Friday, April 23, 2010

Umbrella Culture

Evidentially the Queen of Sheba, who was most surely an Ethiopian, carried a parasol to visit King Solomon. (Or rather it was carried for her.) It’s clearly depicted in the artwork chronicling the event.

Special church parasols have become a part of the Orthodox High Church practice. We even visited a museum where very old parasols were on display. They are still used in many church holiday events that take place nearly every other day in the Orthodox Church.But aside from the fancy, fringed bumbershoots for religious ceremonies, many people carry and use regular umbrellas for rain or sun. I found it an extraordinary practice. But at that altitude, I guess anyone could burn easily, so why not shade yourself?

I'd like to know the real origin of this practice. Who invented parasols anyway? And when was it?


Noel said...

The words parasol and umbrella both have to do with shading from the sun. So I guess protection from rain was a happy byproduct in less sunny climes.

para- "defense against" (from verb parere "to ward off") + sole "sun," from L. solem (nom. sol)

"Umbrella"--from umbra=shade
1609, first attested in Donne's letters, from It. ombrello, from L.L. umbrella, altered (by influence of umbra) from L. umbella "sunshade, parasol," dim. of umbra "shade, shadow" (see umbrage). A sunshade in the Mediterranean, a shelter from the rain in England; in late 17c. usage, usually as an Oriental or African symbol of dignity. Said to have been used by women in England from c.1700; the first rain-umbrella carried by a man there was traditionally c.1760, by Jonas Hathaway, noted traveler and philanthropist. Fig. sense of "authority, unifying quality" (usually in a phrase such as under the umbrella of) is recorded from 1948.
Protection from the sun--that's what it was made for.

Ellen said...

It's a common practice in Asia especially Japan and Korea where fair skin is highly prized.

Jan said...

Hey Noel,
Thanks for the lesson in parasols and umbrellas. And yes, I expect to find them in Asian cultures. That's why Africa seems an odd place to see them.