In Jamaica, there emerged a strong nationalist movement marked by African roots, which served as the basis for the Rastafarian or just “Rasta” culture and a religion founded by Marcus Garvey in the 1930s. Rastafarianism finds a sacred meaning in ganja—the Rasta name for cannabis. Their believers accept some parts of the Bible, especially linking ganja to the herb referred to in Psalm 104:14: “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man.” Rastafarians also believe that the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie was a god on Earth and that he embodies “black people’s Jesus.” Rasta followers understand that all black people come from Ethiopia, and returning to this African country is something similar to Nirvana.
What is Ganja?
During ancient times, incense was burnt to reach state of spiritual ascension and gave off an aroma that was not only pleasant, but also stimulated transcendence of time and space. Moses received the Ten Commandments amid a cloud of smoke from the sacred herbs. The Queen of Sheba, during her visit to Solomon, gifted him a kind of dark ganja that grew in Ethiopia, the land of incense. Solomon, as well as David, praised God through incense and music, and was buried surrounded by ganja because he wished to enjoy the benefits of this holy plant in his eternal life.
The word “ganja” comes from India. In the Vedas—a holy Hindu body of books written around 6000 BC—ganja was described as Amrita, the Elixir of Life, the Nectar of Immortality, the Road to Prosperity and Divine Wisdom. If was Lord Shiva who took this herb to the top of the Himalayas, bringing happiness and enlightenment to all mankind. Rising in the Himalayas, River Ganges—also called “Ganga” by Hindus, after goddess Ganga—is the most sacred Indian river and was created as Shiva delivered his favourite food for the Earth.
Ganja: The People’s Food and Medicine
Rastafarians hold that, using ganja, they become one with nature since this plant allows them to enhance their spiritual senses. Rastas also use ganja as a medication and as a food source, cooked in a similar way as spinach. Referred to as “kan” in the Amharic Bible, the Indian ganja—that is, Indian hemp—was introduced in the Americas by the Spanish in 1545. Great Britain offered considerable financial incentives to the earliest farmers so that they planted hemp, thus breaking up the Russian monopoly over this crop whose fibres are used to make ropes.
According to this fraternal community, being a Rasta requires unwavering faith, since Jah’s visions and thoughts are constantly questioned, even in Africa. Yet, Rastafarians uphold Biblical prophecies about a great confusion just before the fall of Babylon.