Among Rastas, the element of fire is symbolic of the spiritual purification of man which is essentially an alchemical process. The word “Alchemy” was introduced into the English lexicon by the Moors. Al Chemy literally means “The Chemistry” in Arabic and among the Moors who lived in Europe during the Middle Ages, fire (adversity) was regarded as the main catalyst behind the transmutation of the base lead of the soul into solid gold. Lead is the metal associated with the Kemetic god, Ptah, and according to Nicholas Melchior, who was the astrologer to the King of Hungry in the 16th century, the Ethiopian Man, the Black Man, is most qualified man to undergo the process of spiritual alchemy.
In Melchior’s description of an alchemical mass, which you can find in Man, Myth & Magic: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mythology Religion and the Unknown, he describes a man undergoing an alchemical transformation in an alchemist’s flask. At the end of this trial, Melchoir says, will appear “the mighty Ethiopian, burned, calcined, bleached—altogether dead and lifeless. He asks to be burned, to be sprinkled with his own moisture and calcined till he shall arise in glowing form from fierce fire…Behold, a wondrous restoration and renewal of the Ethiopian!”
These are prophetic words, because aren’t we seeing “lifeless,” “bleached” Black people in these days and times? Look at Sammy Sosa or the Jamaican dancehall deejay, Vybz Kartel, who has formally admitted to bleaching his skin. Although the future may look bleak, the sons and daughters of Ptah, the Moors, the Rastas will inevitably find proper direction through alchemical introspection.
Rastas are usually recognized by their roped hair often referred to as “dreadlocks.” However to call this hairstyle “dreadlocks” was regarded as an insult to early Rastas because it was intended to be a reference to what Jamaica’s white owned media considered to be the Rastaman’s “dreadful” appearance. The white-owned media cast an evil spell over most Jamaicans who shunned the early Rastas for embracing the cultural legacy of the Jamaican Maroons.
In India the Sadhus who dedicate themselves to the worship of the god Shiva wear their hair in dreadlocks and smoke copious amounts of ganja, which they regard as a religious sacrament necessary to achieve moksha (spiritual liberation). Somewhere in the akashas, the Bush Doctor Peter Tosh is reading Mind Glow Media and smiling. The word “Ganja” is named after the “Ganges River” in India where herb grew in abundance. In his book 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro, Jamaican scholar Joel Augustus Rogers says that this river was named after an Ethiopian King named Ganges who colonized India in ancient times. Jamaica, and to a much greater extent, Trinidad, was seeded with indentured servants from India during the 1800s, so many Indian religious customs such as Diwali (the Festival of Lights) are still observed in the West Indies and Guyana.
Indian Rasta Man
The Original Rasta Man
Japanese Rasta Man
Interestingly enough, India was a part of the Cusha Dwipa, the Ethiopian empire in ancient times. This is why many people from India look Ethiopian with their piercing doe-shaped eyes and almost aquiline noses. The Ethiopian word for “kings” is “Nagast,” while the “Nagas” of India were known as the serpents of wisdom. Howell, one of the early patriarchs of Rastafari in its current orientation, was well aware of the ethno-cultural connection between India and Ethiopia. In fact, he was known to many of his early followers as Gyangunguru Maragh, which means “Kingly Teacher of Wisdom” in Hindu.
I feel that it’s important to point out that not every Black person you see with dreadlocks is a Rasta and not every Rasta wears their hair in dreadlocks. Milli Vanilli were not Rastas and neither is Howard Stern’s lackey, Robin Quivers. Leonard Howell, who is most credited with the birth of Rastafari in Jamaica, did not have any locks. At least not in the photos of him that are available. Although Selassie did wear dreadlocks as a youth, he wore his hair in an afro in his adult years.
If you think about it, Selassie was probably the first man in modern history to proudly rock an afro, which is a halo, or could it be that the halo is really an afro? I’ll let you decide. Rastamen were called “Blackheart Men” in Jamaica because they extolled the virtues of African spirituality and culture, although for many of them, the two were amalgamated into the Judeo-Christian tradition. The “Blackheart Man” reference is significant since the color black was most sacred to the Kemetic god Ptah. Ptah’s sacred stone is onyx.