Dreadlocks And True Rastafarian
A discussion on the popular “dreadlooks” hairstyle cannot begin without highlighting that probably 90% of the ‘dread locked individuals’ you may meet in Jamaica who may call themselves a Rastafarian, are not true Rastafarians. The mysticism, ability to use ganja under the religious justification defense and all the monetary benefits one may get from this has caused this to become a ‘fad’ and many Jamaican men wore dreadlocks and called themselves Rastafarians when they are not. The “rent a dread” stereotype is true in many cases. Many men see Rastafari as a way out of poverty or a means to migrate to a country with better opportunities. Stereotyping has caused everyone with dreadlocks to be viewed as a Rastafarian. A true Rastafarian is peace loving, kind, very Afro centric and shuns all “schemes” used for monetary gains.
History of Dreadlocks
Dreadlocks are not unique to Jamaica and Rastafarians. The dreadlocks hairstyle originated in Africa and was worn by various tribes there. The earliest tribe this hairstyle can be attributed to is the Masai tribesmen of Kenya. Many of the warriors of this tribe wore this hairstyle. These men sometimes dyed their hair red with root extracts.
Dreadlocks in Jamaica
The dreadlocks hairstyle first appeared in Jamaica during post emancipation. It was a means of defiance for ex-slaves to rebel against Euro-centrism that was forced on them. The hairstyle was originally referred to as a “dreadful” hairstyle by the Euro centric Jamaican society. It later evolved to the term now used: Dreadlocks. Jamaicans also use the term Natty Dreadlock.
Dreadlocks and Rastafari
Rastafarians grow their hair into dreadlocks because it is a part of the Nazarite Vow. (Also their dietary rules are part of the law) All Rastafarians take this vow and claim it is commanded by the Bible (Leviticus 21:5 “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”).
Samson is believed to be a Nazarite with dreadlocks. Many Rastafarians believe that like Samson, their hair is their strength and also their weakness if it is cut off . The belief in the weakness of cutting of the dreadklocks was used as a way to intimidate Rastafarians in Jamaica in the past, as they would be arrested and their hair cut off. This was one of the reasons many of the early Rastafarians moved to isolated areas (bush) of the Island.
To many Rastafarians, dreadlocks also symbolizes the mane (locks) of the lion in the Lion of Judah, which is one of titles given to all Ethiopian Kings. Emperor Haile Selassie was also very fond of lions and had them as pets around his palace. The lion is also seen as an animal that is gentle but powerful when provoked. He is the “King” of the jungle.