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Rastafari: Natty Dreadlocks

Updated on April 16, 2013

I will try my best to give out correct information as to the function of Rastafarian dreadlocks within the Jamaican culture. It is a very sensitive subject. Most of the Mansions of Rastafari require a display of Asceticism or devotion to the movement. Growing dreadlocks as a Rastafarian carries many sentiments and natural (natty) energy. The term Natty Dreadlocks actually means “naturally locked hair". This means that you grow your hair without grooming the locks. Letting your hair lock naturally is the preferred practice within the Rastafarian movement.

Mau Mau Warriors wearing Dreadlocks as a virtue of rebellion.
Mau Mau Warriors wearing Dreadlocks as a virtue of rebellion.

Rest assured, having Rastafarian dreadlocks is not a requirement of the movement. However, growing your dreadlocks or hair is seen as a move away from the Babylon system and towards self-independence. There are many that practice a Rastafarian Lifestyle without growing their hair. Here is a list of reasons some Rastafarians do not grow their hair;

  • Biological Restrictions: Some people are naturally bald and are unable to grow hair. Natural Baldness is viewed as a negative attribute for any individual. On the other hand the ability to grow really long hair is interpreted as a blessing within the Rastafarian movement.
  • Family and Cultural Restrictions: If someone has already taken a vow to be a monk, then it may not be necessary to change ones appearance. Even though the Rastafari dreadlocks represent a harsh change in lifestyle, it may not be necessary.
  • Job and Economy: Formal work environments do not take kindly to the appearance of the Rastafarians natty dreadlocks. Some people do not have a choice to simply disenfranchise their work environment. There are those Rastafarians who do get away with having groomed dreadlocks with a shaven beard and sideburns. This seems to be the only acceptable form of grooming allowed in the corporate environment.

(For those Rastafarians stuck in a stressful job; save up some money and open an independent business in order to have more artistic control of self. The Rastafarian image represents the breaking of external and internal restrictions)

Diagram of Hair structure
Diagram of Hair structure | Source

The Science of Hair

Please refer to the image of the hair. Understanding the structure of the hair will help most Rastafarians appreciate the significance of natty dreadlocks. It is no coincidence that the hair looks just like a plant. Even the way how it grows represents the functionality of a tree. The follicle represents the root of a plant and the hair shaft represents the trunk. The skin represents the soil of the earth. Your hair absorbs the sun radiation through melanin while plants absorb the suns radiation using chlorophyll. Your hair keeps replenishing itself like an evolving forest. As soon as a tree falls, there is another to take its place.

Natty dreadlocks hair is mystical because of its electromagnetic properties. This is why hair stands up when the body is exposed to an electric shock. Because my elementary school was in a lightening prone zone, we had to do lighting drills. The first thing you’re taught is whenever you feel the hair on your body or head stand up, to get flat on the ground. This is because only the hair shaft can sense the change in the atmospheres energy.

After you are taught this lifesaving tip, they turn around and teach you that humans only have five senses. Within the Rastafarian culture it is not just a belief that human beings have many more senses, it is an actually fact. The hair is one the many sensory organs that does not use nerve cells within its structure to communicate information to the brain.

Mystical element of hair

The hair is an electromagnetic sensor (receptor) that is inanimate (like a TV antennae). However it is able to heal itself just like the skin or any other organs. Scientist do not why your grows back when you cut it. There is no sensory nerve that tells the brain that the hair has been cut. For example, side burns grows to specific length and whenever the hair shaft is cut, it will grow back immediately to its predetermined length.

Therefore, if the hair shaft is truly an inanimate object then when it is broken it should stay broken. There is no visible or observable feedback mechanism to the brain that would trigger hair growth. It just mystically happens.

Groomed dreadlocks hair will not have the same energy as naturally grown dreadlocks. This is simply because every time someone touches your hair, the hair is electrically neutralized. There are also many hair products that alter the chemical structure and integrity of the hair. This is why Bobo Shanti Priests do not expose their hair to the environment and constantly wear turbans.

The Rastafarians dreadlock hair serves as an electromagnetic frequency antennae to the body. In other words, the dreadlocks hair changes the energy composition of the whole body. To be more precise, long hair can be attributed to extra-sensory abilities or extra strength. Most cultures also embrace similar beliefs about having long dreadlocked hair. For example, the Vikings, Mau Mau, and the ancient Babylonians all believed that long locked hair is a display of supernatural abilities.

The Nazarite Vow

Most Rastafarians grow their natty dreadlocks according to the nazarite vow agreements communicated to Moses directly from the most high. The vow is symbolic of dedicating one’s self totally to Jah Rastafari. The other stipulations of the Nazarite vow must be followed.

  • You cannot cut your hair
  • You cannot consume any form of fermented drink or fruit. (No Rum, wine or beer, no use of vinegar)
  • You cannot eat fruits from the vine. (No Yams, grapes, pumpkins, etc)
  • You must not go near a dead body. (Can’t work in a hospital or involve with the military)
  • You can agree to follow the vow for a predetermined time frame. (for example 7 years)

Once any of the agreements are broken, then the devotee must cut off their hair and start over again. The full agreement can be found in the Old Testament in Numbers 6.

Asceticism

Once you have started to stop shaving and growing your hair, you are practicing a mild form of Asceticism. This is because we are now out of the realm of societal expectations. Therefore, growing dreads is a major attribute that needs to be practiced in order to symbolically burn Babylon. It is like saying “I am with God now”.

In the Rastafarian movement, Dreadlocks signify humility, separation, long fasting and suffering. Dreadlocks in society represent homelessness, mental illness and backwardness. It is ironic how society treats people when they decide to trod a peaceful non-commercial path.

Discrimination

Even people with well-groomed dreads are discriminated against along with men that have long combed hair. It is a certainty that Rastafarians with natty dreadlocks will cause great fear and trigger negative defensive reactions.

The cultural and social standards of each country or community should be taken into consideration. Rastafarians who go barefooted can walk around in the rural communities of Jamaica without much discrimination. However, this practice may be frowned upon in the larger affluent towns of Jamaica.

Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia
Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia | Source

The Ethiopian war

Those who are exposed to constant military operations cannot find time to groom their hair. This is further compounded by constant movements by the operant. Africans, due to numerous invasions to the homeland adopted dreadlocks by virtue.

Ethiopia may be the only African country that was not successfully captured by world domination systems. Most Rastafarian members did not wear dreadlocks before the First Italo-Ethiopian War. The description of the Ethiopian warriors that had won the war became popular in Jamaica. Many attribute Ethiopia’s victory as the origin of the Jamaican Rasta dreadlocks.

Rastafarians associate their appearance with Mau Mau, Nyabhingi order , Bobo A-shante, Zulu and Ethiopian warriors. All of these systems of beliefs require devotion to the battlefield, spiritual warfare and GOOD OVER EVIL.

Dreadlocks and Slave culture

We have already established that natty dreadlocks represent rebellion. Once society is living in harmony, the way people choose to express their identity should not be a problem. Whenever one set of people try to capture another culture they destroy it.

If Rastafarians should dominate the world and then force monks to grow their hair, that would be unfair to the other cultures.

When the captured people from Africa were shipped to the Caribbean, they were shaved and oiled up for sale. This was done in order to make slaves look more marketable. What if I told you that is what is exactly happening today.

Some of the slaves escaped from the plantations and started to grow their hair again. They would continue their original appearance customs, language or cultural based rituals. Rastafari is not a hair culture. People naturally rebel by wearing natty dreadlocks.

Babylon has now figured out how to capture the minds of the people. The masses all look the same but this time they do not tie them up and put them on ships.

Rebellion

It is the natural (natty) order of life to be free. Dominating another culture is never the objective of Rastafari. Each person should have an equal right to express themselves PEACEFULLY. Once there is a conflict of opinion, then peaceful separation is encouraged. Rebellion is a last resort.

It is also well known that those who wear locks are more likely to rebel than a clean shaved person. This is why most corporations encourage a clean shave image. A popular method of military initiations is to shave the head of all inductees. Shaving is a representation of submission.

It is no coincidence that people also wear their dreadlocks as a display of aggression. This is observed in some popular sports and street cultures where aggression is necessary. It is a clear symbol of protest.

How different mansions of Rastafari wear their hair.

  • Bobo Shanti: Grows natty dreadlocks. The dreadlocks are kept wrapped in a ceremonial turban. It is important that their locks are not revealed to the public. Bobo Shanti is the priestly order of Rastafari. They follow the nazarite vow all their lives.
  • NyaBinghi: Grows natty dreadlocks. It is the fundamental order of Rastafari. The natty dreadlocks hair is grown as a symbol of the natural order of life. It is also a symbol of rebellion within the NyaBinghi order.
  • Twelve Tribes of Israel: may not grow locks. It is the international arm of Rastafari and integrates other cultures. It is seen as the diplomatic arm of Rastafari. Therefore members may look like the regular public. (Twelve Tribes of Israel: Article)
  • Ethiopian Orthodox Church: May grow natty dreadlocks in accordance with the nazarite vow. The females wear turbans while it is not necessary for men to wear a turban.

At the end of the day it is how you treat other people with respect that is most important.

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Copyright © 2012 Rasta1

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    • rasta1 profile image
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      Marvin Parke 3 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect Kathleen. Good luck on your wedding. My hair does not lock easily but I let it be natural at all times.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      I love dreads. I always tell people that I think I am the only white girl who has hair that naturally dreads by itself! I let it dread up one summer, and kept them for awhile but got rid of them after a year. Im planning to let it dread again after my wedding next month. Great hub!

    • rasta1 profile image
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      Marvin Parke 3 years ago from Jamaica

      Lots of Respect, Jay Wu

    • profile image

      JAY WU 3 years ago

      USEFUL INFORMATION.

    • rasta1 profile image
      Author

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect Thandi. Your are most welcome. Everyone must have the right to express themselves as they choose.

    • profile image

      thandi 4 years ago

      Thanks for the information. I don't regret having my long dreadlocks even though I am not practising rastafari.

    • rasta1 profile image
      Author

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect Esther. It is a fashion statement now, but I have noticed a change in those that started wearing it as a fashion statement. Their whole persona may change.

    • Esther  Strong profile image

      Esther Strong 4 years ago from UK

      It's been interesting to read the backstory behind what many perceive as a fashion statement.

    • rasta1 profile image
      Author

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Lots of love Angela. I am happy you enjoyed it.

    • Angela Kane profile image

      Angela Kane 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      I have always wondered how dreadlocks came to be and where it started. Great hub and information and I will be following you on facebook, twitter and google.

    • rasta1 profile image
      Author

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Thanks for the positive energy, Billy.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      That was fascinating my friend! What a great education about a different culture. Thank you for the enlightenment!

    • rasta1 profile image
      Author

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect Watergeek. There are still some Islands that shave Rastafarians when they are imprisoned for Ganja or any misdemeanour's.

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 4 years ago from Pasadena CA

      Hi Rasta1 - I love the video, although I didn't play it until I was reading comments (lol). I once knew someone in Grenada who had dreads down below his butt. He was a peaceful farmer growing, among other things, ganja. He told me once that he was imprisoned by the revolutionary government, who cut off the front of his hair while he was in prison. Your hub lends depth to that incident for me. Thanks very much. He was a good person.

    • rasta1 profile image
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      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect Seafearer Mama. Thanks for saving it.

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen Szklany Gault 4 years ago from New England

      The music on the video enhanced my reading experience for this hub. I'm glad that you are considering keeping it. :0)

    • rasta1 profile image
      Author

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect Seafarer Mama. I am glad you liked the video because I was thinking of removing it for a picture.

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen Szklany Gault 4 years ago from New England

      Hey Rasta1, this was a very interesting hub! Enjoyed reading it. Thanks for including the music video, too.

    • rasta1 profile image
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      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect JS. I am very happy to have informed you about Rastafari. I am elated that you approve.

    • rasta1 profile image
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      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      @Simba73. Jamaicans are parent pleasers. I have plenty of Rastafarian friends who cannot grow their hair because of family. My personal belief is that parents wishes come first when it comes to a trivial matter such as hair.

      @Cardisa. I come from a bloodline of hair groomers too. The afro is seen as a rebellious symbol. It was very hard to grow my hair in such an environment.

    • J.S.Matthew profile image

      JS Matthew 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      This was a very interesting read for me. I knew almost nothing of Rastafarian culture and less about dreadlocks! Thanks for clearing this up for me. I have new respect for this culture. Voted up and shared.

      JSMatthew~

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Simba, you don't know my mom. My mother took scissors and threatened to cut brother's hair off if he didn't comb it. I am female with beautiful part Indian. My mom is very strict when it come to grooming the hair, I am hoping that she has grown a bit more liberal now that she has had some worldly experiences. I am going to broach the subject form a frugal living and hair styling point of view and hear what she says about it.

    • Simba73 profile image

      Simba73 4 years ago from UK

      Cardisa ,

      i have something to add to Rasta1's comment, look at my profile picture, although my hair never got to the full dreadlock stage I never combed it, I did not follow Rastafari, but on reflection I may as well of as my beliefs and heart ran parallel with it. What I am trying to say is although my family always moaned about my hair, the minute I shaved it off they all became very concerned for me, as they thought I was going through a transition of rebelling against my good nature,which I was not but it took sometime to make them relax.

      They in fact grew to love my hair and what they considered it's statement I never have conformed with society and if I was sat on the fence and saw myself I would say I am more Rasta than any other pigeon hole. Your hair will not make you either it is in your soul or it is not.

      Going off point again sorry LOL , Your family will accept it, and Dreads don't come overnight so they will have plenty of time to realise you are still you, dreads or not

      Simba

    • rasta1 profile image
      Author

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Cardisa, That is funny but serious. I totally understand where you are coming from. That is why I made sure I addressed the issue of family. Even though I get to do my hair my way, my family did not approve at first.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 4 years ago from Jamaica

      I have been thinking of locking the hair. I don't consider myself a Rastafarian because I still do things that are definitely not and don't think I want to change completely. However I do like the look but family is my main issue. Even though I am over 40 I must discuss with my mom before doing anything as drastic as that...lol

    • rasta1 profile image
      Author

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect Simba73. Good over Evil and Life over Death

    • Simba73 profile image

      Simba73 4 years ago from UK

      This is a great hub my friend with some very good information letting to world know the truth behind the Dreadlock and Rastifari culture, this brother is the kind of information needed to break down the barriers around the globe and set people free from the shackles of Babylon, you are on a crusade of love and truth.

      Respect

      Simba

    • rasta1 profile image
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      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect Vonda. I really do appreciate your word of kindness.

    • rasta1 profile image
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      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect lrc7815. Thank you very much for the positive energy.

    • rasta1 profile image
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      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Jennifer, thanks for the strength.

    • rasta1 profile image
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      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect Chrisinhawaii. It is mysterious how the hair interprets its environment.

    • profile image

      vonda g nelson 4 years ago

      nice hub

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

      This was a wonderfully educational hub. Understanding different cultures builds a bridge over the river of fear. You are commended for building this bridge. Voted up and awesome.

    • profile image

      Jennifer M. 4 years ago

      Your article was very interesting and informative keep up the great work.

    • jah-i profile image

      Apollo Idren 4 years ago from Dar es Salaam

      Thanks my brother, Jah will guide my journey. Blessings..

      Nazarite I

      Apollo Idren

    • profile image

      chrisinhawaii 4 years ago

      Your hubs are always so awesome! Voted up and just about everything, shared and liked!

      I never thought about the hair as being a kind of warning system, but we all recognize that...like in a fearful situation, the hairs on the back of your neck will stand up. That's not just a funny, quirky thing about neck hair - it's a built-in defensive mechanism.

      Super interesting. Aloha, my friend!

    • rasta1 profile image
      Author

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect Jah-I. Any method of locking the hair is ok. As long as the hair is natural, it is okay.

    • jah-i profile image

      Apollo Idren 4 years ago from Dar es Salaam

      Very nice, You inspire me. I have a little afro, and i want to know if rastas allow to have dreads by wax method. Can i use wax to make dreadlocks?