One of the Holiest Days in Rasta ► Grounation Day

It’s somehow appropriate that the day after Four Twenty is Grounation Day, one of the holiest days in the Rastafarian religion. Today is the anniversary of the day in 1966 when their living God, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, visited Jamaica.

The WikiWackyWoo sums up Rastafarianism nicely

Many elements of Rastafari reflect its origins in Jamaica, a country with a predominantly Christian culture.[4][5] Rastafari holds to many Jewish
and Christian beliefs and accepts the existence of a single god, called
Jah, who has incarnated on Earth in the form of Jesus and Selassie.
Rastafarians accept much of the Bible, although believe that its message has been corrupted.[1] The Rastafari movement encompasses themes such as the spiritual use of cannabis[6][7] and the rejection of the degenerate society of materialism, oppression, and sensual pleasures, called Babylon.[8][9] It proclaims Zion, as reference to Ethiopia, the original birthplace of humankind, and from the beginning of the movement calls to repatriation to Zion, the Promised Land and Heaven on Earth.[10][11] Rasta also embraces various Afrocentric and Pan-African social and political aspirations,[6][12] such as the sociopolitical views and teachings of Jamaican publicist, organizer, and black nationalist Marcus Garvey (also often regarded as a prophet).

This would make a tremendous scene in a movie: When Emperor Haile Selassie I landed at Palisadoes Airport in Kingston on April 21, 1966, his plane was immediately surrounded by 100,000 Rastas, singing, playing drums and smoking sacramental ganja. When their living God appeared on the top step of his plane the crowd surged forward, pushing security back to the red carpet. Selassie waved, turned on his heels, and went back into the plane.

After what must have been a very uncomfortable wait, the Jamaican government convinced Ras Mortimer Planno, a well-known and respected Rasta elder, to go up and see what was keeping His Majesty. Planno had a private confab with Selassie and came out and announced to the crowd, “The Emperor has instructed me to tell you to be calm. Step back and let the Emperor land.”

Once the crowd had settled down Planno escorted Selassie down the stairs. The Emperor refused to walk on the red carpet, hence Grounation, with an emphasis on the ground.

This is the best part of the WikiWackyWoo entry on Grounation Day:

As a result of Planno’s actions, the Jamaican authorities were asked to ensure that Rastafarian representatives were present at all state functions attended by His Majesty, and Rastafari elders, including Planno and probably Joseph Hibbert, also obtained a private audience with the Emperor, where he reportedly told them that they should not immigrate to Ethiopia until they had first liberated the people of Jamaica. This dictum came to be known as “liberation before repatriation”. At a dinner held at the King’s House, Rastas claimed that acting Jamaican Prime Minister Donald Sangster had stamped his foot at Lulu, Haile Selassie’s pet chihuahua, who, they swore, had responded with the roar of a lion.

Defying expectations of the Jamaican authorities, Selassie never rebuked the Rastafari for their belief in him as the Messiah. Instead, he presented the movement’s faithful elders with gold medallions bearing the Ethiopian seal – the only recipients of such an honour on this visit. Meanwhile, he presented some of the Jamaican politicians, including Sangster, with miniature coffin-shaped cigarette boxes.

I get the feeling The Emperor was trying to send a message. Ras Mortimer Planno later went on to be the spiritual teacher for Rita and Bob Marley, whom you may have heard of.

Which leads us back to the music, which is what I always think about when I think of Rastafarianism. Here’s a Rasta Jukebox for Grounation Day.




About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.

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