The concept of the umbrella has long preceded its invention. Man has been consumed by his necessity and obsession for shelter, comfort and convenience since the beginning of time

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Religion has played a major role in shaping society’s attitudes toward the umbrella and ensuring the umbrella’s survival since ancient times. As illustrated above, both Ancient Egypt and Ancient China have strong religious ties to the umbrella through associations of myths, religious texts and symbolism. The umbrella can attribute its survival to many ancient and modern religions. I will start with earlier examples from Ancient India to Ancient Greece and then from Ancient Rome into the use of the umbrella in the Catholic Church up until it gained popularity in the late seventeen and early eighteen hundreds.
Ancient India was heavily invested in the umbrella through religion. One of the many religious tales tells how the god Brahma held a white umbrella over Buddha’s head when he was born (38, Crawford). In addition, India is responsible for introducing Buddhism to China, which lead to the popularity of the umbrella in not only religion, but also architecture, design and spiritual significance. Moreover, a common element is observed in burial sites of many Ancient Indian peoples, the Koda-kallu. The Koda-kallu is the term that refers to a gravestone in the shape of an umbrella. This was thought to symbolism the deceased accent into the heavens and can be seen in burials as well as entrances to tombs. The tradition religious umbrella had three canopies, each with a specific meaning: canopy of the heavens, canopy of mortals and the canopy of eternal emancipation (40, Crawford). The umbrella forever remained engrained in Indian culture, and as I will explain later, was also associated with royalty. Ancient China and India were the early supporters of the umbrella in the East, now we will move on to the west
The umbrella also emerged as a religious item in Ancient Greece. It was used by Dionysus’ followers in festivals and processions, usually as a brightly colored parasol. In addition, this lead to the use of the umbrella as a mating tool for women. They began using it to ward off or flirt with advancing gentlemen. In addition, it is also associated with the gods, specifically Demeter and Persephone, which symbolized the harvest. A white umbrella would often be seen or used to pray toward the gods for fertility. It is important to mention that the umbrella was more often used as a parasol then as the tradition umbrella we now use today. This will be mentioned more in depth later on in the section about the parasol umbrella duality.
Moving on from Ancient Greece, the next place to go to is Ancient Rome. The umbrella took on a similar role for the Ancient Romans as it did for the Ancient Greeks. It was immediately adapted to the roman god Bacchus, roman version of Dionysus, and worshiped for its agricultural significance. Some followers of Bacchus created a new cult of their own, the cult of Isis. The cult of Isis was a suspicious cult of women who performed secretive ceremonies and were accused of cannibalism and killing men as human sacrifices. The umbrella continued as a symbol of fertility until the conception of the Catholic Church, which strengthened the umbrella religious symbolism, as well as it being used publicly as a form of comfort and shelter.
Shortly after the decline of the Roman Empire and well into the Middle Ages, the umbrella owed most of its use to clergy and royalty. The Catholic Church proved to be a crucial component in the continued use and survival of the umbrella. The umbrella was used mostly as a parasol for important religious figures as they we often out in public, but there were also umbrellas that could be used if weather became more unpleasant. The umbrella can be seen in a variety of forms relating to the church, such as mosaics, portraits, illustrations of religious events and literature. An interesting figure was the Doge of Venice, who was said to have concealed in his umbrella an eight-inch dagger. Moreover, probably the most notable use of the umbrella is on the Coat of Arms of the Sede Vacante. When the seat of the Pope is vacant, the Coat of Arms is displayed with a gold and red umbrella above keys to signify his absence. Traditional papal colors for umbrellas were gold, red, and white. Another important instance in which the umbrella is present is in the fresco of the Virgin Mary at Addis Ababa, it portrays the burial of Virgin Mary and she is accompanied by two parasols as she ascends towards the heavens. It is through these powerful representations that the umbrella sustained its place as a symbol of religion. Moreover, it has offered protection and comfort to clergymen through the Middle Ages, which proved to be essential to the umbrella’s survival in such a time when it was scarce throughout Europe.
In addition to the umbrella’s association to religion, another important association and maybe the most critical association is the one it has with royalty. The umbrella has been an essential piece of royal insignia since the beginning of its inception. It brought shade to royalty during times of excessive heat, and brought them shelter in times of severe weather. It has long been a luxury item of the rich and famous, but nothing can compare to nobility. In ancient times, the umbrella was reserved for royalty because of the comfort it provided and soon became a universal symbol for status and luxury.
Although there have been countless countries that have used and use the umbrella as part of their royal insignia and to designate rank among high officials, there seems to be overlapping trend; that no one of extreme importance ever held their own umbrella. Moreover, besides having a servant carry their umbrella, higher officials umbrellas were made of rare fabrics, gems and very elaborate designs. Furthermore, the umbrella primarily made its appearance as a distinguished parasol, instead of an efficient umbrella against the elements.
The umbrella and royalty have been associated with each other since ancient times. There are drawings inside tombs in Ancient Egypt that show the pharaoh being escorted by umbrella holders in order to protect him from the Egyptian sun. In Ancient China, the royal family were the only ones permitted a yellow colored umbrella inside the court. Furthermore, different colored umbrellas made of different materials were given to officials as a token of the power they wielded and distinguished them from each other and other citizens. The Ancient Romans were very taken up with the umbrella. They enjoyed it so much that the ruler had an awning put into the Colliseum so as to shield people from the sun or elements. Although the umbrella has a strong relation with each of the nations mentioned above, and many more, the major associations with royalty came from the Middle East.
Ancient India viewed the umbrella with such reverence toward royalty that two princes were named Ch’hatra-pati, which means Lords of the Umbrella. Another story, taking place in Burma, claims that their father lined up all of his sons and dropped an umbrella, and whichever son it landed on would be the ruler. I do not claim that this method is rational or the best, but it is a great example of about how important the umbrella was to royalty and what it represents. In addition, Siam and Burma followed implemented the umbrella into their royal insignia and every day lives as a symbol of sovereignty. It was thought as disrespectful to open your umbrella in front of something of a higher rank without their permission to do so, especially the King. Furthermore, parasol servants often escorted royal guests to the palace when they came to visit. Anywhere from up to forty parasol servants accompanied the king when he went out, and it was only right to extend his comforts to his guests.
Royalty proved to be a crucial component in the survival of the umbrella because regardless of the current time, whether it is economic hardship, war, or anything else, you could always see royalty on display on those nice sunny days with their parasols. This was especially important in the Middle Ages as the popularity of the umbrella was extremely low, but the parasol was at the height of its popularity. Although the parasol was more popular than the umbrella at that time, it was not for utility, but for design and production of umbrellas made them very cumbersome and hard to use, especially when wet. However, as you will see in the next section, this will change and ultimately, along with the parasol umbrella duality, lead to the explosion and popularity of the umbrella.

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