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.

God bless.

120 comments so far

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  1. Locs can be worn by everyone; however, locs were originally started and worn by Africans. Even today tribes of Oromo and Afar wear locs today. Type in the Afar and Oromo tribes of Ethiopia.
    Bob Marley respected the African culture, especially that of Ethiopia which I’m also sure had something to do with his respect for Haile Salasie…anyway that’s a different story but as mentioned earlier everyone can wear locs but please in doing so, do not deny the true culture from which it originated.

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  2. There is also evidence of “dreadlocks” being worn in Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics and Vikings.

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  3. This is all good and well, but it is stated Biblically and historically that Samson, the Biblical “character” had dreadlocks, and that many men of that time wore their hair long and in dreadlocks, and that those men, called Nazirites, set themselves apart for God, and made many vows, one of which being to have long dreadlocks, and not to shave themselves. They were to make 3 separate sacrifices, and not allowed, by this vow, to be anywhere around graves.(Which, for the record, means that Jesus could not have been a Nazirite, ergo no dreadlocks.) But it has absolutely nothing to do with where people originated from.

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  4. This was awesome! I am totally considering getting locks because I have been natural for so long and want to get them. My grandmother and a few of my male cousins had them. My grandmother had to cut hers off because she developed a scalp disease and two of my cousins cut theirs off, while the other is just starting. Anyway, my mom won’t agree b/c she believed that dreadlocks started with a culture that did not believe in God. Now I can go to her and let her know the deal for real. Now! Just to get my husband on board.

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  5. The Celts and the Vikings also wore dreadlocks.

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  6. I swear…people should REALLY do their research before setting up web sites that TOTALLY misinform. So the Jamaicans wore and wear them, but FYI so did Sampson… you know…the super strong dude it he bible talks about Try reading the Bible and you will see dreadlocks were around since God created this planet. For starters all dreadlocks are is hair that is twisted while it’s wet to keep in in place because in the beginning the didn’t have Clinique hair products let alone a comb so they had to do something with it. And for you that are worried about your souls…indeed God does frown upon them [also in the Bible]…however, if you are a true Christian and hold your faith strong God is not casting your soul in to hell because you grew dreds. Remember…he’s a loving and forgiving God who has promised everlasting life when we leave here.

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  7. The actual term of Dread…it correspond to Ethiopian war against Italy. His Royal Majesty Haile Selassie sought refuge in England until war ended and Ethiopian Resistance kicked the Italians out. Dread is the men who vowed to grow there hair out until Messiah return. He came home. The dreaded men with locks of Sampson took the namesake of their leader…Rastafar.

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  8. I appreciate your research and I would like you to add a few more details about dreadlocks and the hidden history of this ancient rite.

    The first point is on the history of dreadlocks. I have done research and found that the slaves from Africa who later on settled in the Caribbean did loose most of their African cultures and they were desperately in search for a part of their roots and this is especially seen in the early 1930 through to the 40s. during this period most African states were in the brink of attaining independence from Europe. during this time a revolt that would later be the greatest,best organized and hence successful would start in the central Kenya highlands of East Africa. Here 9 tribes all from the Bantu group united with a sole purpose of liberating Kenya and consequently the whole of Africa from the European regime that caused darkness in the land.
    the Agikuyu (kikuyu) were at the fore front of this great rebellion behind their religious leader the great Dedan Kimathi. These tribes had an ancient way of showing absolute rebellion and this was done by both men and women who would dare take the oath to defend and die defending their course. this ancient way was for one to grow his/her hair for not less than seven years until the attainment of freedom. in the late 1950s Dedan Kimathi and the other MAUMAU officials would kindly request the British to live Kenya Nd let the Africans be free but all was in vain and so the movement decided to go about the request with violence that would last for a decade.
    It is here that the news journalists from Britain would take photos of arrested MAUMAU warriors and publish them all over the world including Jamaica. Then the “Jamaican’s” had a spiritual awakening from seeing an ancient rite for rebellion that had been erased from their memory through hundreds of years of mandatory shaving of their heads by their slave masters.
    Around this time Bob was a teenager in the streets of Kingston and by the early 60s the news about the revolution had spread to all parts of the world and the Maumau had won the war that lasted 6 more years after the arrest of Dedan Kimathi in 1957, 7 years after the war started. the revolution could no longer be a physical thing so Dedan sent his last loyal generals and gave them the blueprint of how the revolution would continue since Kenya was not going to be the last to be liberated. This was secretly taken to “Ja me iika” which meant the youths who have been away from home . The message was “regai” or rebel in English. The movement then took a spiritual approach to the issue of freedom and this later started a genre of music that would be called REGGAE by the JAMAICANS which evolved from Ska, Kumina and Calipso which were ancient Bantu songs that the Slaves were able to carry with them through the dark times.

    It is Bob Marley who received the flame, he did try to visit Kenya in the late 70s where his meditation was rooted but the tour was cancelled by the then government of Kenya for fear that it would rekindle the Maumau movement.

    Lee “Scracth” Perry whom together with Bob Marley were able to develop the rhythm of reggea noticed how powerful the three beats out of four had on the minds of the youth…the rhythm seemed to awaken the souls which had been lost and led them to start a quest for freedom.
    All other song have 4 beats in a single cycle but reggae has 3 instead. Reggae was later on responsible for Hiphop in the streets of New york and deejaying was further spread and developed through hiphop. notice that the founders of hiphop toured Africa before they started the movement that would change the world.

    All this to prove there exists nothing new under the sun.
    Reggae=>awakening=> rebellion=>spiritual freedom=>knowledge of history=>self-awareness
    Hiphop=>awakening=>rebellion=>financial freedom=>knowledge of self=>rise to power

    Both are very similar and slightly differ in the final effect where reggea was intended to bring back the African culture in the Black communities all over the world and to connect them to the root of their origin while hiphop was intended to empower the black youth and give them economic power and raise them from a level of shame and poverty to a high level pride. One emulates the humble point of view of life of the African mind and the other the fierceness and competitiveness of the Africans.
    One originates from the spiritual oneness of nature and the natural man the other the material and lavish lifestyle of the black people. All are about abundance and fulness in life, one from the humble culture of the Bantus who wanted to live one with nature and the other from the zulu and pharaohs who wanted all the material wealth in the world.

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  9. this is inacurate and is based on your misunderstanding of the whole concept and origins.
    great chiefs and warriors in africa malawi to be specific wore dreadlocs way before the garveyites influenced the rastafarian movement who later adapted the mau mau from kenya’s dreaded hair style

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  10. […] followed the tradition of growing dreads but having a powerful meaning to it. Reading through (http://www.dreadlocks.org/the-history-of-dreadlocks/) has given me some popular names involving them having dreadlocks. Mike Bordin -who is in a band […]

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  11. Great article but i have to agree with mr.napalm research has shown dreadlocks to be around before any of this but the key thing about this article is nothing else matters as long as your relationship with god is right and you follow his word and teachings and seek him out first in all matters of life. I personally just started growing “dreads” myself for fashion purposes but ive always wanted to know the history of them so i can make a connection somewhere. Because it is true faulty knowledge can be just the same as ignorance which is why i personally love your article but, (and i hate to keep saying but), mr napalm is correct. But again great article.

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  12. I started dreads the first of the year after reading this I am glad I did..Thank you!!!

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  13. loved thiss!! the reference of “he, his, ect” is a bit of a bog to me, personally. simply because I feel acknowledging “the LORD” by a human “he, his” allows for the sense that he, himself is human rather than a being much larger than one self. As in..”obtaining HIS wisdom….” vs. “obtaining the eternal wisdom that is of all things..beyond ye..” hear ye? hear ye?

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  14. Thank you soo much for this post. My love for locks made me put them on,regardless of me being saved. And when i went to my fellowship i was told that i should find out about them that it wasn’t a good thing to do. And that i would start smoking marijuana and forget serving God. But now i know that lack of the right knowlegde Gods children are lost.

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  15. I agree with all except, “there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.” YES THERE MOST CERTAINLY IS. Dont teach people that! They need to know so they can stop it or never do it.
    God, the creator of the universe, the one and only, claims he HATES those that hate him. The wicked ones that do not keep his commandments. So all of your false idols. All these musicians that blasphemy Gods name. Like Jay Z. Call himself Hova. And Kanye calls himself Yesus? Like seriously?
    Ugh! Disgusting. I rebuke that in the name of the creator.
    Jay Z says hes never read the Bible a day in his life! Now if he were to repent and beg for forgiveness, and turn from that wicked lifestyle, the love of money, and his wicked ways, maybe God will love and forgive him. But he has not and so God does not. This is the truth.
    Also, any one who speak against the holy spirit meaning talk badly, blasphemy the holy spirit…that is a unforgivable sin. No one will enter the kingdom of God who has done this. Again in the Bible. So I honestly do not think people who have done like Jay Z stand a chance. But that is on God to make a final decision. That was my opinion on what I have read int he word. So many false idols have sold their soul to the darkness for fame fortune and power. For what? None of them ever look happy.
    God draws the line at a certain point. This I Know.
    Now I will say… research “the spirituality of uncut hair”. In ancient times, nobody cut the hair. It was a symbol of slavery. And as more and more people, nations, were conquered. More and more hair was cut. It eventually became a style. Having uncut hair, (like the reason the Native Americans didnt cut hair), gives you a 6th sense. even cutting the “split ends” takes 3 years for your hair to grow new antennae at the tips. Use almond oil at night for split ends. the more you cut off the harder it is on the body to regrow. Everyones hair stops growing at the length for their needs. Seriosuly research it. India Indians will talk about rishi knots and up in the daytime down at night. Air drying it etc.

    God convicted me after I starting seeking the truth. Even more than hair! I asked about diet. He took the taste of meat from me. I eat Genesis 1 29. Since he says his word is the same yesterday today and forever. I feel that it draws me closer to him spiritualy. I am vegetarian. He has not taken cheese or eggs from me yet, but I am not against going all the way to vegan. I do not drink animal milk, only almond or coconut milk. It makes sense health wise. (I *had cancer) It makes sense to the enviroment. (research factory farms impact on the enviroment) And that I am a true animal lover and not showing favorites.
    Be blessed.
    Long Hair Is In.

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  16. I started locking my hair because I wanted to be free from chemical straightening..wigs, hair extensions…I was a slave to hair care. I remember my first swim with locs…I baptized myself!

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  17. Wow Wow, I grew dreadlocks for the love of them but this post gave me more clarity because I have always being told that how can i grow dreadlocks and don’t smoke marijuana. I am grateful that dreadlocks can be referenced to the Bible. Thank you sir

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  18. Today my faith was strengthened, belief confirmed, history lesson received and pieces to the puzzle of truth was added … I too seek knowledge & truth … I hardly ever post, but I had to thanks for sharing!
    Peace & Love.

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  19. Great piece! I love everything about this. I pray for this country that we all can find the love inside of us.

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  20. Your writing is so beautiful, you touched my soul-thank you thank you thank you

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  21. Excuse the typos, typing on the fly…

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  22. The fact that this article traces to Roots of dreads to the Rasta or even Hindu movement shuld be cause to question its authors knowledge in intent. Even a causal study of histroy will reveal this claim to untrue as locks have been documented throughout history in various cultures and many long before either the Rastas or East Indians displayed them. From ancient Kemet/Kerma to the Dogon to Kenya to Nigeria to parts of Europe ( some Spartans wore locks) dreads have been a part of human existence. Please people do your research before spreading inaccurate information for faluty knowledge can be just as dangeous or damaging as ignorance.

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  24. I totally agree that, dreadlocks or no dreadlocks, a person’s connection to the Lord almighty is what matters

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  25. You totally smashed my doubts that it would be ‘Un-Christian’ to grow some dreads!!! thanks champs. what do you think about tattoos?

    Also do you think that people of other religions are saved just because they believe in a higher power albeit not the God of the Christians?

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  26. Beautifully said

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    • you mean my hairstyl dont matter, if i want to serve God.. what about scriptures that talks of btraided hairs n coverings

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  27. You don’t need to grow dreadlocks for you to be a Rasta but it’s the divine conception of your heart.Mystic is natural,natural is mystic.

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  29. I hv always felt less of a Christian because of what people think or say bout dreadlocks,atleast now m relieved,my soul is one thing that I have to be worried about,everything that people see on da outside is just decoration.

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