For Rastafarians, Selassie was the Christ, the Messiah, the Chosen One. He was said to be the 225th descendant of the great King David of Israel.

By Peter Feuerherd (JSTOR Daily) |

When Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was deposed in a coup on September 12th, 1974, the event sent shock waves through a religious community with its roots thousands of miles away on the island of Jamaica.

Less than a year later, Selassie was dead, either from natural causes, as the government of Ethiopia claimed at the time, or from murder, the explanation of many of the emperor’s distraught supporters.

For Rastafarians, Selassie was the Christ, the Messiah, the Chosen One. He was said to be the 225th descendant of the great King David of Israel, born of the relationship between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, as described in the Old Testament. “Belief in the divinity of Haile Selassie is foundational to the Rastafarian movement,” notes scholar Monique Bedasse.

The Rastafarians trace their origins to the 1930s, when a small group of Jamaicans embraced a series of beliefs and cultural norms estranged from much of the society around them. They rejected Christianized Western culture, seeing it as corrupt and built on exploitation of Africans, both on the continent and in the diaspora created by slavery. Throughout the Caribbean, and later on, in the United States, Britain, and in Africa itself, Rastafarian communities emerged, with an emphasis on the virtues of marijuana, vegetarianism, the wearing of dreadlocks (for which they claimed biblical origins), and reggae music. Disparity among Rastafarian groups made these elements more or less important depending on the community; Rastafarians have no centralized hierarchy, but they do have orthodoxies that are promulgated among some communities more than others.

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