Saturday, June 2, 2007

Cargo Cults

The term cargo cult is used to describe the religions that developed on Pacific Islands among the natives in 19th century and as late as mid-20th century that revolved around the delivery of Western cargo to the island. The power and mystery of such cargo like the radio or headphones affected isolated cultures so much that they built ritual and belief systems around the cargo and behavior of the Westerners in relation to the cargo with the belief that this behavior would bring more cargo. Cargo delivered from the gods from the sky (air drops) and from the ocean (ships).

The most famous of cargo cults is the John Frum movement on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu which is still around today and celebrated their 50th anniversary this year. John Frum is believed to come from "John from America" who is some unknown American service man who either convinced the islanders of his power to bring magic cargo or somehow did so inadvertently.

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