Symbolic Meaning of Rasta Colors

Symbolic Meaning of Rasta Colors

The Rastafari Movement is a spiritual way of life which rose to prominence during the 1930s. The colors of red, yellow, green, and black, also known as 'Rasta colors', are often seen on iconography depicting the movement. This Buzzle post explains the symbolism and meaning of these colors.
The beginning of Rastafari
The Rastafari movement found inspiration in the teachings of Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), a Jamaican proponent of Black Nationalism. He was known to have prophesied the crowning of a black king in Africa. The Rastafaris associated this with the crowning of Haile Selassie I, the Emperor of Ethiopia, believed to be the incarnation of Jesus in his Second Advent.
The Rastafari is an African religion, although its followers insist that it is a way of life. The movement stems from various Afrocentric beliefs, mainly the doctrine that Ethiopia is the birthplace of humanity, as well as the Promised Land and Heaven on Earth.

Adherents of the movement worship Haile Selassie I, the Emperor of Ethiopia (1892-1975), regarded as an incarnation of Jesus Christ in his Second Advent.

Rastafaris number up to approximately a million, living all across the globe. The community has a distinct culture, with their own language, music, diet, and symbolism. An integral part of Rastafari symbolism is its use of three (or sometimes four) colors―red, gold (or yellow), green, and (occasionally) black. In this write-up, we'll learn about the meaning of Rasta colors, as well as the order in which they are to be used.

What do the Rasta Colors Mean?

The Rasta colors of green, gold, and red can also be seen on the official flag of Ethiopia. This tricolored representation was also the official banner of the Ethiopian Empire's Solomonic dynasty. Here are the Rasta colors and hex codes.

Hex code: #FF0000
Red signifies the blood of those killed for the cause of the black community, throughout history.
Hex code: #FFF200
Yellow signifies the vast wealth and riches which belong to the African continent.
Hex code: #1E9600
Green signifies the lushness of the Promised Land of Ethiopia.

Additionally, the color black is a direct and obvious reference to the black community which began the Rastafari movement, urging followers to reclaim their homeland of Africa.

Correct Order of Rasta Colors

The correct order of Rasta colors is as follows:
  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Green
This sequence of colors was seen on the original flag of Ethiopia as early as the 17th century.

However, note that the flag used during the reign of Haile Selassie (1930-1974) had these very colors appearing in a reversed sequence,
  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Red
The flag had an emblem of the Lion of Judah in the center, and it remains popular with the Rastafari movement and people loyal to Haile Selassie. The current flag of Ethiopia also follows the same sequence, albeit with an emblem of a yellow star encircled in blue appearing in the center.

Rastafari
Rastafari headgear

Significance of Rasta Colors

To understand the true meaning of Rastafari spirituality, one needs to delve into its origins. Many beliefs followed by the movement have been historically preached by black spiritual leaders who urged followers to study the Scriptures themselves.

One of the main doctrines includes rejection of the main ills corrupting the society―materialism, oppression, and sensual pleasures.

The nation of Ethiopia is referred to as Zion, the original birthplace of humankind. Repatriation to Zion, also known as the 'Promised Land' is seen as one of life's important goals.

The Rastafari colors are among the various allusions to the nation of Ethiopia and Emperor Haile Selassie. The symbolism behind each color holds immense importance to the community as a whole.

These colors appear on several insignia associated with the movement, especially clothing, headgear, and other accessories.

Other culturally significant symbols of the movement, besides the three colors include keeping dreadlocks, following the Ital diet, and the spiritual use of cannabis. However, none of these are universally followed by Rastafaris―barring the color scheme. The tricolor of red-yellow-green is almost exclusively associated with the Rastafari movement, making it the most important symbol among all.