The root and significance of dreadlocks
The Roots of Dreadlocks
The roots of dreadlocks can be trailed to the Rastafarians of Jamaica, and further, to Indian sages and yogis, but they have never been more popular or widespread than they are today. It is said that dreadlocks originated with these eastern holy men. Possessing nothing, renouncing the world and possessions (not even a comb) they eschewed even personal grooming, hence the inevitable dreadlocks. Dreadlocks get their name from Jamaican tradition. Those with ‘natty’ locks in their hair were to be dreaded, or feared. When slavery was abolished in the US, it was no longer legal to enslave African Americans. But good ol’ America found a loop hole, no one said anything about not enslaving native peoples of India.
So, over they went and began capturing and enslaving people from India and the surrounding areas. (Find that in a history text book!) Hindu yogis and holy men, along with their dreadlocks, escaped to the Caribbean Islands, and began appearing in places like Jamaica, where their knotty hairstyle and religious piety were noted and followed by the burgeoning Rastafarians and holy men of the islands. Dreadlocks have their roots (again, no pun intended) in spiritual circles. The Hindu holy men of the east, Rastafarians, which are essentially Judeo-Christians of the Caribbean Islands wore dreads as part of their religious lifestyle. Dreads themselves for the eastern yogis were nothing special, but the Rastas almost deified their locks, considering the hair to be holy and powerful. Dreadlocks became a religious priority. Fast forward a couple decades, and things have changed, but dreadlocks remain prevalent. You have people like Mike Borden, drummer for killer awesome rawk band Faith No More, with phat knotty dreads all the way down to his drum stool. Bands like Korn, Bad Brains, Incubus (Brandon used to have locks), Finger Eleven, POD and many more do, or used to, sport dreadlocks, which come in very handy while rocking out. Nowadays, it is about as standard to have a dreadlocked member of the band as it is to have a DJ in the group.
Bob Marley and the Introduction into Pop Culture
Of course, nearly everyone is aware that dreadlocks were brought into the pop culture spotlight by a Mista Bob Marley. There hasn’t been a human like him ever before, and there will likely not be ’til the close of time. Bob Marley radiated love, peace, passion, and wisdom. He also have the best dreadlocks ever! Bob dedicated his life to praising God in music, and spreading the message of reform and spiritual growth in the world. Unfortunately, his songs have become frat-boy drinking anthems for many. And his dreads became a fashion choice. But when I heard his music, when I started to really listen – and grow dreadlocks, by the way – I started to hear something deeper, something so much more important. God.
Bob Marley sang almost endlessly about Jah. I began reading the Bible, and was amazed how much of Bob’s lyrics are taken right out of Scripture. “The stone that the builder refused shall be the head cornerstone.” “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” And so many more. If there is one thing I long to do in my life, it is to be part of something that makes the world a better place. Filled with the knowledge and love of God, encouraging others with the truth. Jah, short for Jehovah, is the Hebrew name for God. In the Old Testament, you will see the term LORD in all caps. This is where God’s name appears in the text. Hebrew is written without vowels, and the name written in Scripture is YHVH. God’s name means “I AM”, meaning “Was, Is, and Ever will Be”. God’s name was considered so sacred and holy that ancient Israel would not even speak it, but when reading Scripture aloud they would say Lord where YHVH appeared. When the Bible began being translated into Greek and Latin, and eventually English, they decided to use LORD in the places where God’s name appears, though the name Jehovah does appear in the Old Testament about 3 times, I think. Jah means the Eternal God. Many of God’s people had dreadlocks through the ages. (Bear in mind ALL people are God’s people. Israel was a people set aside, to be the carriers of God’s word, and a commonwealth that were to emulate God’s ways to the world. Ooops!)
Anyway, God’s name indicates His character. Eternal, everlasting. The book of Malachi says “For I am the LORD, I do not change” 3:6. Jah wants a relationship with each individual person. Every living soul is a son and daughter of God, and Jah wants to assure each person that He is trustworthy, that He is kind and loving, that He is more than worthy to be our God and Lord. That is why Jesus was nailed to the cross – He took our place in death, when WE were the ones that should have been put to death for our own screw-ups. Sin wasn’t a part of the original plan for this world. Humans were given a choice, and they chose a path of destruction rather than life. The consequences were automatically supposed to be death because evil cannot exist in the presence of God. But His Son stepped in, and because God loves us so much – His creations, His children – He allowed Jesus to pay the price for our bad choices. All we have to do is say ‘Thank you, I acnowledge and accept this gift from Jah!” and our slate is wiped clean.
Jesus’ original Hebrew name was Yeshua, which translates directly as “Jah Saves” or “Jah is Salvation”. And the word salvation comes down through Latin roots, meaning unbroken, undamaged. Jesus died on the cross to show God’s character, that God is giving, pure in self-sacrificing love. Jah wants to prove His trustworthiness. Yes, God could open the sky and pronounce “I am God, serve me”, but what would people’s motivation be for serving Him? Fear? Requirement? Jah is a God of freedom, and He doesn’t change. He wants to prove His character, and He did on the cross, and He wants people to enter into a relationship, a saving, or salvation relationship with Him based on the truth of His character.
So how do dreadlocks fit in to that? Well, it is recorded in history that many people of Nazareth would grow dreads as part of a vow, or covenant of purity they would enter into with God. Jesus was from Nazareth. I wonder if He had dreads? Would you take Him more seriously is He did?
Bob Marley said “give thanks and praise to the Lord and we will feel alright.” And this is truth. Bob Marley grew his dreadlocks as part of his Rastafarian belief. These days, few people grow dreadlocks to show their allegiance to the Lion of Zion, or because they wish to be in accordance with Old Testament decrees about not cutting your hair. Dreadlocks are now fashion, and like everything else in this material world, they are almost devoid of spiritual value. Ah, but the irony is that God is still God. The Eternal is still the Eternal. As this world comes to a close (rapidly), fashions will pass away, but God shall stand. “The stone that the builder refused shall be the head cornerstone.” God is the head cornerstone, and all spiritual people, and all faiths through history that truly developed a relationship with God, that came to know God, from the aesthetic holy men of the east to modern day Christians (like me, Praise the LORD) to the kid riding a downtown subway with knotty dreadlocks on his head and Bob Marely in his discmon Ö I mean, discman, feeling the beat and praising the Eternal Creator shall draw close to God, and God shall draw close to them, and they shall gain His wisdom, which surpasses the things of this world.
Do dreadlocks make you a more holy person? No. Israel of old had direct contact with God, they were benefited with the Word of God since time began, yet look at their state today. They nailed Jesus to a cross for teaching that God His Father was kind, forgiving, ever merciful, and not something to be appeased by ritual and forms of worship. Jesus was rejected because He taught that God was to be a friend, a loving parent and comforting redeemer. Israel clung to their rituals, and expected their adherence to them to be sufficient to show their holiness, just as the aesthetics gave up any forms of pleasure and social norm in order to suffer to the point of enlightenment. They too would have nailed Christ to the cross for teaching that God has given us every good and blessed gift to enjoy. From nature, the ocean and the trees, fruits and vegetables, relationships with one another. And love. God is love, and God instilled love in each and every one of us. Love is the cornerstone of life. Love is the only rule by which a living being needs to adhere to develop a relationship with God. Will God love you more if you have dreadlocks? Will God consider a person more holy because they grow dreads, and speak in a Rastafarian accent?
Face it, the truth is there is nothing you can do to make God love you more, and there is nothing you can do to make God love you less. God is love, and God cares for the heart, the soul. You cannot make God not love you, it is only you yourself that turns from, or to, God. God is ever reaching out to the hearts and souls of His children, speaking to us from the beauty of nature, from His Holy Word, which teaches that God is Eternal and always will be the embodiment of love and kindness. Where do you stand on this? Do you believe in God? If yes, do you know Him? Do you share with Him your heart, do you really draw close in assurance of His boundless love, and in desire to really know God? If not, why not? I want to challenge you.
Dreadlocks or no dreadlocks, the soul of the living being is what counts, everything else is decoration.
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