Ganja was brought to Jamaica in the late 1800’s by indentured East Indians, who were brought to the Island to work after slavery ended. Eventually it was outlawed and made illegal. The Jamaican environment and climate was the perfect place for the plant to grow.
The use of ganja in Jamaica is not unique to Rastafarians. Before Rastafari began, ganja was used by herbalists in Jamaica as a medicine in teas. It was also mixed with tobacco for smoking.
Ganja is considered the “wisdom weed” by Rastafarians, as its use helps one to gain wisdom. Rastafarians use it as a part of a religious rite and as a means of getting closer to their inner spiritual self, Jah (God) and Creation.
Ganja is also seen by Rastafarians as the herb of life mentioned in the Bible. Rastafarians use of ganja is justified by the following Psalms 104:14 that says, “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle and herb for the service of man, that he may bring forth food out of the earth.” Rastafarians also say it was found growing at the grave of King Solomon in the Bible.
Rastafarian consume it through smoking and eating (not recomended). The smoking of Ganja is a part of a religious ritual. When there is a large “reasoning” gathering of Rastafarians, a Chalice, which is a large smoking pipe, may be passed around and smoked. This is similar to the passing around of a communion cup by some Christian denominations. These gatherings are also called Nyahbinghi (also the name of a Rastafarian sect: Theocratic Priesthood and Livity Order of Nyahbinghi).
True Rastafarians do not smoke cigarettes as it is seen as un-natural and dangerous to one’s health. Marijuana is not the only plant or herb used by Rastafarians. They use a wide variety of herbs, plants for medicinal and dietary purposes, however, ganja is the most popular.
The word Jah
Contrary to what you may read in many patois dictionaries or Jamaican related books, the word Jah is not derived from the word Jehovah. It is not “short hand” for Jehovah. Jah is from the King James Bible as another name for God like Elohim, El Shaddai and other names. It can be found in Psalm 68 vs 4 and can also be found in other verses depending on the Bible translations. In some translations Jah Jehovah is used.
This name for God has been popularized by Rastafarians and is now used by many in the mainstream Jamaican populations. Its use has become somewhat of a marketing ploy, as many use the term in songs and language to appeal to the general public because it can be portrayed as either the God of Rastafarians or Christianity. Evoking the name “Jah” can bring legitimacy to reggae artists, being that Rastafarians are associated with the music.
The Star Of David
It is used to symbolize the lineage between H.I.M. Haile Selassie and King Solomon.
The Conquering Lion And The Lamb
Symbolizes the lamb of God and the lion of Judah, which are both mentioned in the Bible.
Original Rasta Flag
The original flag of Rastafarians was Red, Black and Green. Red represented the blood of blacks that died in struggle to fight off their white oppressors. Black represented the color of black Africans skin. Green represented the vegetation of Jamaica and Jah’s (God) earth.
Current Rasta Flag
The current flag is the old Ethiopian flag with the Lion of Judah symbol. The meaning of the colors in the Ethiopian flag is: red for the blood, gold for the minerals & resources and green for the land.