Mansions of Rastafari

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Mansions of Rastafari are branches of the Rastafari movement. Mansions include the Bobo Shanti, the Niyabinghi, the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and others. The term is taken from the Biblical verse in John 14:2, "In my Father's house are many mansions."

Many individual Rastas are only loosely affiliated with these Mansions, or not at all, in keeping with the principle of freedom of conscience, a general distrust of institutionalism shared by many, and the teachings of Haile Selassie I as Emperor that "faith is private" and a direct relationship requiring no intermediary.

Bobo Shanti[edit]

Main article: Bobo Ashanti

Prince Emanuel Charles Edwards founded the Bobo Shanti order in Jamaica in 1958 (prior to Jamaica's independence in 1962).[1] The Bobo Shanti advocate repatriation of all black people to Africa, and that black people should be reimbursed monetarily for slavery (reparations). The Bobo Shanti use Revelations 5 to justify Prince Emmanuel as the reincarnation of Christ, the reincarnate Black Christ in a priestly state. By most members of the Bobo Shanti, he was called "Prince Emmanuel Charles Edwards, without Mother or Father, a Priest of Melchezidek, the Black Christ in the Flesh." Prince Emmanuel is called "Dada" by his followers, who see him as part of a holy Trinity, in which Haile Selassie of Ethiopia is King/God (Jah), Marcus Garvey is prophet, and Emmanuel is high priest after the priesthood order of Melchizedek. Almost all sacred songs and tributes to their ancient trinity of prophet, priest, and king ends with the phrase "Holy Emmanuel I Selassie I Jah Rastafari."

The Bobo Shanti are a self-sufficient group whose members grow their own produce. They also live separately from society and the other Rastafari orders in their current base in the Nine Miles area of Bull Bay, Jamaica. They function similarly to the Accompong Maroons, even though it is not official, like an independent nation within Jamaica with their own constitution. They do not accept the values and lifestyle of the wider Jamaican society. The members of the Bobo Shanti "house", sometimes called Bobo Dreads, dress very differently from all the other orders, wearing long robes and very tightly wrapped turbans. The Bobo Shanti lifestyle closely emulates that of the Old Testament Mosaic Law, including hygiene laws for menstruating women, and the observation of the Sabbath from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday (when no work is allowed). The consumption of salt and oil is avoided. Members of the order do not smoke marijuana in public, as it is only reserved for worship among members.

Bobos greet each other using the formal address "Blessed Love My Lord and Empress" and are most notable for their wearing of turbans and long flowing robes, as well as brooms they carry with them, which signify cleanliness. These brooms and other crafts such as straw hats are also sold in Kingston as a way to provide funds for the community. The Bobos have established a strong relationship with the local community outside of Bobo Hill and often invite people to their services. Membership of the Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress is increasingly growing globally, as their members are seen in Africa, Europe, North and South America and throughout the Caribbean. A turban is not always a sign of a Bobo; there has also been a noted trend amongst some Rastafari outside of the Bobo Order in the wearing of "turbans", as evident amongst some reggae artists. Nevertheless, these Rastas are often mistaken for Bobos in Jamaica. Among Bobo Dreads, it is readily accepted that being a member of the Priesthood Order requires more than simply the covering of ones head.

Bobos say that "Africa" is the name that the European colonizers gave to Ethiopia, or "Jerusalem". As to the faith, and in the Bobo (and Rastafari) conception, the true Ethiopian Israelites are black men and women, who are Royal Ethiopians from creation birth, scattered during the African diaspora. Bobos believe that black skin, skin blessed by the sun, is original, and they consider black women as mothers of creation. Women cover their legs, arms, and head in practice of the Queen Omega principles. Nearly all the men within the community are seen as prophets or priests, whose functions are to “reason” and conduct religious and parliamentary services, respectively.

List of notable Bobo Shanti people[edit]

Twelve Tribes of Israel[edit]

The Twelve Tribes of Israel is a Rastafari group founded in Kingston, Jamaica, and now functioning worldwide. Its founder, Vernon Carrington was known as Prophet Gad, and taught his students to read the Bible 'A Chapter A Day'.[2]

Twelve Tribes of Israel (Ysrayl) Rastafari organization accept Yahshuwah The Messiyah/Yesus Kristos as Master and Saviour, and Haile Selassie I as divinely chosen by the Creator to represent him on earth. Due to the stigma associated with slavery and the use of the name "Jesus" by outsiders, Rastafari prefer to use the ancient names of The Messiah (Ha Mashiyahch) which is Yahshuwah, Yahoshua or Yahshua (original sacred Hebrew name) and Yesus/I-Yesus Kristos (Amharic/Ge'ez name).

Haile Selassie is seen as a divinely anointed king in the lineage of Kings David and Solomon. While he is considered a type/representation of The Messiyah in Kingly Character, he is not Yahshuwah The Messiyah/Yesus Kristos himself, but a representative of the everlasting Davidic covenant, which is to be fulfilled by The MessiahYahshuah/ I-Yesus Kristos when he returns as The Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Yahudah).

The Twelve Tribes symbology is based on Yahqob's (Jacob) 12 sons, and correspond to the months of the ancient Ysraylite (Israelite) calendar, beginning with April and Reuben. The Most High Jah/Yah/YHWH gave Yahqob a new name which was Ysrayl (Israel). Some people further relate the 12 Tribes to metaphysical signs. Thus Bob Marley came from the Tribe of Yowseph (Joseph), the eleventh of the biblical Ysrayl's (Israel's) twelve children (because he was born in February). The name Levi in Ijahman Levi represents the third child who was born to Yahqob (Jacob). Another well known reggae group of this organization is Israel Vibration.

Bob Marley, by quoting a biblical passage about Yowseph (Joseph) on the album cover of Rastaman Vibration, was acknowledging his own support for this sect. Dennis Brown, Freddie McGregor, Mikey Dread and many other roots reggae artists were associated with The Twelve Tribes of Israel (Ysrayl).

Like its precursor Nyahbinghi (see below) Twelve Tribes is very anti-racist and often preach love toward all people.


Main article: Nyahbinghi

The Nyahbinghi Order (also known as Haile Selassie I Theocratical Order of the Nyahbinghi Reign) is the oldest of all the Rastafari mansions[3] The term Niyabinghi means "black victory" (niya = black, binghi = victory). It may also be spelled in a variety of other ways, such as "Nyabinghi", "Nyahbinghi", "Niyahbinghi" and so on. It was first used to describe an East African possession cult located in the areas of south Uganda and north Rwanda in 1700 AD (Hopkins 259). Early missionaries and anthropologists named the Uganda/Rwanda clans, the Niyabinghi Cult, because their culture was based on the veneration of the goddess spirit, Niyabinghi . The Niyabinghi Cult is said to have thrived due to the possession of the goddess Niyabinghi through dance and religious seances. Deeper studies show the roots of Nyabinghi to be directly related to the oldest of Christian Churches the Oriental Orthodox, specifically the Coptic Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox faiths. During the Chalcedonian meetings in 400 AD Rome parted ways with the Orthodox Catholic Church of Egypt and proclaimed Rome to be the headquarters of "The True Catholic Church" and created their own Pope and orthodox ideas that ran contrary to the way the Church had taught for the first 400 years of Orthodox Christian history.

Coptic prophecy since the time of the Chalcedonian Meetings in 400 AD has been that a true reedemer would be born as the second coming of Christ and would restore "True" orthodoxy to Christiantity and would expose the false teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and "heal the nation". Haile Selassie I was that redeemer and viewed as the 2nd coming of Christ and was respected as such by the Nyabinghi. (see "History of St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church" and "History of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church")

Various oral traditions exist that explain how Niyabinghi became a revered goddess. One account states that in 1700 AD two tribes inhabited the Uganda/Rwanda area: the Shambo and Bgeishekatwa. Queen Kitami, who is said to have possessed a sacred drum of phenomenal power, ruled the Bgeishekatwa tribe. When Kitami died she was given immortal status and the name Niyabinghi (Freedman 63). Another tradition states that Queen Niyabinghi ruled the Northwestern Tanzani kingdom of Karagwe and married the chief of Mpororo from the southwestern kingdom of Uganda. Envious of the Queen’s power, the ruler ordered her death which is said to have brought “untold horrors to his kingdom” (Kiyaga-Mulindwa 1163). After her death, her spirit continued to be praised and to possess her followers for the next two centuries.

The Bgeishekatwa tribe was eventually defeated by the Shambo clan who adopted the Bgeishekatwa’s rituals for Nyahbinghi . A century later the Shambo were defeated by the cultivating Kiga clan (there are legends that the Shambo’s defeat is connected to the attempt to kill a woman who was possessed by Nyahbinghi ) (Freedman 74). Once the Kiga tribe reigned over the land, Niyabinghi became known as a matriarchal power, and the Kiga’s century-rule is characterized as the reign of the Niyabinghi priestesses.

Kiga women who received Nyahbinghi’s blessings and were said to be possessed by Nyahbinghi came to be called bagirwa (Hopkins 259). Eventually the revered bagirwa gained political dominion and became governors of the Kiga people living a dual life of political and spiritual leadership. The bagirwa, including Muhumusa, remained governors of the Kiga people until 1930 after losing their land to British, German, and Belgian imperialists, which they fought for a period of twenty years. The singular form of the word "bagirwa" is "mugirwa". At some point, men became Nyahbinghi priests as well (Freedman 80-81).

The Nyahbinghi Theocracy Government was named for a legendary Amazon queen of the same name, who was said to have possessed a Ugandan woman named Muhumusa in the 19th century. Muhumusa inspired a movement, rebelling against African colonial authorities. Though she was captured in 1913, alleged possessions by "Niyabinghi" continued, mostly afflicting women.

However, Nyahbinghi doesn't have any linkage to or relationship with Ethiopian history or Haile Selassie, it is a part of the Rastafari movement and a manifestation of the wisdom of Jah. Niyabinghi are considered the strictest mansion of the Rastafari movement in Jamaica, preaching the ideals of a global theocracy to be headed by Emperor Haile Selassie I, whom they proclaim to be the promised Messiah and incarnation of Jah, the Supreme.

They have also been known to be very anti-racist, especially toward black and white people. They also express that oppressors towards anybody will be punished by Jah. People of the Nyahbinghi faith often (but not always) affiliate themselves with nonviolence. Sometimes they may embrace non-aggression principle as an alternative to nonviolence while not becoming involved in Libertarian politics.

Nyahbinghi music[edit]

The Niyabinghi resistance inspired a number of Jamaican Rastafari, who incorporated what are known as niyabinghi chants (also binghi) into their celebrations ("groundations"). The rhythms of these chants were eventually an influence of popular ska, rocksteady and reggae music. Three kinds of drums (called "harps") are used in niyabinghi: bass, also known as the "Pope Smasher" or "Vatican Basher", reflecting a Rasta association between Catholicism and Babylon, the middle-pitched funde and akete. The akete (also known as the "repeater") plays an improvised syncopation, the funde plays a regular one-two beat and the bass drum strikes loudly on the first beat, and softly on the third beat (of four). When groups of players get together, only one akete player may play at any one time. The other drums keep regular rhythms while the akete players solo in the form of a conversation. Count Ossie was the first to record niyabinghi, and he helped to establish and maintain Rastafari culture.

Niyabinghi drumming is not exclusive to the Niyabinghi order, and is common to all Rastafari. Its rhythms are the basis of Reggae music, through the influential ska band, the Skatalites. It is said that their drummer revolutionized Jamaican music by combining the various Niyabinghi parts into a 'complete' "drum kit," which combined with jazz to create an entirely new form of music, known as ska. Niyabinghi rhythms were largely a creation of Count Ossie, who incorporated influences from traditional Jamaican Kumina drumming (especially the form of the drums themselves) with songs and rhythms learned from the recordings of Nigerian musician Babatunde Olatunji.

Binghi chanting typically includes recitation of the Psalms, but may also include variations of well-known Christian hymns. Though Count Ossie is clearly the most influential Binghi drummer, practically inventing the genre, the recordings of Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus, as well as the Rastafari Elders, have contributed to the popularity of the music.

Though Niyabinghi music operates as a form of Rasta religious music outside of Reggae, musicians such as Bob Marley and even non-Rastas such Prince Buster (Muslim) and Jimmy Cliff used the idiom in some songs. Recently, dancehall sensation Sizzla, American roots-Reggae artists such as Groundation and Jah Levi, and Hip hop have used Niyabinghi drums extensively in their recordings. Though sometimes claimed to be a direct continuation of an African cultural form, Niyabinghi drumming is best seen as the voice of a people rediscovering their African roots.

Combining Jamaican traditions with newly acquired African ones, Count Ossie and others synthesized his country's African traditions and reinvigorated them with the influences of Nigerian master-drummer Babatunde Olatunji, as a comparison of Count Ossie's Tales of Mozambique and Olatunji's earlier Drums of Passion will reveal. Indeed, it is that combination of inherited traditions and conscious rediscovery of lost African traditions that makes Niyabinghi drumming—and Rasta—so powerful.


The Remi branch is the latest of the branches, originating in Angola in the early 2000s. This movement has become very popular in the recent months amongst the urban population of Luanda.[4]

Covenant Rastafari[edit]

• Covenant Rastafari believe that Haile Selassie I is the Glory of the Heavenly Father and Son of God. They worship the Father and Son in spirit and truth, believing that His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I is the Anointed One, the chosen and Anointed life mirrored personification of themselves (father & son) as they were before creation, and as they are in heaven "God in all their Glory - Love in all their Glory" the King of Kings & Lord of Lords. 1 Timothy 6:13-16

• Covenant Rastafari believe that God the Son appeared in the Glory of the Father on the throne of David, the throne of Glory in the grace of the Holy Spirit in the mortal man and Ethiopian King, Tafari Makonnen. Matt 25:31 | Luke 1:32 They believe that Tafari Makonnen committed Himself in covenant with God the Father and Son by taking His baptism name of Haile Selassie "power of the holy trinity" to reign, and in so doing the reign and Lord of all power was proclaimed; revealed, glorified and personified through him in the New Name of Haile Selassie I.

• To Covenant Rastafari the New Name Haile Selassie I "power of the holy trinity" means "The Almighty" and the revelation of Haile Selassie I is God reigning in mortal man "in all power and glory" as "The Almighty” the King of Kings & Lord of Lords.

• Covenant Rastafari believe that the appearing upon the Ethiopian throne of Haile Selassie I King of Kings & Lord of Lords, Root of David on November 2, 1930 AD, marks a new time and era "the era and heritage of full salvation". They cite Hebrews 9:28 and the appearing of Christ, who ushers in full salvation. Matt 25:31 | Luke 1:31-33 | Heb 9:28 | Acts 3:19-21

• Covenant Rastafari state that full salvation has come and like eternal life it is not something of the future, but can be received by faith and man's exertion of good works. John 3:16 | John 17:3 | Hebrews 9:28 Those who are obedient enter into the life of full salvation in Haile Selassie I Name. They describe full salvation as a divine covenant heritage that allows one to appropriate (take possession of) the whole Word of God and its blessings from Genesis to Revelation. In a sense they have decided to live the Biblical future now, coming into covenant with the revelation and glory of the Word of God; believing that in the name and revelation of Haile Selassie I, they receive all the blessings and glory of eternity in spirit and truth, i.e. full salvation now, while knowing that the completion of all things has yet to come. In so doing they live this eternal "New Jerusalem" life and covenant heritage as reflected in the Tabot Calendar[5] Revelation 3:12 | Revelation 22:1-2

• The Tabot Calendar declares the AD era has ended, and the new era has begun. The new era declares in the grace of the Holy Spirit, that Jesus Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah the root of David has prevailed in the new name and person of Haile Selassie I, the Power of the Holy Trinity, King of Kings & Lord of Lords, the Second coming of the Seed of David in Power, the Glory of the Father.

Covenant Rastafari also believe that:

+ The Holy Bible in it's uncorrupted form is the authority of God's Word, and is completely true, in every recorded statement, every prophecy and their fulfillment and in every recorded act and its outcome from Genesis to Revelation. 2 Tim 3:12-17 | 2 Peter 1:20-21 | John 10:34-36 | Psalm 119:160

+ Faith in the promises and principles of the Bible, together with the good deeds of man, form His covenant. It is this covenant that Covenant Rastafari have entered into. Heb 11:6 | Matt 26:26-29 | John 6:47-58 | John 3:16

+ Haile Selassie I is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, who returned, in the Glory of the Heavenly Father, to reign in mortal man in the grace of the Holy Spirit as the “Almighty”, bringing full salvation to Mankind and to judge the Nations. Matt 16:27 | Heb 9:28 | Rev 19:11-16


Other mansions of Rastafari include: Iyesus/Jesus Dreads, Messianic Dreads, Remi Rastafari, and the Selassian Church. There is also a small sect of Jews, called "Zion Rastafari" who still hold on to Jewish tradition, but also accept Selassie I as a possible descendant of King David, and a notable historical figure.

There are also 'Muslim Rastas' with a distinction between Rasta and Rastafari. 'Muslim Rastas' refers to those who practice a way of life and the following of philosophical teachings, while maintaining their monotheistic / non-trinitarian faith without any belief in Haile Selassie being God.


Further reading[edit]

  • Freedman, Jim. Nyabingi: The Social History of an African Divinity. Tervuren, Belgique: Musee Royal De L' Afrique Centrale, 1984.
  • Hopkins, Elizabeth. “The Nyabingi Cult of Southwestern Uganda.” Protest and Power in Black Africa. Ed. Robert I. Rotberg and Ali A. Mazrui. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970. 258-336.
  • Kiyaga-Mulindwa, D. “Nyabingi Cult and Resistance.” Encyclopedia of African History. Ed. Kevin Shillington. 3 vols. New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005.

External links[edit]