cults that worship goods

Consider this: World War II is about to begin upon the world, but in a far corner of the ocean from America, bits of land remain untouched by its wrath. In a paradisiacal world near Australia, Aboriginal natives tell of their lives surrounded by spectacular waves and lush greenery. Their life devoid of the material treasures of modern civilization remains oblivious to the greed that strangles the rest of the world. That, until one day, curious-looking machines bring out the uniformed men who change these islanders forever.

Ceremonial Cross of the John Frum Cargo Creed, Tanna Island, Vanuatu. photo: Tim Ross / Wikimedia

The Cargo Cult were these tribes of native islanders who attributed the immense wealth and power of whites to magic. As planes and ships, radio and TV made their way to these islands, they were so stunned that there was no better explanation to justify their union. In the true sense of the word, ‘cargo’ refers to goods and products which believers believe were created by divine forces.

The term was first used in a 1945 issue of Colonial News Magazine. Pacific Islands Monthly Now, attributing post-war culture to deceptive religious education. The prophecy varied among the different movements, but a central theme remained that an ancestor probably traveled west long ago and learned the tricks of cargo production there. They then sent the goods back home, which the foreigners had acquired on the way.

The exposure thus prompted a desire to get back what was right. When industrialization was accelerating in the West of the 20th century, these islanders were imitating Western progress by copying its goods. He made radios out of wood and planes out of straw, thinking they could achieve the same effect. They were pursuing progress without applying the same principles – an approach that earned them the name of the cargo cult.

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The John Froome cargo cult and their ceremonial hoisting. photo: Charmaine Tham / Wikimedia

Members of these cults also began to behave white in ritualistic ceremonies, in the hope that God would one day recognize them and give them what they currently have with whites. Cargo worship became a religion, seen at its brightest and first in Melanesia, a plain of island nations located between Australia and the Pacific Ocean. Thus the hysteria spread throughout the region in the form of the Taro cult of New Guinea, the Waila Madness of Papua, the Naked cult of Espiritu Santo, the Tuka cult of the Fiji Islands and many others. Central to all these movements was the belief that new goods would usher in a new era. Another religious sect worshiped King George V of England as a god.

About 184 cultivars have been identified throughout the region; Only a few are still alive. While some believe in the return of their ancestors, others wait for the foreigners themselves to bring the revered goods back home. They built landing strips, docking bays, and other infrastructure to make it easier to access the individual islands. A popular example of this is the John Froome movement popular among students from Vanuatu – a small Y-shaped archipelago near the Fiji Islands. Every year on John Froome Day, thousands of devotees celebrate the American Messiah John Froome, who is believed to have appeared on the land in the 1800s and promised to bring Western goods back to the locals if they could. Used to pray for them. They sit waiting for radio, TV, medicines, cold drinks etc. But since the war, barely any Americans have returned, and John Froome, even then, hasn’t.

Many scholars suggest, based on such narratives, that the cargo cult existed in the 19th century. So when Westerners arrived during World War II, they brought with them the first confirmation of these outrageous beliefs. Strangers with alien-looking artifacts were finally falling from the sky, just as they predicted.

These beliefs were as much rooted in Christian beliefs as they were in native customs. The local tribesmen worshiped the gods in the belief that they would send new goods from heaven to land. Some denominations expected the cargo to come from Australia, or the skies above it. In this theory, heaven was a place connected to the earth by a ladder. Also at the heart of these practices were economic backwardness, cultural oppression and a new found greed. Naturally, when the New Age goods arrived with the whites, these ignorant tribes celebrated the end of scarcity. So what if the cargo was never meant for them or shared with them?


, Smithsonian Magazine

, scientific American

, Anthro Encyclopedia

, air force magazine

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