Interesting Religious Sects Cargo Cults of the South Pacific Part 2

About the religious sect known as the Cargo Cults, history, size, and tradition of the South Pacific religions.



Maybe the name Frum comes from broom, to sweep out the whites; it's not clear. What is clear, to his followers, is that he heralds the millennium of unlimited cargo.

"Every day, after work, John appears to [some] men.... He tells them many wondrous things. The Americans are coming. The Americans come. They give us presents.... John has spoken Truth."

The U.S. Army arrived on some of the islands in 1942 to fight the Japanese during W.W.II. John Frum followers appreciated the jobs and mementos (cargo) they received. Other cultists, less messianic and more nationalistic, revolted. Natives in the Solomon Islands thought the black American soldiers were descendants of natives kidnapped by explorers centuries back. They assumed the black soldiers would join them in fighting to bring in the new age, when blacks could have all the white men's cargo to themselves.

But when the war ended and all the soldiers, black and white, departed, so did the cargo.

Practices and Beliefs: Some islanders tried to emulate the American soldiers in hopes of bringing the cargo-laden planes back. They marched in mock drills carrying bamboo "rifles" and wearing improvised uniforms or painting U.S.A. on their bodies. They spoke into empty beer cans as the Americans had into microphones, telling the planes to land. Even today, believing that John Frum lives in the U.S., some refuse to cooperate with island authorities for fear of compromising their allegiance to Frum. To please him, they emphasize traditional costume and ritual, such as dancing and drinking kava, the local narcotic drink made from the root of the Piper methysticum plant. Both these practices are often against colonial law.

John Frum has been described by natives as a "mysterious little man with bleached hair, a high-pitched voice, and a coat with shining buttons." He always appears (and many claim to have seen him) "in the faint light of a fire," to men under the influence of kava.

On Tanna, scarlet crosses and wooden gates are erected to Frum, especially around the volcano in which his men are believed to live. Carved bamboo chapels are built. In one chapel was found a life-size effigy of John Frum, face painted white, leg lifted as if flying or running. In front of him was a wooden model of a four-engine plane, complete with propellers.

For further reading: Edward Rice, John Frum He Come: Cargo Cults and Cargo Messiahs in the South Pacific. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1974.

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