The latest episode of the Memory Palace Podcast is called "Soldier Frum," and is about the formation of the Vanuatu Cargo Cult religion.
The religion centering around John Frum arose in the late 1930s, when Vanuatu was known as the New Hebrides. The movement was heavily influenced by existing religious practice in the Sulphur Bay area of Tanna, particularly the worship of Keraperamun, a god associated with Mount Tukosmera, Tanna's highest mountain. In some versions of the story, a native named Manehivi, under the alias "John Frum", began appearing among the native people of Tanna while dressed in a Western coat, making promises of houses, clothes, food, and transport. Others contend that John Frum was a kava induced spirit vision. Said to be a manifestation of Keraperamun, John Frum promised the dawn of a new age, in which all white people, including missionaries, would leave the New Hebrides, and that the native Melanesians would gain access to the material wealth that white people enjoyed. For this to happen, however, the people of Tanna had to reject all aspects of European society (money, Western education, Christianity, work on copra plantations) and return to traditional kastom (a word for native Tannese customs).
In 1941, followers of John Frum rid themselves of their money in a frenzy of spending, left the missionary churches, schools, villages and plantations, and moved further inland to participate in traditional feasts, dances and rituals. European colonial authorities sought to suppress the movement, arresting Frum, humiliating him publicly, imprisoning him, and ultimately exiling him, along with other leaders of the cult, to another island in the archipelago
Cargo Cult origin on the Memory Palace Podcast
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