A cargo cult is a Melanesian millenarian movement encompassing a diverse range of practices and occurring in the wake of contact with the commercial networks of colonizing societies. The name derives from the belief that various ritualistic acts will lead to a bestowing of material wealth (“cargo”).
Cargo cults were first properly noticed back during World War II, when the American and Japanese armies brought in large amounts of equipment/food/technology onto various islands in the Pacific region. These islands were mostly inhabited by a tribal/technologically backward population.
Symbols associated with Christianity and modern Western society tend to be incorporated into their rituals as magical artifacts, for example the use of cross-shaped grave markers. Notable examples of cargo cult activity include the setting up of mock airstrips, airports, offices, and dining rooms, as well as the fetishization and attempted construction of Western goods, such as radios made of coconuts and straw. Believers may stage “drills” and “marches” with sticks for rifles and use military-style insigniaand national insignia painted on their bodies to make them look like soldiers, thereby treating the activities of Western military personnel as rituals to be performed for the purpose of attracting the cargo.