Cargo Cults
Various forms of modern mythologies among the native
peoples of Melanesia, arising from folk recollections of the
riches brought by white traders, missionaries, or other colonizers.
The earliest form of cargo cults appears to have developed
in Fiji in the late nineteenth century when prophets would announce
the imminent return of ancestors or white men on ships
laden with luxuries.
During World War II, another form of cargo cult developed
around the Red Cross planes transporting medical supplies to
the Pacific Islands; modern leaders erected red crosses in the
hope of bringing back supplies. In New Hebrides, there was a
group that believed a white man would arrive in a red airplane
laden with good things, and sticks were used to mark out a
magic airstrip. In the New Hebridean island of Tanna, a strong
movement emerged around the mythical messianic figure
‘‘John Frum.’’ He appears to favor particular individuals and
makes legendary trips to America to visit the president. His
‘‘Second Coming’’ will be manifest to the whole island, and he
will bring the good things of the world so long denied to the
Cargo cults represent a tragic combination of exploitation
by explorers and traders and the culture shock of Christian
missionaries displacing native religion.
Burridge, Kennelm. Mambu. New York Harper Torchbook,
Lawrence, Peter. Road Belong Cargo. Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne University Press, 1964.
Rice, Edward. John Frum He Come. Garden City, N.Y.
Doubleday, 1974.
Worsley, Peter. The Trumpet Shall Sound. New York Schocken
Books, 1962