That Curious Cult in Vanuatu

As we continue to look for support for our project in Vanuatu (visit our project at:,  we thought it would be a good time to share a little information about an unusual cargo cult.

Vanuatu is one of the few places on earth that is home to the unusual religious practice known as a cargo cult. The cults focus on obtaining the material wealth (the “cargo”) of the advanced culture through magic and religious rituals.

Cargo cult activity in the Pacific region increased significantly during and immediately after World War II, when the residents of these regions observed the Japanese and American soldiers bringing in large amounts of material. When the war ended, the military bases closed and the flow of goods and materials ceased.

The John Frum Cargo Cult on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu is one of the more famous cults. John Frum is often depicted as an American World War II serviceman who will bring wealth and prosperity to the people if they follow him.  After the war, and the departure of the Americans, followers of John Frum built symbolic landing strips to encourage American airplanes to once again land and bring them “cargo”.

The cult is still active today. In fact,  followers believe that John Frum will come back on a February 15 , although the year of his return is not known. This date is observed as “John Frum Day” in Vanuatu.

About islandculturearchivalsupport

Island Culture Archival Support (ICAS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of records pertaining to the cultural identity of island peoples in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia whose national and public archives, libraries, cultural centers, and business organizations are underprivileged, underfunded, and understaffed. The specific purpose for which this nonprofit corporation was formed is to support the needs of these South Pacific cultural heritage institutions by helping to preserve and make accessible records created for business, accountability or cultural purposes. The organization will endeavor to add value by providing resources or volunteers to advise, train, and work among island residents to support their efforts in building their future and preserving their collective memory through the use of modern archival techniques.
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1 Response to That Curious Cult in Vanuatu

  1. Pingback: John Frum, Come Back! – Myth Crafts

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