Ital

ital shack

Ital or I-tal is the dietary system associated with the Rastafari movement. The word derives from the English word ‘vital,’ with the initial syllable replaced by i. This is done to many words in the Rastafari vocabulary to signify the unity of the speaker with all of nature. Rastafarians derive their beliefs and morality from intense personal meditations and prayer, and therefore there is no single dogma of Rastafarian belief. Due to this emphasis on individual personal meditation in Rastafari, the expression of Ital eating varies widely from Rasta to Rasta, and there are few universal ‘rules’ of Ital living.

Though there are different interpretations of ital regarding specific foods, the general principle is that food should be natural, or pure, and from the earth; Rastas therefore often avoid food which is chemically modified or contains artificial additives (e.g., colour, flavourings, and preservatives). Some also avoid added salt in foods, especially salt with the artificial addition of iodine, while pure sea or kosher salt is eaten by some. In strict interpretations, foods that have been produced using chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizer are not considered ital.

Early adherents adopted their dietary laws based on their interpretation of several books of the Bible, including Genesis (‘Then God said, ‘I give you every Seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.’), Leviticus and Deuteronomy. In common with religions such as Judaism, Islam, and Ethiopian Christianity, most Rastas avoid the eating of pork. Some Rastas also avoid eating shellfish because, in common with pigs, shellfish are considered scavengers. Most Rastas avoid the consumption of red meat, some do not eat fish over 12 inches in length, and some are strict vegetarians or vegans.

The most strict interpretations also avoid food that has been preserved by canning or drying and even prohibit the use of metal cooking utensils. In this case, only clay and wood cooking pots, crockery, and cutlery are used. Few adherents of ital follow the strictest interpretation. Due to its roots in Jamaica and the deleterious effects alcohol has had on Jamaican society, many Rastafarians do not approve of alcohol consumption. Many Rastas disapprove of cigarettes due to the serious health concerns associated with their use, and a few Rastas avoid coffee and other caffeinated beverages, though this is less common.

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