Founder of Rastafarianism, Mortimo Planno, dies

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Mortimo Planno, a philosopher regarded as a key figure in the development of the Rastafarian religion, has died. He was 85.

Planno died Monday at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, after suffering complications from a thyroid condition, said Barry Chevannes, a longtime friend and anthropology professor at the university.

Planno was one of the most influential people in the development of Rastafarianism, a sect whose members mostly regard Africa as the promised land and former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie as a divine figure.

Though rejected by mainstream Jamaican society, the movement grew into a structured religion, in large part under Planno’s influence.

Some Rastafarians smoke marijuana as a sacrament, but others object to its use. Most Rastafarians preach a oneness with nature and wear their hair in dreadlocks.

Planno taught the principles of Rastafarianism at his home in the Kingston ghetto of Trench Town to students that included the late singer Bob Marley – perhaps the world’s best-known adherent of the movement.

In recent years, he lived on the campus of the University of the West Indies, where he held a fellowship in folk philosophy.

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