Indigenous man holding prince philip photo
On one island on the island nation of Vanuatu, Prince Philip is revered as a god.

The UK and the world mourn the loss of Prince Philip, who passed away last week at the age of 99. But perhaps few are mourning as much as the people of Yaohnanen and Yakel, two villages in the island nation of Vanuatu, who revere the Duke of Edinburgh as a god.

The tribespeople are followers of the Prince Philip Movement, who believe the prince is a divine being.

On Monday, tribespeople gathered to remember their departed deity, and to send condolences to Queen Elizabeth. "The connection between the people on the island of Tanna and the English people is very strong... We are sending condolence messages to the Royal Family and the people of England," the tribal leader Chief Yapa said.

But how did a group of indigenous people in the South Pacific come to believe in the divinity of a man a world away?

The Prince Philip Movement

It all stems from an indigenous legend about the son of a mountain spirit who left the island and traveled over the seas to a distant land, where he married a powerful woman. In time, it was said, he would return.

The people of Yaohnanen believe that Prince Philip is that son, meant to bring peace to the world and spread “kastom”, the villagers’ way of life. His goals complete, he’d eventually return home to Tanna, the small island where the villagers live.

No one’s actually quite sure how they came to that conclusion, but a popular theory posits that villagers saw Prince Philip’s photo alongside the Queen’s in British colonial buildings in the 1950s or 60s. Their belief would have then been cemented when the royal couple made an official visit to Vanuatu (then called New Hebrides) in 1974, and tribespeople viewed Prince Philip from afar. 

Upon learning of his faithful followers, Prince Philip sent a signed photograph of himself to the island. The Yaohnanen people responded by sending the prince a traditional pig-killing club - Prince Philip took a photo of him holding the club, and sent the photo to the villagers. The photos are still treasured by the villagers, who may be among the only people on the planet who can say they have their god’s framed autograph.

‘Cargo Cults’

The Prince Philip Movement is often considered a ‘cargo cult’, one of several that popped up in Melanesia following the Second World War. Indigenous Melanesians had a front-row seat to the Pacific Theater, and received modern gifts from both Japanese and US troops that dramatically changed their way of life. Following those encounters, some native Melanesians came to believe that a special “cargo” of goods would be delivered by foreigners. Often, that belief became intertwined with local myths and legends, as in the case of the Prince Philip Movement.

They can herald anything from a cataclysmic destruction of the old order, to the potential reversal of fortunes of indigenous peoples and white foreigners.

As for the Prince Philip Movement, one anthropologist who studies them says they’ll worship Prince Charles now, but will mourn Prince Philip for the next few weeks with their own funeral procession and a ritualistic dance, among many other things. This is, after all, a huge event - it’s not every day that you get news that your god has actually died.

It’s certainly interesting to think that new faiths are being created, even today. What do you think of the Prince Philip Movement?

36 comments

  1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

    So these people are to be ridiculed for their religious beliefs? Is THAT what the ULC is all about? Trying to make everyone conform to X-tian doctrine? Oh, well, I reckon every religion needs somebody to look down upon. Their belief is no more strange than an invisible-man-in-the-sky or a virgin-birth myth or a burning-bush-that-talks. Europeans and Euro-Americans for centuries believed their kings were annointed by God and endowed with God's powers. Many Americans still worship the Former Guy. Who is crazy?

    1. Carolyn Wendy Danczak's Avatar Carolyn Wendy Danczak

      AGREED

    2. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      Well said.

    3. Mark Ross Ciccarello's Avatar Mark Ross Ciccarello

      What utter twaddle. There is no "ridicule" in this article. Not one line. It is a simple description of what they believe and why they believe it. If you find it ridiculous, that is 100% you.

    4. Mark Ross Ciccarello's Avatar Mark Ross Ciccarello

      Uttert twaddle. There is zero "ridicule" here. It's an objective description of what they believe and how they came to believe it. The fact that you apparently find the facts about their religion ridiculous about you, and nothing else. You're projecting.

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    TELL THEM to SEND tRUMP a LETTER I AM SURE HE WOULD BE GLAD to FILL IN, YOU KNOW HOW MODEST a GOD tRUMP IS !

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      That sounds like a great way for us to finally get rid of Trump, John. He loves being worshipped. I hope someone tells him about this.

    2. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      Why would you elevate Trump fro President to God?

  1. John Norris Campbell's Avatar John Norris Campbell

    WOW...Which is why these idiots are a rare item....lol "cargo cult" and also why ppl of this persuasion are also left to rubbing sticks togeather for fire, even though given "fire starters" (bic lighters)

    1. Timothy Jonghyun Gauthney's Avatar Timothy Jonghyun Gauthney

      People of what persuasion? Thank you for the racist commentary.

  1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

    The didn't lose their god. He just changed his address.

  1. arawngraalrd's Avatar arawngraalrd

    What is godly of men is immortal, and doesn't really change through future incarnations.

  1. Earl Francis MacKenzie Jr's Avatar Earl Francis MacKenzie Jr

    ^^ this. Is really sad to find religious intolerance and bigotry here so forcefully. :-(

  1. Clifford's Avatar Clifford

    Quite sad that they don’t recognize the true God that surrounds them, and lives within them.

    1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

      You certainly dont understand what the ULC is. I have no god, and any who suggest I should submit to one is an enemy deserving death.

      1. Woodrow's Avatar Woodrow

        Clifford did not say you have no god, and he didn't suggest that you should submit to one. We know what ULC is and no one is asking for submission.

    2. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      And your testable evidence of your claim of a true god is where, Clifford?

      🦁❤️

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    They were worshiping John Frum. They believe John Frum will rise again and save them. Sound familiar to the Christian religion? Or Jim Jones from Jonestown.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Obviously, like with Christian beliefs, these people aren't playing with a full deck.

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    Still around the world kings are consider closer to a God then the rest of the Kingdom. As are priests of religious orders who have more sway then that of mortal man. America did have a recent departure of some very closed to God. Radio will never be the same.

  1. William Waugh's Avatar William Waugh

    Its easy to be a god. Just tell the people what they want to hear. Trump figured that out. Or like in North Korea, kill anybody that doesn't agree wirh you. Kim thinks he's running a first class nation. Trump thinks he is gods gift to.... everybody. And after the long evolutionary path to modern humans, most (and thats all you need to control) most people still cannot discern bulls,,t.

  1. Timothy Jonghyun Gauthney's Avatar Timothy Jonghyun Gauthney

    Wow, they want to worship someone who was rude, racist, sexist and plain insensitive. 🙄 To each his own! 👋

    1. JaZe's Avatar JaZe

      They are in the antipodes, probably never heard of all that.

  1. Carolyn Wendy Danczak's Avatar Carolyn Wendy Danczak

    Why have some so called Ministers turned this into a political thing??? Can't talk about GODLY stuff??? Why not. They're off topic like a child or a loon....hmmmm. I will pray for them to see Gods work clearly...

    1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

      Because Christian churches try to force their beliefs onto others by using politicians to do their bidding to enact legislation and laws favoring Christian churches.

  1. Carolyn Wendy Danczak's Avatar Carolyn Wendy Danczak

    Some so called Ministers commenting here have tried to turn this political. Hmm I wonder why off topic???

  1. Runeskald's Avatar Runeskald

    I hope that their belief in Prince Phillip as a god has served their society well and promoted caring, peace and harmony. May Prince Charles do the same if they move on to him as the focus of worship.

  1. Joseph Ecker's Avatar Joseph Ecker

    He was no God! He was a man doing his duty to his country wife and family. These innocent sweet people dependent on help from the outside world could think that way due to being under their rule!

    1. Runeskald's Avatar Runeskald

      Depends on your definition of god... minimally god is a belief held by a person. Belief can be based on facts, in the absence of facts, inspite of the facts or all 3. The tribe has this belief right, wrong or indifferent.

  1. Desmond Mark Morris's Avatar Desmond Mark Morris

    Prince Philip was a Constance in my life along with our much loved Queen. If the Vanuatu tribe see him as a god thats their believes who are we to contradict them. Bless them all and bless Phillip where ever he is he was a good man amongst men.

  1. Kieron Paul Waterman's Avatar Kieron Paul Waterman

    Comment removed by author.

  1. Robert Jackson's Avatar Robert Jackson

    Being worshiped as a God,something all the gold in the world could not buy, wouldn’t it be nice if it were you,after all that’s why you seek ordaaination.👑🐟

  1. Robert Jackson's Avatar Robert Jackson

    Being worshipped as a God,all the gold in the world could not buy that,wouldn’t it be nice if it were you.🐟👑 Rev. Robert Jackson

  1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

    Like many other comments, the Prince was a actual being He was not conceived by imaginary exercise.

  1. Robin Reneé Crawford-Jameson's Avatar Robin Reneé Crawford-Jameson

    Who believes they are a child of a lesser God and made to feel that way ? If so, I love you. Love remembers no wrong does it not. Instead of raising fists in anger hold out a hand in friendship for that is the entirety of our existence , to exist and love as well as possible. I may not like nor condone your ways and actions but I have to truly seek guidance and look at the whys of what you do but that doesn’t mean I shall forsake you. Nor does the Creator. This too shall pass and time slip away and is it worth all the hoohah over a shoe or could our time best be placed toward the teachings ?

  1. Alexander Clarke's Avatar Alexander Clarke

    Just more proof that you can't fix stupid.

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