of Reggae musicians’ names and songs also start with Jah.
Some great places where you can find references pointing to this iconic Rasta symbol are in Sacred Rastafari texts such as the Kebra Nagast. You’ll also find Zion in reggae songs like Zion Train by Bob Marley, and To Zion by Lauren Hill.
5. The Rastafari Diet is a Vegan Ital Diet
Furthermore, there are three distinct orders/sects in Rastafari, each having slightly different beliefs and symbols. The Ital diet is required by the Nyahbinghi sect. In brief, the Nyabinghi sect is the oldest of all Rastafari orders, and all the other orders come from this sect.
(The other two distinct orders and sects of Rastafari are the Twelve Tribes of Israel sect and the Bobo Ashanti order. Keep in mind the branches of Rastafari are symbolic. Also, the Mansions are important branches of Rastafari, referring to the sects of Rastafari and their different beliefs. It is an umbrella name for all other groups that belong to the Rastafari movement. Lest we forget, Howell headed the first branch in the U.S.)
So what does all this mean?
Rastas call their diet The Ital Way. This means you follow a pure vegan diet. It’s based on a natural way of cooking, so that you can keep the mind, body, and spirit cleansed and vital.
It’s simple to make this diet a part of your lifestyle.
Do these three things and you’ll find yourself living The Ital Way.
- Consume a plant based vegan diet.
- Avoid salts: Ital food is flavorful as is, so there’s no need to change the energy of the natural food by adding salt.
- Avoid chemicals: Do this by eating organic unprocessed foods. Rastas have been against pesticides since the 1940s.
Sounds easy, right?
When it comes to this Rasta symbol, Natural is the only way. Since Rastas believe that Jah exists in all living things, following an Ital diet is important to Rastafari. Essentially, they believe “you are what you eat“. Rastas only absorb positive energies from their food and reject consuming negative energies.
We could all use more Ital in out diet, because a pure diet like this increases vital energy in all people, Rasta or Not!
6. Cannabis/Marijuana Use
Commonly called ganja, marijuana is one of the most popular Rasta symbols associated with this religion. Certainly, it is widely associated with Reggae music and with Rastas.
However, it is not something anyone should mock, for using Ganja is sacred to Rastafari. They consider it a holy sacrament, similar to Communion to Christians. They use ganja for many reasons. The main reason is cleansing and opening up the mind, so that they can correctly reason with ways of this fallen world. Rastas only use Ganja in a reverent and solemn way.
For example, before smoking the plant, a Rasta will say a prayer to Jah, their God Haile Selassie I. Additionally, a Rasta refers to smoking circles as “reasoning sessions” when they use Ganja in Nyabinghi.
A Nyabinghi session is much different from a casual marijuana smoking session which western people take part in. People in the West smoke marijuana for social and entertainment reasons. The smoker enjoys silly times of laughter and horseplay. This differs greatly from what takes place during a Nyabinghi.
A Nyabinghi session is a taken very seriously. A Rastafari would consider acting silly while smoking disrespectful, to both the herb, and Jah.
The Rastafari use of Ganja stems back to the beginning in Jamaica. In 1941, The “first Rasta”, Leonard P. Howell, set up a Rasta community of sixteen hundred followers. This community was named Pinnacle. Howell introduced Rasta believers the properties of Ganja, which helped with their reasoning. Rastafari quickly turned to the Bible and found verses possibly mentioning the use of this Holy Plant. From this, Rastafari infused Ganja into their culture.
Today, cannabis is becoming legalized all over the world, and more socially accepted, because it has medicinal properties. Rastafari had the right idea all along.
7. Patios Language
Patios is a Jamaican dialect that most Jamaicans and Rastas speak. It is not fully recognized as its own language. Some activists lobby to get Jamaican Patois recognized as one, though.
The British outlawed the use of native tongues in their Caribbean colonies. They did this to weaken the bonds that the African slaves had to their homelands and each other. The early settlers and slave owners were afraid that the slaves would conspire against them, or attempt escape.
Patois was a response to and rebellion against the slave codes. By not speaking in perfect English, blacks in Jamaica were rejecting the racist culture of their slave masters. Blacks resisted control from the moment they were taken from their homeland to the New World. Over time, their speech patterns evolved into a distinct dialect.
The Rastafari movement began in the 1930s to protest against capitalism, colonial oppression and exploitation of nature. Their ability to speak “in code” with their own dialect was instrumental to the movement’s spread and success. For this reason, the Rasta Dialect is a valuable symbol that’s rooted in the Rastafari culture.
Learning the Patois language is easy, because it is based on English words. For more info, you can begin learning how to speak this dialect using our Rasta/Patois Dictionary.
Also we recommend reading Dread Talk to learn more about the dialect.
Related: Rastafari Books
Hair is also another important icon of the Rasta faith. It symbolizes strength when long and dreaded, and weakness when cut short.
Wearing dreadlocks is a very outward physical symbol of Rastafari. Today, people call the style Dreadlocks, Sisterlocks, Dreads, and Natty Dreadlocks.
They are a spiritual expression to Rastafari, not just worn as a fashion statement. Conversely, in modern society many people wear dreadlocks as a personal expression. Of course, not all people who wear dreads are Rasta.
Naturally, dreadlocks originated in Africa. They were adopted by the Rastafari in the 1930’s, symbolizing their rebel against the Euro-centrism of the era. Of course, British controlled Jamaican society looked down on the natural African style, referring to as a dreadful look. The Rastafari, not swayed by British propaganda, adopted the term and evolved it into the phrase “dreadlocks”.
Heres the deal.
You must grow dreadlocks if you want to be a Rastafari.
Rastafari grow their hair into dreadlocks because it is a part of the Nazarite Vow, from the Bible. Let me explain.
The Old Testament contains detailed rules about how to live in a manner pleasing to GOD. Rastafari today get their grooming and dietary restrictions from these biblical codes.
Rastafari look to this verse in the Bible:
They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard nor make any cuttings in their flesh. Leviticus 21:5
Basically, this verse makes Rastafari take the vow of the Nazarites. They believe it is wrong to shave or comb their hair. Instead, they grow it into long dreadlocks.
Also, Rastafari also look to the biblical tale of Samson and Delilah as a powerful lesson. In brief, Samson was a Nazarite with dreadlocks, and he loses his great strength when she cuts off his locks.
Dreadlocks are also popular because they resemble the main of a lion. This is significant because the Lion is a noble animal, as well as a humble creature. Skip ahead to 10 to learn more about The Lion of Judah.
But here’s the interesting thing.
Since our hair contains our DNA, Rastafari also think it is vital they never cut their hair. They believe that their hair is an antenna that can receive and transmit energy. Theres even some science to back up these claims. We now know that our hair is a part of our nervous system, for example.
Colonial attitudes have influenced beauty standards for over five hundred years. blacks were shamed into straightening and cutting their magnificent hair, which naturally turns to dreadlocks.
You’re probably wondering….
How exactly do dreadlocks work?
Growing dreadlocks is simple. As a Rasta, all you have to do is not comb your hair. However, they still wash their hair to keep it clean.
To make modern dreadlocks, it requires a little more work, but it’s just as simple. To make dreadlocks for fashion, just twist sections of your hair with a dread wax, and thats basically it.
9. Rasta Music
Reggae music holds much symbolism for Rastafari and it’s rooted in the movement. Rasta music falls under the reggae genre. However, Nyabinghi is traditional Rasta music, along with Roots Reggae, and Burru Drumming.
This is the music of the Rastafari movement. Most modern reggae contain much Rastafari symbolism. But traditional Rastas like to keep it old-school, and perform their rituals to the sounds of Nyabinghi, Burru Drumming, and Roots Reggae.
In brief, Nyabinghi is the predecessor to Reggae, and it shaped all reggae music as we know it today.
Rasta music is a spiritual type of music that is performed to praise and commune with Jah.
Additionally, Rastafari also reaffirm their rejection of Babylon through this musical expression. They also include recurrent lyrical themes such as poverty and resistance to government oppression in their music.
In fact, Reggae became popular during Haile Selassie Is visit to Ethiopia in 1966. His visit made the Rastafari movement international, because people around the globe were exposed to this modern faith through reggae music.
Lets face it.
As a symbol, Rasta music is believed to have healing properties when used in a spiritual manner. Most Rastas believe that physical ailments have their root in the spiritual realm. Dancing to their sacred drumming mends the spirit, and therefore, the body as well.
10. Lion of Judah
The Lion of Judah is another irrefutably popular Rasta symbol. You may have recognized it from the Rasta flag. Believers also call this Rasta symbol The Conquering Lion and the Lamb.
To Rastafari, the Lion of Judah symbolizes many things.
The Lion of Judah is known as a symbol of Zion, the Promised Land. Equally importantly, it represents Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. He is regarded as a king in the Line of Judah, therefore, he was give the title the Lion of Judah.
But one thing’s for sure!
This symbol is mostly associated with the Bible’s Twelve Tribes of Israel. Look in Genesis 49:9, and you see Jacob call his son Judah, the “Young Lion.”
The Lion of Judah also symbolizes Jah. In Revelation 5:5, the Lion of Judah opens the Book with Seven Seals. In the same verse, the Bible mentions Jesus Christ is the Lamb that conquers the Dragon. However, to Rastafari, the European powers are “the Dragon that Emperor Haile Selassie I, the Lion of Judah conquered.
In Rastafari iconography, the Lion of Judah stands proudly with one paw up, often holding the Flag of Ethiopia and wearing a crown, that of the Emperor, with an Orthodox Christian cross on top.
Other than symbolizing Zion, King Selassie, God, and The Twelve Tribes of Israel, it also symbolizes Rastafari Livity. This means its a symbol of living the Rasta way, following the movement’s laws and rules, like following an Ital diet, avoiding negativity, and living a peaceful life. Furthermore, it means Good must prevail over Evil, and even more things, depending on the person.
To learn more about the Lion of Judah, we recommend the you watch the animated film The Lion of Judah
Due to its association with the Tribe of Judah and Haile Selassie, the Lion of Judah will continue to be a vital Rastafari symbol.
11. Star of David
The Rasta Star of David symbolizes the Rastafari faith. Also known as the Star of Solomon, Rastas pair this symbol with the Lion of Judah.
This is a very common symbol on Rastafari clothing, art, flags and many other Rasta related items. Additionally, it’s a Rasta symbol indicating the divine and chosen status of the House of Selassie.
The Hebrews of today also use this as a sacred symbol, representing the Jewish faith and even the State of Israel, on their flag. However, this symbol is even older than the Old Testament.
Rastafari believed that their leader, Haile Selassie, was a descendant of King David and King Solomon. This is why they use the Star of David as their symbol and why King Selassie I is represented by this icon.
But heres something really interesting!
The Star of David was originally used as a geometric figure and picture on David’s army’s shields. “Magen David” in Hebrew literally means “The shield of David.”
However, some say the star has no direct connection with David himself, but was first used by “Kabbalists” (Jewish mystics) between 1300-1700 in Europe. They believe that the shape of the human aura, a “merkaba” looks, from above, like two rotating triangles, sometimes forming this pattern. Perhaps the merkaba is King David’s Shield?
It wasn’t until the 17th Century that this symbol was identified with Jewish people, beginning in Prague. Of course, it gained infamy in Nazi death camps during WWII.
12. A Hand Gesture Imitated by Rastas
In relation to the Star of David, another important symbol is a diamond-like Hand Gesture that Rastafari copied from Haile Selassie. This hand gesture known as the Seal of Solomon.
Selassie made this pose with his hands to show that he is the Manifestation of Divinity.
Some Rastafari followers believe this symbolic way of holding his hands together is his sovereign right as regent and blood line of the king and prophet David himself. However, some followers believe that the seal of Solomon hand gesture is misused today by Rastas, thinking that it should only be used by a true heir, and only AFTER coronation, not other people.
With this in min,d Rastafari still use this symbol when praying to Jah and praising their God, Haile Selassie.
This symbol has two meanings, based on the upward or downward position of the point.
The downward facing triangle shape means ‘the divine on earth‘.
While the upward facing triangle represents man’s aspiration to divinity.
Together, the two triangles stand for ONENESS WITH JAH.
It is also known as the symbol of the Holy Trinity, and a universal sign of peace. It symbolizes unity, and Rastas use it when honoring (H.I.M) His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie I.
Other Important Rastafari Symbols
Now that we have covered the most iconic Rasta Symbols and gave you a better understanding why they are so valued, let’s briefly cover four more Rasta Symbols, which you may know and recognize from Rasta culture and society.
First up, The Five-pointed black star, which you may know from flags and Rasta clothing.
Another symbol that you make recognize is the Ankh, its a Rasta symbol that represents life and further livity.
Rastafari Fest, such as Shashamene, a festival that remembers the return of Africans to their roots, and Grounation Day, a festival that takes place on every April 21, to celebrate the first and only arrival of King Haile Selassie I to Jamaica, using music, prayer, and chanting. For Rastas, it is a joyous day of celebration. Similarly, the Reggae Music Fest is another symbol that you may recognize from Rastafari culture. They are a symbol of the modern faith, when Rastas from across the globe gather to chant to Nyabinghi, listing to spiritual music, and celebrate their faith.
Lastly, the Divinity of the Self is a Rasta symbol, because Rastas value peace, and they are aware of the vibrations they consume and surround themselves with. The Divinity of the Self is a symbol because this helps Rastas cultivate a defense against the uncertainty and insecurity that exists within society.
Key Figures & Notable Individuals That Symbolize Rastafari
People are also iconic symbols of Rastafari as well. He are a few famous names that we associate with the Rastafari Movement.
- Jesus the Nazarine, the Messiah
- Haile Selassie I, Ethiopian Emperor and Returned Messiah
- Marcus Garvey, Pan-African Movement leader
- Menen Asfaw, wife of HIM Haile Selasse
- Leonard Howell, the first Rasta
- Joseph N. Hibert, early Rasta preacher
- Archibald Dunkley, early Rasta preacher
- Mortimer Planno, renowned Rastafari elder
- Vernon Carrington, AKA Prophet Gad, founded the Twelve Tribes of Israel branch of Rastafari
- Charles Edwards, AKA Emmanuel, founded the Bobo Shanti order
- Bob Marley, famous Reggae musician
- Peter Tosh, famous Reggae musician
Key Scriptures/Sacred Texts
Rastafari Sacred text are a vital part of Rasta life. If you want to know what Rastafari believe, read their sacred books. Their sacred text are the equivalent of The Holy Bible to Christians, and that’s where it begins for Rastas, too. In fact, you can find the roots of many different Rasta symbols in the Bible.
In addition, other noteworthy sacred writings for Rastafari include the Kebra Nagast, My Life and Ethiopias Progress, The Promised Key, the Holy Piby, and the Royal Parchment Scroll of Black Supremacy.
If you are a member of the Faith, then you probably recognize most of these books. You can learn more about these books in this article: Sacred Rastafari Books.
As you can see, Rasta symbols are everywhere, now that you know what to look for! The next time you’re out, you may notice a Rasta wearing the Rasta colors, or with the Lion of Judah on his shirt. Now you understand that Rasta symbols are rooted in their faith and symbolize who they are, what they represent, and the values and beliefs they hold dear.
Now that you know the common Rasta symbols and their meanings, you can apply that understanding to your life. A true Rastafari is a peace loving, kind, very Afro-centric and shuns all schemes used for monetary gains.
Show your support for the culture, and add a Rasta Symbol to your wardrobe or home. They are all positive symbols of Unity, Peace and Love.
You may find yourself happier eating more Ital, growing your hair long, and living in Zion (Heaven on Earth), all while wearing Rasta colors.
Have you found this post interesting?
What’s your favorite Rasta Symbol?
C’mon, let us know what you think in the comments section below. Post photos of the Rasta Symbols you have at home.