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The Promised Key: Original Literary Roots of Rastafari [Paperback]

G.G. Maragh , Leonard Percival Howell
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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The Promised Key: Original Literary Roots of Rastafari + The Holy Piby The Blackman's Bible
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Product details

  • Paperback: 38 pages
  • Publisher: A&B Books (1 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1886433275
  • ISBN-13: 978-1886433274
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 21.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 992,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format:Paperback
This document is a rewriting of the Royal Parchment Scroll of Black Supremacy written in 1926. In the meantime, vrom 1926 to 1935, Ras Tafari had been crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1930. The document then is clear about who King Alpha is, though Queen Omega is still not identified as a particular individual. The style and language are also a lot better. I am going to concentrate on what is original in this document.

The first element is that Ethiopia is identified to Judah in the Bible by a reference to Genesis 49:10 in which the scepter of the King of Judah is set in parallel to the one given to King Ras Tafari during his crowning ceremony: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh come: And unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be." It is reinforced by a reference to the generic Psalm 72:

72 Give the king thy judgments, O God, And thy righteousness unto the king's son.
2 He will judge thy people with righteousness, And thy poor with justice.
3 The mountains shall bring peace to the people, And the hills, in righteousness.
4 He will judge the poor of the people, He will save the children of the needy, And will break in pieces the oppressor.
5 They shall fear thee while the sun endureth, And so long as the moon, throughout all generations.
6 He will come down like rain upon the mown grass, As showers that water the earth.
7 In his days shall the righteous flourish, And abundance of peace, till the moon be no more.
8 He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, And from the River unto the ends of the earth.
9 They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; And his enemies shall lick the dust.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One of the original documents of Rastafarianism 17 Oct 2004
By John B. Hare - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This short pamphlet contains the entire text of 'The Promised Key', a proto-Rastafarian document from the mid-1930s. This document is primarily of historical interest.

The text itself is a much edited-down redaction of another, earlier, proto-Rastafarian text, 'The Royal Parchment Scroll of Black Supremacy.' Along with the latter and 'The Holy Piby', this is one of the three root texts of Rastafarianism.

Also included is an essay by a Rastafarian scholar which explains the historical context of this rare document (which is twice as long as the actual text of 'The Promised Key').

This pamphlet is a must-have if you are studying the roots of Rastafarianism or Jamaican religious history in an academic context. It will not be of interest to general readers or those looking for information on contemporary Rastafarian philosophy; there are many other books which are much more relevant.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One of the better early rasta texts 19 Oct 2007
By Andre M. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Leonard Howell is genrally acknowledged as the true father of what we now call Rastafarianism (Erroneously attributed to Marcus Garvey. contrary to popular belief, Robert Hill's Marcus Garvey papers note that Garvey himself despised Selassie and thought even less of the early rastas, but that's another story).

Most of the early rasta texts make for tedious reading for the non-faithful, with their overtly flowery rhetoric and tiresome pseudoscholarly and semibiblical rants to make them appear to be divinely inspired. This is a bit different. Edited down from the weighty and laborious "Royal Scroll of Black Supremacy," Howell breaks down the basic concepts of the need of Blacks to create their own culture and religion in distilled form and slogans to appeal to the masses.

While the actual contents may not be to everyone's liking or agreement, it is a quick and interesting read and essential to understanding the roots of the kind of thing Bob Marley and others were singing about.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required RastafarI Reading 20 Mar 2007
By Bonam Pak - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This early 1930s text is the first known which can be described as being directly RastafarI. However, the continuing line of texts leading up to this one is very long. Nevertheless, such a "foundation paper" of a eligion has to be rated with full stars. Non-RastafarI may not know what to do with it and/or even misinterpret it and give a different rating accordingly.

Only 19 text pages long, this book includes (additional) 15 pictures and additional 29 introduction text pages. The latter includes a well-selected passage of H.I.M. Haile Selassie-I; a prayer; information on Marcus Garvey and Leonard Percial Howell. A lot of references to other early Rasta and pre-Rasta texts; early responses to The Promised Key; some rudimentary information on RastafarI and the context in which this text had been written.

The Promised Key itself covers the coronation of Haile Selassie-I, "King of Kings"; biting remarks towards the then contemporary Vatican; Empress Menen; Ethiopia's Kingdom; spiritual notes on e.g. healing, fasting, way of government and some behavioral advice.

Note to non-RastafarI: The remarks towards the pope have to be seen in the context of the times. Colonialism was still in full swing, slavery still remembered. The historical Vatican had participated in and in a way even initiated both. The contemporary popes were Pius XI and Pius XII, who fell short of expected reactions towards fascism, in fact even blessing the bombs Mussolini dropped on Ethiopians during the occupation. One of their successors, Pope John Paul II, apologised for them. In this light, The Promised Key emancipated from white supremacy thinking and religious downpression (oppression). RastafarI is completely, radically pacifist and uses the tongue as the sword instead, not really getting concerned with political correctnes (which didn't exist in the 1930s anyway).

Howell aka G.G. Maragh made rejecting statements towards a mixing of black and white. This will have to be seen not literally, but metaphorically: In this context white representing the belief system of separation, black representing the knowledge of unity.

Note to RastafarI: The Promised Key makes rejecting remarks towards Moses, Abraham and descendants as being white. This was in the context of countering the white divisionist interpretation of the Western Bible version and back then lived Western Christianity of white supremacy. By doing that, Howell favoured a focus on Ethiopia and Haile Selassie-I instead. More recent knowledge suggests that Moses, Abraham and his descendents were indeed black skinned, connected to the ancient black Egyptians in way of belonging to the larger "ethnic" group of the Akan, back then populating vast areas in North Africa and southern Asia. (With the descendents of Abraham turning much lighter in skin color by prolonged Diasporan mixing processes.) With that in mind (and other knowledge not mentioned here) the respective passage in The Promised Key may today be interpreted accordingly in a not quite that literal way.
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