The Hon. Neville ORiley Livingston (Bunny Wailer) in his reggae classic Rastaman said, “…That’s the strangest man I’ve seen, that’s because he’s a Rastaman; having the mark of a Nazarene…”
The connection between Biblical justification and the dread locks worn by the Great Ras Tafari Nation is quite profound. Oftentimes the single most accredited reason for wearing of dread locks is the Nazarene vow extracted from the Book of Numbers 6:5, KJV. Which states that “All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow”.
The Old Testament also recounts the tale of Sampson and Delilah in which a man’s potency is directly linked to ‘the seven locks on his head’ and according to Roman accounts, the Celts were described to have ‘hair like snakes’ Germanic tribes, Greeks and the Vikings are all said to have worn dreadlocks too. In the West, the Nazarene is most widely known for developing Dreadlocks. In the East, Yogis, Gyanis, and Tapasvis of all sects are the most famous bearers of Dreadlocks.
The history of dreadlocks predates these biblical accounts by thousands of years however. Spiritualists of all faiths and backgrounds incorporate into their paths a disregard for physical appearances and vanity. And so, throughout the world, such seekers often cease to comb, cut, or otherwise dress their hair: This is how “dreadlocks” are born in Ancient Ithiopia. As a matter of fact there is absolutely no connection with the biblical account regarding dreadlocks and the Kush, Kemit, Massi, or Oromo of Ancient Ithiopia that is the basis for Ras Tafari locks.
Another misconception is that the dreadlocks that are associated most closely with the RasTafari Nation originated in India. Whereas the Semitic people of West Asia; Indo-European people of Europe and South Asia; the Turkic people of Anatolia and Central Asia; the ancient Spartan warriors of Greece, the Sufi malangs and fakirs of Pakistan; the Sufi Rafaees; and the Sadhus of India and Nepal all wore dreadlocks, And whereas the Hindu deity Shiva and his followers were described in the scriptures as wearing “Jataa”, meaning “twisted locks of hair”. None of these sects can be called original.
Several ascetic groups within various major religions have at times worn their hair in locks, including the monks of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Nazirites of Judaism, Qalandari Sufi’s, the Sadhus of Hinduism, and the Dervishes of Islam, among others. The very earliest Christians also may have worn this hairstyle. Particularly noteworthy are descriptions of James the Just, first Bishop of Jerusalem, who wore them to his ankles. Pre-Columbian Aztec priests were described in Aztec codices (including the Durán Codex, the Codex Tudela and the Codex Mendoza) as wearing their hair untouched, allowing it to grow long and matted.
In Senegal, the Baye Fall, followers of the Mouride movement, a sect of Islam founded in 1887 by Shaykh Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke, are famous for growing locks and wearing multi-colored gowns. It’s important to note that warriors among the Fulani, Wolof and Serer in Mauritania, and Mandinka in Mali and Niger were also known to have dreadlocks when old and cornrows when young for centuries.
Maasai men found in the regions of northern Kenya claim that they have been wearing dreadlocks for as long as they have survived. According to their oral history, the Maasai originated from the lower Nile valley north of Lake Turkana (Northwest Kenya) and began migrating south around the 15th century, arriving in a long trunk of land stretching from what is now northern Kenya between the 17th and late 18th century. Even today, Maasai men can be found donning their dreadlocks, with a tint of red color from the soil.
Within the Great Ras Tafari nation dreadlocks reflects spiritual convictions, a political statement and a manifestation of ethnic pride. Ras Tafari traditions hold that bodily, mental and spiritual energies mainly exit the body through the top of the head and the hair. Ras Tafari conviction is that, if the hair is knotted, the energy remains within the hair and the body, keeping a person more strong and healthy. Dreadlocks are therefore more than just a symbolic statement of disregard for physical appearance. It’s a magnification of a means to detach them from physical vanity and aid them in the development of bodily strength and supernatural mental and spiritual powers.
According to the ancient tradition, dreadlocks express a spiritual significance, which implies the wearer has special relations with spirits, is an immortal traveler between two worlds and the master over fire: In various cultures what are known as shamans, spiritual men or women who serve and speak to spirits or deities, often wear locks. In Benin the Yoruba priests of Olokun, the Orisha of the deep ocean, wear locks. Another group is the Turkana people of Kenya.
Kinky hair, like that beautiful cloud, is not really kinky. Kinky hair is actually coily. That’s right coily. Each little hair is practically by way of being a perfect circle. Now these millions of coils on your head are all jumbled up, coiling around each other. That’s why it hurts you to comb your hair. You’re pulling in one direction, the coils often pulling in numerous other directions. But- and this is the main thing – while the coils are doing that, they are also forming air pockets. Now air pockets do several things. One, they keep your head warm in the winter. Two they keep your head cool in the summer. And three, they protect you from concussions by absorbing shock blows to the head. Therefore, kinky hair is certainly more useful than straight hair. It is obviously advanced hair. I mean the evolutionary wheel had to take a couple of wrong turnas before it come up with kinky hair.
RasTafari however is entirely separate and unique. RasTafari was re-born in the 1930 when Negus Tafari was crowned Emperor Haile Sellassie 1st of Ethiopia. When the Emperor was living in Bath, England during the invasion and occupation of Ethiopia by the fascist forces of Italy, Ethiopian guerrilla warriors swore not to cut their hair until the Emperor was reinstated to the Ancient Throne of Kush. Locks on a Ras Tafari’s head are symbolic of the Lion of Judah as it was with the warriors and Batawe of Ethiopia, The dreadlocks one endure fire, the dreadlocks one endure poison of Babylon, and the dreadlocks one endure both worlds. The dreadlocks one is said to gaze full on heaven, the dreadlocks one is said to be that light … Of, mere mortals, only the physical bodies do you behold. …For him has the Noble of life churned and pounded the unbendable, the dreadlocks one, in H.I.M. Haile Sellassie 1st company; drank from the immortal cup.
The first known examples of dreadlocks date back to Kush and the Horn of Africa and are the root of Ras Tafari consciousness. In ancient Egypt examples of Egyptians wearing locked hairstyles and wigs have appeared on bas-reliefs, statuary and other artifacts. Mummified remains of ancient Egyptians with locks, as well as locked wigs, have also been recovered from archaeological sites. It is known that many Pharaohs had locked hair, and on Tutankhamen’s mummy, dreadlocks can still be found intact.
DARC must make a comment on one thing. You have probably heard this before, and we are not trying to beat a dead horse. DARC knows that we are all members of the human family, and as such we can choose to adopt for ourselves what we want from other cultures. H.I.M. Emperor Haile Sellassie teaches that, “This world was not created piecemeal. Africa was born no later and no earlier than any other geographical area on this globe. Africans, no more and no less than other men, possess all human attributes, talents and deficiencies, virtues and faults.”
Nevertheless in regards to the history of locks it should be made known that the process of cultivating locks in the manner commonly known as dreadlocks is something that was started and developed in Africa, by black people – period. Was it used later in other cultures? Yes. But as you well know, Africa is the cradle of civilization on this planet, and since we also know locks have been around since the beginning of human history, because that history started in Africa it stands to reason that the locking of the human hair originated there as well. Add to that the fact that Black hair texture is the most conducive to the locking process, and one can easily deduce its origin.
The reason why we are elaborating on this is not to say that no one else but African should be wearing locks. Rather, DARC find it troubling that modern man always try to minimalize the impact that Ithiopia culture has had on the world throughout history. Oftentimes as soon as something that was inspired, cultivated, and developed by Ithiopia becomes desirable; it is immediately neutralized, in order to make it “OK” for other people to adopt it without having to give thanks and proper credit to the culture that fathered it.
If one didn’t know any better, one would think that Africa never contributed anything to world civilization except slavery and negativity, and that everything good in the world came from the wisdom of the Asians and Europeans, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. We, as Ithiopia’s people, are being systematically erased from the history of the world.
Originally, dreadlocks were the mark of spiritual status. Priests of diverse Deities were required, at least for a specific period of time, to have dreadlocks. For example, priests of Deities that are involved in the healing of the body and with procreation, such as Dogon, Wsr, Heru, Theouris and Sekhmet, are required to have dreadlocks. There is a period of seven to thirteen years that a priest of these Deities must let their hair grow freely and devote themselves completely to the Deity. During this time, the priest has a role of responsibility towards the God and the temple. After that time period, if they want to cut their hair, a ceremony is done and they can remove their locks if they choose. Interestingly, for other Deities, like Aishat, one must shave every hair on their body when serving that God or Goddess. It depends on which God and temple is being served.
What is it about hair that is so important for priests and temples? It is a notion of purity. Hairs are huge emitters and receptors. When one is in an area, such as a temple, where the flow of energy must be tightly controlled, hair becomes either very helpful or very disturbing, depending on the energetic needs. Even when a hair falls off of the body, it does not lose its qualities, and it can become a big disturbance to the flow of energy. Even animals that are sacrificed are checked thoroughly for a specific type of fur. It is not every ram or cow that can be used in a ceremony – it is only a priest who can safely determine whether an animal is fit for sacrifice, and it is a heavy responsibility to do so. The untrained eye will think that any animal will do, but if there is one piece of the wrong kind of fur on an animal, it cannot be used!
According to the ancient Ithiopia initiation, the oldest and most authentic spiritual system mankind has ever known, one must devote themselves to purity and follow the seventy-seven commandments at all times. This is a heavy responsibility! The seventy-seven commandments are spiritual laws given to humanity from the Gods (ancestors) so that we can create the world that we want to see and come close to their world. Having dreadlocks helps a person spiritually because it causes the ancestors to notice them. They are a physical proof that the person has vowed to follow the seventy-seven commandments (regard-less whether the person knows of or follows the commandments, merely having dreads means they have vowed to follow them at all costs!), and all of the Gods will be more comfortable with that person because they have taken this vow. This helps the person in every way: with their spiritual growth, the development of their senses, their communication with the ancestors…but on the other side, if one breaks a commandment, there are heavier penalties to be paid. Having dreadlocks literally calls on every God that guarantees the seventy-seven commandments to take a serious look into their life. So, when they break a commandment, it has a huge consequence on their life. One does not have to take this vow of purity and of following the commandments, but when one has dreadlocks, he or she takes that vow, and the retaliation of the Gods is very heavy when a commandment is broken.
They include not combing or altering the hair, not getting angry, not gossiping, and not hurting another being, human or non-human. How many of those in the modern societies who have locked hair does not eat meat? How many people with locks do not talk about people behind their backs, gossip, and have hot tempers? How many dreads out there can honestly say that they follow the seventy-seven commandments? Very few!
Whereas traditional Ital RasTafari once shunned everything from Babylon, such as soda, alcohol and cigarettes, modern RasTafari are often seen smoking, wearing designer clothing, eating meat and drinking beer. Today wearing ones hair naturally has become more of a status symbol than a spiritual decision, and people often begin locking their hair so that they are seen as, Afrocentric, or different, rather than for honest spiritual and conscious reasons.
Dreadlocks are not a fashion statement. They are not a political statement against the government or system, and they are not a symbol of vices and pleasures, such as smoking Ganga! Dreadlocks are a very serious spiritual commitment that cannot be taken lightly. One who wears dreadlocks must understand their vow and live up to it, for their own protection.