Vailala Madness

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The Vailala Madness was a religious movement. It was active between 1919 and 1922. Many people think it was one of the first cargo cults, even though that term was first used in the 1940s. The Vailala Madness was active in the Papuan Gulf, which was a territory of Australia at the time, but now belongs to Papua New Guinea.

The Vailala Madness got its name from the behaviour of people who took part in it. This behaviour included glossolalia (or "speaking in tongues"), shaking, and signs of mental or emotional disturbances . In the indigenous language, people who were taking part in the Vailala Madness called it iki haveve, or "belly-don't know," which was another way of saying "dizziness."

The people in the movement thought that a 'Ghost Steamer' would come. This ship would be piloted by dead people who were coming back. The dead people would bring with them cargo with tinned food and tools. In one version of the story, the dead people would bring guns to kick the white colonizers out, but not everybody agrees that this was what people in the Vailala Madness actually believed.

Related pages[change | change source]

  • Ghost Dance, a belief extended among North American Indians that, in its Sioux version, prophesied that their ancestors would come back by train.
  • John Frum, a later cargo cult.