Archive for March 10th, 2005

Who is John Frum?

Mar 10, 2005 in Linkage

A recent MeFi post explores the odd story of the South Pacific cargo cults, based in the Melanesian islands near Australia. An amalgam of evangelical messianic Christianity and indigenous beliefs, the cargo cults believe that redemption will come when their “ancestors” show up with loads of material goods, much like the European colonists and American GI’s did.

The cargo cults first appeared with the arrival of white explorers in the 1800s, who gave gifts of Western items to the natives. The arrival of missionaries, colonists, and later, American GI’s further reinforced the islanders’ strange philosophy.

The most famous cargo cult that is still active today is the John Frum cult, located on the island of Tana in the nation of Vanuatu (a notorious offshore banking haven that is also home to Kazaa parent company Sharman Networks). The identity of the real John Frum is unknown, but his legend is inexplicably tied with the arrival of American GI’s during WWII.

The John Frum cultists imitate the actions of the American GI’s, marching with wooden rifles, painting USA on their chests, and even constructing airstrips, planes, control towers, warehouses, wharves and wireless telephones out of straw and wood, figuring that an airplane or ship will eventually land. They have also made religious symbols out of the American flag and the Red Cross symbol.

About a year ago, members of the John Frum cult engaged in a bloody battle with members of a rival cult, led by a man named Prophet Fred. Some more links on cargo cults (a few taken from the above-mentioned post):