Cargo cult, or What are the "airplane worshippers" of Oceania waiting for

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Most religions of the world imply the existence of a higher entity capable of bestowing benefits on people. In many cases, it is implied that something can be obtained without exerting effort, but only by sending rites to the deity and not observing a number of rules. Cargo cult, or as it is also called the Cult of the Gifts of Heaven, is an extremely extreme form of such faith.

Cargo cult, or What are the "airplane worshippers" of Oceania waiting for

Life on the islands in the Pacific Ocean is good and pleasant only for tourists. To survive on a piece of land surrounded by the ocean, the natives always had to put a lot of effort. The extraction of food and the manufacture of tools are the two main problems faced by the inhabitants of small coral islands located east of Australia.

Today it is difficult to say on which of the islands of Oceania a new religion was born in the XX century. Most initiates are inclined to believe that enlightenment first descended on the inhabitants of the Solomon Islands or the island of Fiji. The beginning was laid during the US Pacific Campaign against Japan, which was conducted during World War II.

Then almost the entire Pacific and part of the Indian Ocean became a combat zone, and the Americans were forced to worry about supplying the fleet and aviation in a huge territory. For the transfer of military cargo and personnel, the United States has created a number of military bases on the islands of Oceania.

Runways, storage facilities and communication antennas were built in record time. For the residents of the islands, where white people were last seen during the Cook expedition, the rapid deployment of military facilities with the landing of cargo and equipment from aircraft made an indelible impression.

People in military uniforms did not get food and did not make tools for hunting and labor. They did not weave baskets, did not hollow out boats from tree trunks, did not plant sweet potatoes and did not fish in the lagoon. But at the same time they had things that even the most skilled and hardworking man of the tribe could not even dream of! Iron knives and axes, lanterns, rifles and machine guns, Zippo lighters, cans of meat, alcohol and pictures of naked women—there was plenty of it all.

Strange guests generously shared some of the benefits with the inhabitants of the islands or paid them for various services. Such extravagance was quite understandable, because they did not make the items themselves. Everything the outsiders needed literally fell from the sky in the amount they needed.

To get the next batch of treasures, an American only needs to draw strange signs on the ground, and then put on headphones and talk to a metal box. Soon after, a noisy winged deity appeared and dropped boxes of goods tied to huge rags on the island. This way of life was very much liked by the aborigines, although they could not understand the essence of the strange relationship between their guests and winged deities.

Cargo cult, or What are the "airplane worshippers" of Oceania waiting for

Gradually, the natives realized that the religion of white people is full of rituals. Sometimes they lined up in rows, and their leader walked in front of them and shouted loudly, and sometimes they walked in circles and chanted incantations. It happened that the winged gods were angry and white people fled in terror at their appearance. At such moments, death fell from heaven, which killed people and cattle, stunned fish in the ocean and uprooted huge palm trees.

Whatever it was, but the life of the guests was many times more comfortable and the aborigines realized that they were doing everything wrong. Bows, harpoons and hoes were abandoned, crops overgrown with grass, and the men and women of the tribe almost completely switched to serving their new neighbors, receiving food, factory clothes and many necessary and pleasant things for this.

Cargo cult, or What are the "airplane worshippers" of Oceania waiting for

But all good things come to an end and it's time for strangers to go home. They quickly gathered, shook hands with the islanders and sailed away on huge boats over the horizon. On the island, only heaps of iron barrels, several broken mechanisms and platforms for performing rituals remained from the guests.

Since no one talked to the boxes anymore and did not draw signs on the ground, the gods with wings forgot the way to the islands and the boxes with food, clothes and whiskey no longer fell from the sky. It was urgent to resume the worship of these useful gods and return their favor!

When scientists reached the distant islands a few years later, the cargo cult was already in full bloom. The natives showed diligence and commendable resourcefulness, trying to recreate the actions of their guests. Ropes were stretched between palm trees, unknown signs and bonfires burned on the former runways and parade grounds, and the islanders themselves tirelessly cut clearings in the forests, put up wooden towers and waved flags over their heads.

Cargo cult, or What are the "airplane worshippers" of Oceania waiting for

Between the palm trees, straw-woven airplanes and "willis" were flaunted, which were guarded by patrols of soldiers with bodies painted to look like US military uniforms and wooden rifles. Above it all was the roar of drums and the screams of local sorcerers, who shouted into microphones made of seashells connected to improvised radio stations.

Cargo cult, or What are the "airplane worshippers" of Oceania waiting for

As it turned out, no time was lost on the islands. At each one, there were immediately people who knew better than others how the religion of white people worked. Where the Americans dropped cargo, it was easier for the natives, but the inhabitants of the islands with airfields did not do well. They had to recreate the entire infrastructure of the flight units, as well as rivet bombers and fighters from sticks and leaves.

Cargo cult, or What are the "airplane worshippers" of Oceania waiting for

Of course, all these people were in a deplorable, half-starved state, since they were not interested in farming or hunting and fishing. Humanitarian aid was immediately brought to the islands, which only supported the islanders' faith in the new gods.

Cargo cult, or What are the "airplane worshippers" of Oceania waiting for

A funny religion, called the "cargo cult", appeared due to the fact that the natives were not familiar with production and commerce. They were absolutely sure that people could not make such wonderful things on earth and they were brought from the higher spheres by the gods called by prayers.

The terms "cargo cult" and "airplane worshippers" themselves appeared thanks to physicist Richard Feynman, who used them in his lecture "The Science of Airplane Worshippers", delivered at the California Institute of Technology. Today, individual rites of the once widespread cult can be found on several of the New Hebrides.

Keywords: Aborigines | Americans | Rite | Islands | Pacific ocean