Would you like to know the origin of this famous Rastafari symbol ? What was its place in religions? Are you wondering if it is inspired by an animal that actually lived? Would you like to know what the Lion of Judah represents ?
I am Dembe, proud supporter of the movement that you probably also cherish, Rastafarianism, I had the chance during my various trips to meet many historians specialists of Africa as well as many enthusiasts like you and me of Rasta history. I will tell you in the clearest possible way the story of this famous internationally recognized symbol.
Over the centuries, the Lion of Judah has had several meanings. In the Christian religion, it represents Jesus. For the Jews, he refers to Judah, the son of Jacob, and his descendants, one of the 12 tribes of Israel. As for the Ethiopians, it represents the lineage of kings from the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. The rastas use it in memory of Emperor Haile Selassie and as a symbol of freedom.
- In this article you will learn:
- The origin of this iconic animal
- Its link with different religions
- The decision to take it as emblem for the Ethiopian power
- The significance of this Lion of Judah for the rastas
From then on, this very illustrious emblem will no longer have any secrets for you despite its very ancient history. You will truly and accurately know the meaning of the Lion of Judah, which will further enrich your sense of belonging to the Rastafari community.
Now it’s time for you to take a leap into the past!
1- the Lion of Judah Found Among the Rastafarians
In order not to make a jump too brutal in the history of humanity and religions, we will at first see together the relationship that today, connects the Lion of Judah to the Rastafari community.
A) the History of Rastafarianism
The lion of Judah is an image that is often found when we look at the symbols of the rasta movement. And it is not really a coincidence that this symbolic animal is so present and this from the origin of Rastafarianism.
He was born in Jamaica in the late 1920s. The important figures of this birth and the history of this movement are Marcus Garvey and Leonard Percival Howell The first revives the prediction of a reverend, James Moris Webb, who announces the arrival of a king of kings in Africa, a black emperor above the others that will allow Africans to regain their dignity in this rather difficult period. A few years later, this was achieved with the accession to the throne of Emperor Haile Selassie in Ethiopia in 1930.
The word rastafari comes from the name of this man who is vital to the movement: Ras Tafari who means important politician above others.
His commitment is to defend the rights of men and of his country, joining in the fight of the creators of Rastafarianism. It is also at the origin of the presence of an important animal on the Ethiopian flag: the Lion of Judah.
B) More Than an Animal, This Lion Is a Symbol
It is impossible not to notice the presence of a lion on many images including the rasta flag. This flag became that of the movement was first that of Ethiopia of H. Selassie. It combines the three colors – green, yellow and red which are symbols of hope and African flora, the richness of the continent and the blood shed to stay free. As for the lion, it is a direct reference to the tribe of Judah whose Ethiopian emperor – the «light of the lights» – claimed his membership through the lineage of Solomon.
It is therefore not surprising that the rastas adopted the very symbol of the emperor, icon of the movement. And this for several reasons.
2- the Origins of the Lion of Judah
Now the link made with the rastas, let us dive together into the past in order to understand the very origins of this famous figure of the Lion of Judah and its meaning through the different religions having taken it as a true symbol.
a) An emblem linking history and religion
The lion, visible both on the Ethiopian flag and rasta, wears a crown and a golden sceptre that bears a Coptic cross (cross of the Christians of ancient Egypt), taken up by the Ethiopians.
This lion is symbolic for both Christians in Africa and Jews. It represents both Jesus and one of the twelve tribes of Israel. It is the undeniable link between history and religion and goes over time, wearing different symbolisms.
B) Judaism and Christianity: a Powerful Lion
The first mention of the lion of Judah is found in Genesis. It refers to Judah, the son of Jacob, a strong and very brave young man. His lineage (one of the Twelve Tribes) includes famous names like David and Solomon, famous kings. The tribe takes a lion as an image. The animal symbolizes superiority (the king of animals), strength, and resistance. The tribe of Judah forges kings. The king is also mentioned several times as the symbol of Yahweh (Isaiah 31:4; Hosea 13:7-8).
Because of his affiliation with the line of David, Jesus Christ is also symbolized by this animal. He is referred to in Revelation (5) as “the lion of the tribe of Judah, the son of David. The symbolism remains the same. The lion is the powerful nature that will rule over the peoples and offer them a new covenant in the eternal kingdom. In Revelation, we can also note that Jesus will be the lion who will wrest the title to the earth from Satan.
3- the Meaning of the Lion of Judah
For centuries, and still today, this animal is truly adored by the followers of these religions. If you yourself adore the lion, we advise you to have a look at this site dedicated to the feline !
It is in a logical continuation of history that the Ethiopian people will also see themselves attributed the Lion of Judah as a national symbol.
A) the Lion of Judah and the Ethiopians
The Ethiopian territory was occupied by Jews and Christians in ancient times and later. It is therefore not surprising that this symbol has crossed the centuries. The relationship between the territory and the Jewish religion can also be seen in the texts with the love between the Queen of Sheba (ancient name of the territory) and King Solomon. A son will be the fruit of this love: Menelik, first king of Ethiopia. Selassie and all the other kings of the country claimed to be the descendants of this illustrious predecessor. The reason? The direct lineage between Menelik and Solomon, between the country and the Jewish religion. Ethiopia is also considered by the Rastas as the cradle of their faith
B) the Lion of Judah, a Major Symbol for Rastafarians
The lion of Judah is not only seen in the Bible. It has become a strong symbol for both the Ethiopians and the Rasta movement. And there are many reasons for this.
The first is religious. Rastafarianism is a movement that is close to the Judaic religion since it recognizes itself in the Ethiopian people and its most popular king Selassie who claims to be attached to the lineage of Solomon. The relations between this religion and the movement are numerous. If you’ve listened to reggae songs, you’ve heard the term Lion of Zion – or Zion – used many times. This reference is directly related to Mount Zion, located in Jerusalem. The Rasta belief in one god (Jah) is influenced by Judaism. The holy city becomes a symbol of their faith. Just like for the Jews, in their eyes, Babylon represents the city of all sins that they want to leave to join Zion. It is also for them the symbol of white imperialism and capitalism, harmful to society. Although they were not practicing Jews, they nevertheless retained these strong symbols of religion and, like Selassie, borrowed the lion of Judah, a major image from the lineage of Solomon and David.
C) Rastafari Symbol, Lion of Judah
Although the lion remains an essential element from a religious point of view, it is also considered by Rastafarians as the very image of Haile Selassie. The “King of Kings” is thus called the “conquering lion of the tribe of Judah”. He is also seen as the lion mentioned in Revelation, a symbol of the fight against evil.
The Rastafarians therefore make the king of the animals an important emblem. It will embody in their eyes different principles that they emphasize in their daily lives. Thus, the lion is courageous, dignified, noble. He fights against injustice and is the symbol of resistance to it. He is the king who fights to defend his territory. He is also the image of patience and calm.
It is a strong symbol of the movement. Many Rastas even present their dreadlocks as symbolizing a lion’s mane. They are the lions who stand up for their ideas, their people, their history and who fight against iniquity. They are the lions who are the heirs of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon and carry their history and ideology loud and clear.
The lion has become for the Rastas a totem animal, which they respect and venerate. The Rasta flag proudly bears the emblem of the animal, but it is also possible to find it on different objects. It is a very important symbol for the movement since it associates history and religion and is naturally part of the most used Rasta symbols.
4- a Timeless Symbol
It is now clear to you that the Lion of Judah is much more than just an animal found in the Rasta community, but has been very significant for centuries to many religions and groups of people.
By reading this article, you now know exactly how this symbol came to be a real figure throughout history. You also know that before it was an emblem for Rastafarians, the Lion of Judah floated in the air in Ethiopia. All this new knowledge fills you with even more Rastafarian vibes.
It is very important for us to know that you are interested in the movement and that your thirst for new information is only limited by the countless positive vibes you give off.
5- the Lion of Judah Is Also on Stylish Lion®
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The Lion of Judah Ring (Steel): a great classic that honors your divine beliefs with careful details!
Don’t hesitate to share your stories about the Lion of Judah in the comments below!