Sunday, March 19, 2006

In search of material goods

While investigating islands in the South Pacific as a possible destination for our upcoming honeymoon, I learned of an interesting religion. On Tanna, a small island belonging to the nation of Vanuatu (between Fiji and New Guinea), there is a group of people known as the John Frums. The John Frums are followers of a "cargo cult" that worships a WWII GI named - you guessed it - John Frum.
Cargo cults develop when the material wealth of the outside world suddenly descends on indigenous tribes. Such was the case when Frum appeared in Tanna with jeeps, radios, motorcycles, canned meat and candy. Since these items could not be made directly from products of the land or sea, they were products of magic.
When Frum left the island, he promised he'd bring planeloads and shiploads of cargo - if the people would pray to them. They do to this day. Although he has never returned to the island, they say he lives in Yasur, the island's sacred volcano.

In worship, the men drink kava, and all observe kastom.

Originally uploaded by Graham Crumb.

February 15 is John Frum Day when they pull out all the stops.

Aside from the kava drinking, I can understand certain aspects of this religion. On a different level, I too appreciate the abrupt change in lifestyle an upgrade in material goods can bring. (We bought our first car on Thursday. I love it!)

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