Let's have Earth-like planet with settlement of humanoids on tech level about 500 BCE. This culture is being visited by aliens and these aliens are being recognized as "Gods".

Aliens in question are not really decided, so for time being assume they are Grey aliens visiting in flying saucers. Reason of alien visit is simple: Check if that planet has unobtainium resources to mine.

So, these aliens do not really interact with such culture. All the aliens care about is that the people of planet do not disturb mining research.

After a year of researching, the aliens leave for good.

As noted above, the culture is left alone with feeling they have been visited by Gods. And that culture starts Cargo cult worshipping the Grey aliens.

My idea of this Cargo cult start is that the people observe aliens and are not able to grasp their technology. Therefore, the aliens are proclaimed as Gods

Now, such culture thrives to live and develops at same rate as ancient (eastern) Roman Empire would from year 500 BCE to year 500 CE on Earth. And my culture keeps that original Cargo cult and develops it.

The question is: What symbols will be preserved in such religion after 1000 years of worshipping?

You can assume same mental processes for these humanoids as if they were humans.

  • if the aliens do not interact with the culture, how can a cargo cult start? – L.Dutch Mar 2 '17 at 13:09
  • @L.Dutch they are observed by the original group of people. While there was no direct interaction, a year of presence is enough to be seen as Gods, I assume – Pavel Janicek Mar 2 '17 at 13:11
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    Once the aliens leave, and assumed they do not leave "magical" artifacts, the end of interaction means that the "cargo cult" becomes indistinguishable from any other cult, and left to the same tensions. Its future will probably be determined by factors external to the cult itself (conquered by a foreign country that imposes its own cult, internal revolution against the stablishment that proposes a new/altered cult, success of traditionalist forces that leaves the cult almost unchanged...) Pick whatever you want. – SJuan76 Mar 2 '17 at 13:13
  • I am not sure that only observervation of a superior power can lead to cargo cult. The superior power has to interact with the local culture to leave an impression (think of caterpillars crushing the forest for perspection scopes, while the "savages" struggle to cut a branch) – L.Dutch Mar 2 '17 at 13:16
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    This sounds eerily like the premise to the Stargate franchise. Isis, Ra, Osiris, Anubis, and their ilk were in fact alien visitors who happened to land in Egypt, caused a cult around themselves, then left. Their legacy became the basis of a religion that lasted for millennia (only to be uncovered by the U.S. Air Force in modern-ish times). – cobaltduck Mar 2 '17 at 14:31
up vote 8 down vote accepted

In a cargo cult, the cultists try to summon cargo by re-enacting the actions which caused cargo to appear for the visitors. By WWII standards:

  • Clearing a drop zone in the jungle and lighting beacons causes supply drops.
  • Speaking into wooden "microphones" causes aircraft to appear.

So you have to decide which activities of the aliens were seen by the primitives and interpreted as causing cargo. So decide how alien prospecting operations would have worked.

  1. Orbital mapping, out of sight of the primitives.
  2. Atmospheric overflights, which could be seen but perhaps not connected to later events.
  3. Landing of a small team to take samples, analysis of these samples out of sight in a lab.
  4. Clearing a landing zone and camp site where the analysis looks good.
  5. Drilling, digging, possibly seismic surveys with underground explosions.

From the viewpoint of the primitives, prospectors cause landing zones and landing zones cause camps with lots and lots of cargo. Did the aliens hire local workers and guards for the camps, paid for with trinkets and glass beads? But it isn't a certain bet, many prospectors did not cause camps. Was it because the local primitives were not worthy? Or is it because the drop zones did not find divine approval?

  • Dress up as prospectors and walk around. How many prospecting teams did the aliens have, and where they similar in makeup? Would there be The Geologist, The Medic, and exactly four Redshirts?
  • Clear UFO landing zones and heap unobtaininum ore or similar minerals at the perimeter.
  • Dig large open-pit mines.

If no cargo comes, pray and repeat. Try to get the costumes and acting as good as possible. Does adding extra prospectors help, or is any deviation from the original a bad thing? Could there be religious splits over that? The Eastern Cult worries about the shape of the geologists' hammer, the Western Cult tries to get the siting of the landing zone exactly right.

  • @PavelJanicek, thanks for the sentiment. As you can see, I don't exactly need the points ... – o.m. Mar 3 '17 at 6:45
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    Wha... You do not need more points? I do not believe you. Here, take some more points – Pavel Janicek Mar 3 '17 at 7:46
  • @PavelJanicek, seems my rep just went up 0.05%. I feel much more respected already. – o.m. Mar 3 '17 at 16:43

If the aliens spent an entire year on the planet, conducting research for unobtanium, and didn't explicitly care about noninterference with the locals, it's quite likely that they have left some durable objects. These would be found, and although the locals won't be able to use it, they will be kept in temples as sacred reliques. They won't know, that the Gift of the Godys is nothing else, than a burned out gamma ray density meter, forgotten by a frustrated geologist.

Artifacts from modern alloys can easiely endure for 1000 years. Iron and bronze copies would also be made, and worn as amulett/used as decoration on home altars.

EDIT: It's unlikely with such short and limited contact, but the natives could also pick up random phrases from the alien language, and use them as greeting, ritual cant or prayer. So if two natives meet, instead of saying 'Good evening' they would say 'The ore concentration in Probing Area 12 is below 0.02%, sir.' in some weird alien speech, believing that it means 'May the Gods of the Sky protect you!' in the sacred tongue.

  • Durable symbols. Made of stone replicas of alien ships. In shape of piramids for example or stone sculptures of aliens.
  • Easy transferable and easy to make symbols associatedd with aliens. Like a pole, later reworked as a T later reworked to a cross.
  • Logos. Simplified version of markings on aliens clothes or ships. Like Weyland-Yutani or RDA.
  • And of course many stories in the spirit of "Chuck Norris jokes". YOu know, where one of the local steal fire chariot of gods and go flying in the sky shooting arrows in the face of the moon.

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