Why Is Opening an Umbrella Indoors Bad Luck?

(Last Updated On: September 6, 2021)

Most people who use umbrellas probably don’t open them inside; if you didn’t know about the superstition you probably didn’t open your umbrella inside because it just seems kind of… pointless. It doesn’t rain when there’s a ceiling (when you think about it, umbrellas are just mobile ceilings). If you are aware of the superstition, you likely grew up being told opening an umbrella indoors was not just pointless; it was bad luck. But where did the superstition come from, why is opening an umbrella indoors bad luck?

Egypt (What’s the difference between an umbrella and a parasol?)

The origins of the superstition are a debatable topic, but it would probably be prudent to look at the progenitor for the modern umbrella. Anyway, in 1200 BCE Egyptian priests would use parasols made of feathers and papyrus to shield themselves from the sun. 

In case you were wondering, parasols are generally used to protect from sunlight, while umbrellas are used to protect against rain. The word “parasol” is literally a combination of Latin words that mean “protection” and “sun.”

It was said that using a parasol indoors would anger Ra, the Egyptian sun deity and creator of all life. Alternatively, the peacock feathers often used to make parasols were said to imitate Nut, goddess of the sky. They protected the user from the sun’s radiation in the same way she was said to protect the Earth. So using a parasol was like being protected by the sky goddess–also known as it was a divine privilege. For someone of low-standing to stand in their shade was considered sacrilege; they were also believed to become walking lightning rods for bad luck. 

The Victorian Era

Honestly the Victorian Era is a great period of history to look at the weird stuff humans did. But one of the things that became super popular was the Paragon frame umbrella, invented by Samuel Fox. This is also known as the Victorians popularized spring-powered umbrellas they deployed themselves very quickly–and sometimes dangerously. Maybe you remember hurting (or almost hurting) yourself playing with a spring powered umbrella as a kid. Charles Panati writes that these umbrellas could easily injure people or break things if opened indoors. He asserts that the superstition may have taken root because people wanted to deter others from opening umbrellas indoors (and subsequently break things).

Do you think these celebrity umbrellas get opened indoors?

About the Author:

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Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.