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August 2nd, 2012
08:20 AM ET

Snoop Dogg is a Rasta now, so what's Rastafari?

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - Rapper Snoop Dogg announced Monday that he's burying his name and old career, all because of a religious experience with Rastafari, an Afrocentric religion with origins in Jamaica. Snoop Dogg wants to be called Snoop Lion and instead of rapping on his latest album now he'll be singing reggae.

"I want to bury Snoop Dogg and become Snoop Lion," he said at a Monday press conference. "I didn't know that until I went to the temple, where the high priest asked me what my name was, and I said, 'Snoop Dogg.' And he looked me in my eyes and said, 'No more. You are the light; you are the lion.'

"From that moment on," Snoop said, "it's like I had started to understand why I was there."

Snoop Lion has a new single, "La la la," and a documentary "Reincarnated," which follows his recent trip to Jamaica and chronicles his conversion experience. It debuts at the Toronto Film Festival next month.

So what exactly is Rastafari? Here are some basic questions and answers:

1. How old is Rastafarianism?

The Rastafari movement began in Jamaica in 1930 and quickly spread.

"It's an Afrocentric faith that... focuses on the return to Africa of its members," says Richard Salter, a religious studies scholar from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York who studies the movement. "Sometimes that return is a return in body, actually going back to Ethiopia, and sometimes it's more of a spiritual return."

Nathaniel Murrell, a religion professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, said the movement Rastafari grows out of the Judeo-Christian tradition and out of the colonial experience. He says Jamaicans oppressed by colonial overlords saw the new faith as a means of liberation.

A key belief for Rastas is the notion of death to all white and black oppressors; the religion embodies a theological push for equality on all levels.

Salter points to Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," as a key to understanding that point.

"The line, 'emancipate yourself from mental slavery,' - if someone can convince you that you are inferior, then they have really oppressed you," Salter said. "So you can emancipate yourself from that and recognize the divine within you, your real value."

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2. So what do Rastafaris believe?

Rastas believe in God and use the term Jah, shorthand for Jehovah, a name for God that is common in the Jewish scriptures. Many Rastas see Halie Selassie I - the longest serving emperor of Ethiopia, who died in the 1970s - as a Christ-like figure.

Experts point to a wide diversity in the faith but say there are six key groups of Rastas, called mansions, that would be similar to denominations in other faiths.

Rastas hate "isms" and "ians" because of the value they place on all individuals. As a result, Rastas prefer the term Rastafari as opposed to Rastafarian or Rastafarianism to describe the movement.

Noel Leo Erskine, a professor of theology and ethics at Emory University in Atlanta, says it's nearly impossible to gauge how many people call themselves Rastas because there are no formal churches or membership structures and no hierarchy.

Erskine said that based on Jamaican migration and the prevalence of Rastas globally - he notes the presence of groups in Israel and Tokyo - his best guess is that there are around 1 million self-professing Rastas around the world.

3. How do Rastas practice their faith?

The most common outward expressions of Rastafari are Rastas' dreadlocks, penchant for smoking marijuana and vegetarian diets.

Rastas read the Bible and several other religious texts, though because the movement is so diverse there is no single canon.

Lifestyle choices are important for Rastas. Allowing one's hair to grow into long, matted dreadlocks serves as a reminder to practitioners that they have made a covenant to live naturally, Salter said.

Marijuana smoking is seen as sacramental to Rastas, who believe it brings clarity and strength (more on that below).

Another central practice is something called "reasoning." Rastas get together and smoke and have a "reasoning" session in which they hash out important spiritual ideas.

The practice of vegetarianism comes from Rastas "ital lifestyle" short, for vital, and according to Salter is intended to promote life in all its forms.

4. What's the Bob Marley connection?

Marley brought Rastafari to the American masses in the late 1970s and early 1980s through reggae music. It was massively popular and brought a watered-down version of the movement to the popular consciousnesses.

Snoop said this week that he had no plans on recording a reggae album in Jamaica but that, "When the spirit called me and basically told me to find something that is connected toward the Bob Marley spirit, because I've always said I was Bob Marley reincarnated."

Marley, the world's most famous reggae singer and practitioner of Rasta, died in 1981.

Emory's Erskine said that as Snoop moves forward with his music, he should look to the reggae star.

"Within Rasta there are guidelines, guidelines of dignity and songs of empowerment," he said. "I think Bob Marley provides a good guide for him in terms of the way forward and way not to belittle women and belittle others."

5. Is it a religion?

"[Rastas] are insistent that they don't see Rastafari as a religion because religion exposes itself to manipulation by people in power, so they see it as a lifestyle, as a way of life practiced by Rastas," Erskine said.

That said, there are many who practice the way of life with the same devotion found in other faiths. Religious scholars classify Rastafari as a religion.

Rastafari has provided sanctimonious cover for loads of college students more interested in the sacrament of ganja then the tenants of the faith. Remember that kid who lived on your dorm floor, grew dreadlocks, hung a lion flag, and smoked a lot of weed?

"That's been something the movement has had to struggle with," Salter said. "They have to define who a Rasta is. Is it a 21-year-old sitting in a drum circle out in the woods in some Northeastern liberal college taking bong hits, or does it require something else?"

6. So do they really smoke a lot of weed?

Yes. A lot.

Sometimes called the wisdom weed, Rastas believe the marijuana plant first grew from the grave of King Solomon, who the Bible calls one of the wisest men ever to walk the planet.

Salter notes Rastas believe smoking the herb is biblically sanctioned, though he points out they believe "it is not for recreation, but a food that feeds their spirit.”

“I bet Snoop Dogg, excuse me Snoop Lion, is particularly interested in that,” he added, noting the musician's advocacy for supporting the legalization of marijuana and his frequent use of it in music videos.

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7. So is the Snoop thing a gimmick to sell records?

It's too early to tell whether Snoop will stick with his awakening as a Rasta. Rastas don't convert; rather, they "awaken" to the faith they see as always having been there.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Americas • Culture & Science • Media • Music • Race

soundoff (906 Responses)
  1. Women Clothed with the Sun

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    January 10, 2014 at 6:18 am |
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  3. eclecticspot

    Reblogged this on eclecticspot.

    May 20, 2013 at 12:18 am |
  4. Science

    Free speech helps educate the masses................POLITICIANS too !

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    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

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    The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

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    Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104324.htm

    And NO ANGELS the pope KICKED them OFF the TEAM last year !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

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    the wrong path is Adam and Eve !

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    Mar. 4, 2013 — The discovery and analysis of an extremely rare African American Y chromosome pushes back the time of the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree to 338,000 years ago. This time predates the age of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils.

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    No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

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    No god(s) needed................... Old. DNA works..................also catches crooks !

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    Ca-nabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®) – National Cancer Insti-tute

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    Mar 21, 2013 – [1,2] These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids. ... have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors. ... In lung cancer cell lines, CBD upregulated ICAM-1, leading to ...

    Good stuff !

    The fact...............the earth is to old for this nonsemse ! Time to EVOLVE !

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    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130424132705.htm

    For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !

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    Make sure to read comments

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    Star Dust we are

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    Holy Hallucinations 35

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XTCRdC8Dlo&w=640&h=390]

    The ORIGIN story is bullsh-it...............so is the bible............... nasty !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml

    Scientists have unearthed the first direct signs of cheesemaking, at a site in Poland that dates back 7,500 years.

    Human Evolution

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    BBC. Planet of the Apemen. Battle for Earth 1. Ho-mo Erectus

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    BACKFILL on E =mc2.....

    Einstein letter, set for auction, shows scientist challenging idea of God, being 'chosen'

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    Decades before atheist scientist and author Richard Dawkins called God a "delusion," one world-renowned physicist – Albert Einstein – was weighing in on faith matters with his own strong words.

    “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” Einstein wrote in German in a 1954 letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/category/culture-science/

    May 4, 2013 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |

    Cheech & Chong's History of 420

    Cheech & Chong's History of 420 from CheechAndChong

    All cults...........creationists, ID believers and devil cults.................

    The fact...............the earth is to old ...........time to EVOLVE !.

    Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle

    Apr. 24, 2013 — Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth's crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven elusive. New research from a team including Carnegie's Erik Hauri demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago. Their work is published in Nature.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130424132705.htm

    Peace

    May 4, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Women Clothed with the Sun

      So You actually believe that the message you have posted is to any of us Appealing dear Science.........
      If you were a father or mother, you would raise your child to a bold man with that smile on face with a women in the bikini as his actual prey.....

      The sadness in your heart I feel becuse you have to go so ignorantly violent on us.......
      the sadness is to people that do not do their homework and follow one person, follow one source of information
      Do you truly believe that in such beautifully complex cosmos, only one answer makes all correct
      Have you actually ever went on and follow the trail back to creation, that it all as well makes sense and that yes, there is millions of people that do not believe in GOD
      They are ONE wit him, in their soul because they went through the pain, and asked those to you embarrassing still questions, "WHO AM I"
      What is my purpose on Planet Earth?"
      Spiritually the Earth had been in dark Place
      for 1. due to its course, spinning away from the source, thousands of years away from the Golden Entrance to All Beyond, ask your scientists, astrologers what has been really happening in spirit, what has been really happening to the SUN
      When you come and write so disturbingly,
      we feel sadness in our hearts because we not blindly believe in something,
      by now
      MILLIONS of us KNOW, we have evidence, proof, even the new findings of science is what we have been all searching for
      its a beautiful relationship between MAN that had been bittered up by his own vein reality, since he choose long time ago to close the doors to his PArents in SPirit and a women that has been too spiritual, too emotionally sensitive that is pure healing to this man that only THINKS each moment life is "knocking in his Soul"that has been as in hoarder's house, No where to be found
      THIS beautiful Feminine is asking you to clean up, purify your surroundings, your psyche, so she may come and heal your pains from past life times
      the question is
      would you rather be going to slseep to disturbing websites that you have to pay to watch and never really get to be in touch with such amazigness we are all to be blessed with?
      I say, ask God for forgiveness for your egotistical point on life, ask Your Heavenly Mother to find the time to come visit you in your dream and whisper to your cluttered mind, that yes"we all came here to FIND way home, i SPIRIT than your reality changes all.
      you will wake up so early, and all the answers falling down on you, make your each moment so exciting that the long scientific articles will vanish your "desire" to be so right , proving to those that are so ahead of the game, in spirit and here on Earth
      Muh love to you dear child, may your heart be blessed to much more feeling, kisses

      January 10, 2014 at 7:15 am |
  5. Small_ting

    Snoop sounds like an idiot.

    January 12, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
  6. Jahlove

    Rastas are bringing back the ways of long ago don't hate join jahlove

    January 11, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  7. mackylos

    Gone are the passionate rastas. Real story behind Bob Marley's son Jammin. Read below:

    http://jablogz.com/the-story-behind-bob-marleys-jammin-2/

    October 1, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  8. mackylos

    Gone are the passionate rastas :(. Real story behind Bob Marley's son "Jammin". Read below:

    http://jablogz.com/the-story-behind-bob-marleys-jammin-2/

    October 1, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  9. Howlman

    drugs warp the mind that's why they call it dope

    September 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  10. tuvia

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    Rabbi Chaim Richman answers President Obama's Cairo

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    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=947by3X6_RU&w=640&h=390]

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    WORLD VS ISRAEL. HILLARY CLINTON-THIS IS A MESSAGE

    FOR YOU – LET MY PEOPLE GO. FREE JONATHAN POLLARD

    NOW. LET MY PEOPLE GO BARRAK HUSSEIN OBAMA – NOW!
    The Land of Israel is the Promised Land given to our

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    MR. ROMNEY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

    >>>

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    Rabbi Chaim Richman answers President Obama's Cairo

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    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=947by3X6_RU&w=640&h=390]

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyBZhTaf1oU&w=640&h=390]

    WORLD VS ISRAEL. HILLARY CLINTON-THIS IS A MESSAGE

    FOR YOU – LET MY PEOPLE GO. FREE JONATHAN POLLARD

    NOW. LET MY PEOPLE GO BARRAK HUSSEIN OBAMA – NOW!
    The Land of Israel is the Promised Land given to our

    forefathers Abraham Isaac and Jacob and is given to

    us, their seed, as an everlasting Inheritance.

    >

    September 5, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  11. tuvia

    B"H

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=947by3X6_RU&w=640&h=390]
    MAZEL TOV.

    MR. ROMNEY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

    LET MY PEOPLE GO SENETOR HILLIARY CLINTON
    AND PRESIDENT OBAMA. LET JONATHAN POLLARD GO NOW
    LET JONATHAN POLLARD GO NOW. ORK NOW
    THANK YOU IN ADVANCE

    Rabbi Chaim Richman answers President Obama's Cairo

    speech

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=947by3X6_RU&w=640&h=390]

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyBZhTaf1oU&w=640&h=390]

    WORLD VS ISRAEL. HILLARY CLINTON-THIS IS A MESSAGE

    FOR YOU – LET MY PEOPLE GO. FREE JONATHAN POLLARD

    NOW. LET MY PEOPLE GO BARRAK HUSSEIN OBAMA – NOW!
    The Land of Israel is the Promised Land given to our

    forefathers Abraham Isaac and Jacob and is given to

    us, their seed, as an everlasting Inheritance.

    >

    September 5, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  12. pete

    snoop is a criminal who doesn't deserve media coverage to advance his green movement, dollar/riff.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
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  14. jack

    Snoop is a dog. Who gives a s&it what myths he believes?

    August 9, 2012 at 5:27 am |
  15. R. Harris

    CNN or BET?

    August 9, 2012 at 3:47 am |
  16. cole

    CNN why are you trying to look stupid???? please stop! this has been on here for a week , it was amusing the first day, this shows you are slow, square, and incompetent as news providers!

    August 8, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.