The symbol of the lion is extremely powerful, occupying a major place in the heart of Rastafarian culture. This wild beast is a great source of inspiration for men, women and children. In the south of France in the Ardèche, it is possible to visualize this phenomenon. In the heart of the Chauvet cave, the patterns on the walls reveal the way Paleolithic man lived about 32,000 years ago, revealing the animals he hunted and lived with.
This famous archaeological site is decorated with detailed paintings of bison, horses, mammoths, but mostly lions. However, to this day lions are endangered throughout Africa and India. The number of lions has dropped so much that it is placed on the list of endangered species.
1) The Rasta Lion
The lion symbol is attached to Haile Selassie, an emperor of Ethiopia whom Rastafarians revere as the messiah. Selassie’s lineage is said by Rastafarians to go back to the tribe of Judah, which itself used the lion as a symbol. It is for this reason that Rastafarians claim him as the conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Given Haile Selassie’s status as heir to the House of Solomon, Rastafarians believed that he had the power to send back to Africa those members of the black community who remained in exile following colonization and the slave trade.
The Rastafari movement developed in Jamaica during the 1930s as a result of the ideas of Marcus Garvey, a political activist who wanted to improve the status of his fellow blacks. Although Garvey never really followed or believed in the Rastafari movement, he is recognized as one of the forerunners of this religion, as it was his foundations that eventually gave birth to Rastafari. Moreover, if you wish to discover a 100% Rasta universe then do not hesitate to visit our Rasta collection.
2) Who is the Lion of Judah?
Originally the Lion of Judah was on the flag of Ethiopia from 1897 to 1974. Due to his union with Selassie, this symbol remains important to the members of the Rastafari movement. Some say that the arrival of Haile Selassie I was foreseen by biblical references. Within Christianity, the lion of Judah is mostly used to refer to Jesus Christ, however the significance of this symbol does not end there. The lion of Judah is an ancient symbol, representing the Israelite tribe of Judah during the Old Testament of the Torah. It also appears on the emblem of Jerusalem, in recognition of the original tribe of Biblical Judah.
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The symbol goes back to the tribal patriarch Jacob, in the blessing he bestows on Judah in the book of Genesis, referring to him as a “lion cub” (Genesis 49:9).
According to the Bible, Jesus’ lineage goes back to Jacob, of the house of David. Judah was the fourth son of Jacob who would become the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. An ancestor of Jesus, King David was also from the line of Judah. According to Judges 1:2, God chose the tribe of Judah to take the lead in conquering the nations that lived in the land promised to the twelve tribes.
In mentioning the Tribe of Judah, Jacob said:
“Judah, you are the one whom your brothers will praise; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s children will bow down to you. Judah is a little lion; from the prey, my son, you have come up. He boweth down, he lieth down like a lion; and like a lion, who shall awake him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and to him shall the people obey” (Genesis 49:8-10)
According to this prophecy, the line of Kings would descend directly from Judah. When King Saul fell, David would regain the throne and the prophecy would be fulfilled. David’s descendants were the kings of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah until the time of the Babylonian captivity in 586 BC.
The 13th century treatise, Kebra Negast is used to justify the Ethiopian dynasty, the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon would give birth to a child called Menelik I. The lineage would have continued from King Solomon to his son Menelik I until the uprising against Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1974.
In 1916, Tafari seized power from Iyasu V and imprisoned him for life. The following year, Menelik II’s daughter Zewditu became empress, and Tafari was appointed regent, rose to the rank of Ras, and became the heir apparent to the throne.
Thereafter, the symbol of Rastafari lay in the hopes and dreams of a young Ethiopian population.
In 1923, he led Ethiopia to the League of Nations, and the following year he traveled to Europe, becoming the first Ethiopian leader to go abroad. In 1928, he appointed himself king, and two years later, after the death of Zewditu, he was named emperor and took the name Haile Selassie I.
3) What is on a Rastafarian flag?
Rastafarianism is largely a young African-based religion that was built on the ideologies of Marcus Garvey in Jamaica during the 1930s. Rastafarians believe that Africans are the descendants of the tribe of Judah.
Originally this movement developed as a response to Jamaica’s colonial control and slavery. Rastafarians are struggling with what they call Babylonian control and wish to return to the land of Zion, which they believe is Ethiopia. It is conceivable that the symbols and symbolic practices of this religion reflect these beliefs. The flag sums up the semiology of Rastafarianism beautifully.