It is still believed by some that opening an umbrella indoors will bring bad luck. The origins of the umbrella superstition are not totally agreed upon, but some say it can be traced back to the early Egyptians. Back then, umbrellas protected people (mostly nobility or religious leaders) from the heat of the sun, not from the rain and were thought to ward of spirits who might do them harm. To open one inside or even in the shade would offend the God of the Sun.
It was also believed that the Egyptian goddess Nut (Nuit) enveloped the sky like a huge umbrella. The beautiful man-made umbrellas were fashioned with peacock feathers and papyrus and represented the goddess. Because of their religious significance, they were usually held only over the noble classes. The shadow that surrounded the person underneath the umbrella was considered sacred, and if someone other than the nobility stepped on this space, it was considered sacrilegious. Oddly enough, the Babylonians considered it an honor for anyone to step into the shadow of a king’s umbrella shade.
Others believe that the bad luck associated with opening an umbrella indoors came to be in 18th century London, the time when waterproof umbrellas with metal spokes were popularized. These umbrellas were awkward to open and were extremely large in size, which could cause injury to people or break objects if opened inside a house or in a small space. This could cause anger or arguments among family or friends, which was considered bad luck, or at least something to be avoided.
Another variation on the superstition is that if rain is predicted on a given day, take an umbrella with you and it will not rain. And if you leave the umbrella behind, it will definitely rain.
It has also been noted that bad luck does not occur if the umbrella has first been opened outdoors and then brought inside to dry. And that bad luck is associated with an umbrella if it is the color black, was given as a gift, has never been used outside in the rain, is opened on a ship, or is dropped on the floor.
To find out about other superstitions, visit the Superstition Room.