Various forms of modern mythologies among the native peoples of Melanesia, arising from folk recollections of the riches brought by white traders, missionaries, or other colonizers. The earliest form of cargo cults appears to have developed in Fiji in the late nineteenth century when prophets would announce the imminent return of ancestors or white men on ships laden with luxuries.
During World War II, another form of cargo cult developed around the Red Cross planes transporting medical supplies to the Pacific Islands; modern leaders erected red crosses in the hope of bringing back supplies. In New Hebrides, there was a group that believed a white man would arrive in a red airplane laden with good things, and sticks were used to mark out a magic airstrip. In the New Hebridean island of Tanna, a strong movement emerged around the mythical messianic figure "John Frum." He appears to favor particular individuals and makes legendary trips to America to visit the president. His "Second Coming" will be manifest to the whole island, and he will bring the good things of the world so long denied to the Tannese.
Cargo cults represent a tragic combination of exploitation by explorers and traders and the culture shock of Christian missionaries displacing native religion.
Burridge, Kennelm. Mambu. New York: Harper Torchbook, 1978.
Lawrence, Peter. Road Belong Cargo. Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press, 1964.
Rice, Edward. John Frum He Come. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974.
Worsley, Peter. The Trumpet Shall Sound. New York: Schocken Books, 1962.