An Umbrella is a magical object that is used in many cultures to discourage rainfall. It consists of a gripping handle, long smooth shaft, and several spindly things connected with a thin membrane. The general idea is that, by deploying the spindly things and placing oneself underneath the thin membrane, the user would in theory be protected from the adverse effects of being rained upon. In practice, the deployment of umbrellas is rarely necessary, as the possession of one is intended to appease the rain gods. The applications of this have been well studied and thoroughly observed: individuals carrying an umbrella with them on picnics or to sporting events are nearly never rained upon, while hapless pedestrians leaving home without umbrellas are very often deluged.
“Umbrella” is from the Latin “umbrella”, which itself is from the ancient Proto-Germanic “umbrella”, meaning umbrella. An umbrella may also be referred to as a parasol, although these types of umbrellas tend to be used more for showing off one’s fancy new umbrella to the opposite sex than the actual warding off of precipitation. In addition, different regions have developed their own slang terms for the umbrella in order to sound the most ridiculous, thus furthering the enjoyment of the rain gods. These regional terms include the brolly (UK), parapluie (France), gamp (UK), and bumbershoot (US).
Umbrellas were among the earliest of mankind’s attempts to, rather than gain favor with the gods, negate their effects entirely. While some supernatural entities were capable of hurling gigantic lightning bolts at primitive man or sending swarms of things with too many legs to devour his rudimentary crops, the powers of the rain gods were limited to wreaking vengeance via light drizzle. Thus, ancient people sacrificed favorite pets or excess children in the name of some gods, while securing several large, flat rocks to a long stick to render the rain gods fairly impotent.
In time, the gods of rainfall realized that even these primitive totems negated their ability to cause water to fall from quite high places. While still mildly drenching the umbrellaless, they attempted to soak those with the protection of umbrellas less and less. Eventually, they settled upon convincing themselves that carrying an umbrella was in some way a nod to their awesome power rather than a slight at their woeful caliber. Once mankind realized this, they began carrying their early umbrellas to guarantee themselves a pleasant day.
The first use of umbrellas in written records occurred in 79 AD in the village of Pompeii. Noted historian Pliny the Elder wrote an account of one local umbrellasmith who, encouraged by the success of the standard umbrella, decided to construct a version that would repel molten lava and volcanic ash as well as light rainfall. Pompeiites lived under the constant threat of nearby Mount Vesuvius, a stratovolcano which would sporadically blanket the town with burning bits of itself. The new and improved lava umbrella promised an end to such nonsense by rendering the fire gods as powerless as the rain ones. The new product was an immediate success, and soon every resident of Pompeii brazenly carried one of the devices to every nude wrestling match, emperor assassination, or other ancient stereotypical ancient Roman event he happened to be attending. Upon realizing that an entire village was living without fear of their local volcano, the appropriate gods responded by essentially turning the volcano upside down over the town and shaking it. Pliny, watching from a boat in Pompeii’s harbor, escaped with his life and the only surviving example of a volcano umbrella.
Modern umbrellas are used quite similarly to those in use thousands of years ago. If the skies are looking questionable, the wise carry an umbrella to appease the rain gods and ensure a clear, bright afternoon. While detractors of the effectiveness of umbrellas often point out that they are indeed often used in actual rainstorms, such rainstorms are natural precipitation and not the kind caused by vengeful spirits from beyond the sky.
In popular culture
- In Homer’s epic The Odyssey, the hero Odysseus refuses to carry an umbrella on board his ship while returning home from defeating an army of Trojan Horses. He is rained on the entire journey home, and additional bad things happen to him which are unrelated to his umbrella-related decisions. This is widely considered to be the high point of Western literature.
- The 2007 song Umbrella by recording artist Rihanna offered further worship of the rain gods while inviting the listener to share Rihanna’s exceptionally effective anti-rain totem. It was heavily criticized for its repeated use of an ancient rain god phrase of power (ELLA ELLA EY EY EY), yet still won the 2008 Grammys for Song of the Year and Religious Hymn of the Year.
- Harry Potter carries an umbrella for fourteen seconds of the 2002 film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As a result, the sale of umbrellas in the UK increased over 10,000%, bringing several years of devastating drought to much of the English countryside.
- Similar to the sole purpose of a peacock’s colorful tail or a bonobo’s comically massive genitals.
- The new volcano umbrellas would have been effective against this if deployed in time, and yet required over 30 hours to actually set up.
- Currently on display at the Museum of Umbrellas in the middle of Death Valley, California.