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Jamaican dreadlocks, or rastafarian dreadlocks, are typically considered an integral part of the Rasta religion. Rastarfarians, or people who practice the Rasta religion, generally consider themselves to be Nazarites, like the figure Samson from the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. By allowing their hair to grow naturally into dreadlocks, without cutting or combing it or using styling products, Rastafarians believe they are adhering to the Nazarite vow, as outlined in Leviticus 21:5: "They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard nor make any cuttings in their flesh." People who wear Jamaican dreadlocks generally believe that their hair is the source of their strength, and that cutting their hair could lead to weakness, as it does for Samson in the Biblical story of Samson and Delilah. The wearing of dreadlocks as a hair style does not originate in Jamaica, but it is said to have begun there shortly after the emancipation of slaves in that country, as a statement of defiance by former slaves towards their former owners.
Many people wear dreadlocks even though they may not practice, or even understand, the Rasta religion. There are many means of styling one's hair into dreadlocks, using techniques such as backcombing, and often with the assistance of styling products. Rastafarians who wear true Jamaican dreadlocks, however, are generally prohibited by their religious beliefs from interfering with the formation of the dreadlocks in any way. They are typically not permitted to cut, comb, or shape the hair during dreadlock formation. Nor are they generally permitted to use any styling products to assist the formation of dreadlocks. They are usually allowed only to wash the dreadlocks with clean water, and for some, the locks are considered so sacred that they must be kept hidden at all times.
Some believe that the Rastafarians have borrowed the dreadlocks hairstyle from the native Kenyans who wore it during their war for independence in the 1940s. Others have pointed out that the concept of dreadlocks as a form of spiritual expression did not originate with Jamaican dreadlocks, but that dreadlocks take on spiritual significance in several religious sects. The Jewish Nazarites, the Christian Coptics, the Hindu Sadhus, and the Muslim Dervishes have all been known to wear their hair in dreadlocks for religious reasons. The earliest appearance of the dreadlocks hairstyle in history is believed to be among the native Masai peoples of Kenya. Warriors of the Masai tribe may have been the first to wear their hair in the dreadlocks style, often using vegetable dyes to give the locks a red hue.