Cargo Cults

 By Alexander Marathianakis, George Kalogeris, Alex Stathopoulos,

Nick Simeonidis & George Spiropoulos

Have you ever wondered how a new religion was born and how it grew over the years? Luckily, we know and we have pictures and video documents along with tributes from the worshipers.

1Our story begins in the Fiji islands around the 1880’s, an era when the British empire used to built posts around the globe in order to maintain its strength and make sure that the needs of the conquered states were fulfilled. A post usually consisted of a small port for the supplies and a couple of quarters for the army. So what does all this has to do with a religious cult? Let’s say you are a native of the islands and you see the army being resupplied with food every month or so from a huge wooden thing floating on the sea (yes that’s a ship), what happens when the empire tears apart and all these posts get abandoned and the huge mechanisms that brought the cargo disappear?

The natives destroyed their religion’s statues and replaced them with others that looked like British ports. Their religious dances looked like a British march because they thought that this is how they would call the big ship that would bring them food and other goods. This phenomenon has been observed in other places too, where the empire used to have their posts such as the New Guinea and Melanesia with small differences depending on how the cargo was being imported. In Melanesia for Instance, the cargo used to be imported with airplanes so their statues and monuments represent British airdrops.

These are the so called cargo cults

2Over the last sixty five years, most cargo cults have disappeared. However,some cargo cults are still active including:

● The John Frum cult

● The Tom Navy cult

● The Prince Philip movement

● The Turuga movement

● Yalis cargo cult

● The paliau movement

● the peli association

● The Pomio Kivung

The biggest and most famous cult is The John Frum cult. It started in the late 1930’s in the Vanuatu islands. Nowadays it’s considered a legitimate religion with a single god just like the ones we have today. The figure they worship is John Frum the spirit of which comes down once a year and spreads cargo to all of his worshipers. Just like santa but with a uniform. He is sometimes portrayed as black, sometimes as white.The fun part is that the john from cult exists only on one side of the island on the other they worship the Tom Navy cult which is basically the same but with a different name and God figure. John Frum may have left in 1945 taking the cargo but his worshipers are devoted to him until this day. The prophecy says that John Frum will come back on the 15th of February of some year and will bring his cargo with him.The John Frum cult is the official religion of the island with an annual anniversary (on the 15th of February) just like most religions.

In one of his books David Attenborough mentioned a conversation he had with a native in which he asked “John Frum is gone for more than 20 years, why are you still waiting for his return?” and the native gave him a pretty solid and straightforward answer that personally intrigues me:“You are waiting for Jesus to come back for more than 2000 years and he hasn’t ,why shouldn’t I wait for John Frum?”

The Story of cargo cults puts a lot of people in thoughts and as a personal belief it should be an example and a step for us to reconsider our religious beliefs and how our ancestors used to live.