A Jamaican Rasta man is a man who belongs to the Rastafari movement, which originated in Jamaica. Although it is commonly thought of as a religion, Rastas consider it a lifestyle and culture as well as a spiritual path.
The Rastafari movement started in the 1930s and is based on the teachings of Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican who had a vision of uniting black people around the world and returning to Africa. The name comes from the birth name of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, Tafari Makonne, who many Rastas consider to be the Messiah. Some Rastas immigrated to Ethiopia in the 1960s and formed a settlement known as the 12 Tribes Compound.
Rastafari is a mix of African and Christian beliefs with an emphasis on Biblical literalism. Rastas are popularly known for their marijuana usage. Marijuana, or ganja, is considered a sacrament and is used as part of ritual prayer. Rastas are also known for their dreadlocks, which stem from a Biblical commandment to avoid cutting hair. Most Rastas are vegetarians, although some eat fish. The Rastafari movement is peaceful, with many Rastas taking part in anti-war and other pacifist movements. However, self-defense is not prohibited. Rastas have defended themselves from government oppression at times.