Vailala Madness

Doctrines The movement dubbed the Vailala madness had its basis in the belief in the imminent arrival of a world of material abundance. The coming of European style goods to the region symbolised a condition of spiritual renewal and the return of the ancestors. Incorporated into the so-called Valilala madness were certain Christian beliefs, the imitation of European dress, pretend western technology, and temporary hysteria.

History The most famous early cargo movement was dubbed the 'Vailala madness' (of 1917), and this name was often used for comparable movements before the alliterative epithet 'cargo cult' was popularized (by Lucy Mair). Diary materials reveal that the Vailala movement began among the Elema (Papua Gulf) with gifts of money to the London Missionary Society at Orokolo station. The suggestion of enering into reciprocity with outsiders, combining spiritual and material goals, is strong. Over (uneventful, unfulfilling time), however, the heightened anticipations were diverted by one Evara, who embraced collective trance states and xenophobic behaviour, encouraged the destruction of native ceremonial items, claimed to be contacting the dead through a make believe wireless, and allowed for hopes that a cargo ship manned by the ancestors would soon loom over the horizon. The autonomic bodily jerking and curious (glossolalic) speech convinced the government anthropologist F.E. Williams, who arrived late on the scene (1920), that the situation was pathological. The phenomena of transe and possession, so common in small scale black religious traditions, eluded him; and it was the catching on of these altered states that made the movement spread along the Toaripi country in the eastern Gulf.

Symbols The movement did not distinguish itself through the use of symbols.

Adherents It is not possible to determine with accuracy the numerical size of the movement.

Main Centre
 Papua New Guinea.