One of the holiest days of their year, Rastafari people are today (2nd November) celebrating Haile Selassie’s accession to the Ethiopian throne.
Born Tafari Makonnen, Emperor Haile Selassie I was crowned King of Ethiopia in 1930. The estimated 700,000 to 1 million Rastafari around the world commemorate Selassie’s coronation because many Rastafari believe that he was their God incarnate. However, this is not a universally held belief – some Rastafari think of him as ‘simply’ a prophet, a messenger of God. Both groups celebrate today though!
Many years prior to Haile Selassie’s enthronement, American black-nationalist leader Marcus Garvey began preaching of a coming messiah who would lead the peoples of Africa, and the African diaspora, into freedom. When news of Selassie’s coronation reached Jamaica, some saw him as the foretold messiah. Rastafari quote certain prophesies in the New Testament of the Bible as proof of Selassie’s status; as well as the fact that he could trace his lineage back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
Interestingly, Selassie himself remained a lifelong Christian, and never reproached the Rastafari for their beliefs in him as the returned messiah.
When Rastafari people gather today, the high priest reads Biblical passages and initiates the singing of songs to re-emphasise the importance of Haile Selassie as Messiah.