Florida Water is a popular item from the 19th century still used in modern witchcraft. But what is the history of this magickal item? Who invented it? Why do people use Florida Water and for what purpose? Sometimes, we will use a product because it’s popular to do so without knowing its history. Therefore, I thought I’d take a look at the origins and uses of Florida Water.
Florida Water is a Cologne
Believe it or not, Florida Water got its start as an American answer to Europe’s popular Eau du Cologne in 1808. Florida Water offered a fresh citrus-spice scent, lighter than standard perfume. Considered unisex, the cologne appealed to both men and women of the Victorian era and could be purchased in pharmacies and general stores. A young lady could carry the scent in a sachet on her person. People used the cologne to freshen their sheets, among other things.
Manufactured in New York by Lanman & Kemp Barclay, a company now known as Murray & Lanman, the cologne got its name from Florida’s reputed “Fountain of Youth.” Over time, it became known as a healing tonic, which when applied could reportedly soothe headaches and cool fevers. The company touted it as “The Richest of all Perfumes.” They still craft and sell their cologne to this day, using the original recipe created 211 years ago by Robert I. Murray.
No explanation could be found for how the cologne became perceived as beneficial for health. Perhaps the name of the cologne inspired the belief. However, many of the botanical extracts in the decoction have been used for such reasons for thousands of years. So, it’s unsurprising to me that people would discover the cologne had properties which could support the body. In addition, Florida Water became a popular way to clean the home and freshen the air of a room.
Where Is the Magickal Connection?
The question remains, however, when did magickal practitioners begin to use Florida Water in their workings? Unfortunately, that part of the history is murky. Hoodoo, Santeria, and Wicca have included the cologne in their practices, along with many other magickal practitioners in this country and others, over the years.
When did the transition to include the cologne in esoteric practices occur? Unknown. But there is longstanding tradition for the magickal properties of Florida Water. So, one must conclude shared experience to have been intrinsic in the expansion from simply practical to magickal.
Regardless, this fresh scented cologne is useful for such workings as cleansing and protection. One source states Florida Water is a drawing agent for luck, love, money, etc. Not surprisingly, there is no actual “water” in the traditional preparation and while it is inexpensive to purchase there are many recipes available in books and online for making your own.
Gwyn’s Florida Water Recipe
All of the herbs listed in this recipe are dried. Buy organic when you can. Grow and dry what you are able, if you wish.
1 part orange peel
1 part bergamot
1 part lavender
1 part sage
1 part rose petals
1 part lemongrass
1/2 part bitter orange peel
2 cinnamon sticks
3 whole cloves
3 whole allspice
80 proof Vodka
Place all the herbs in a clean quart glass jar until 3/4 full. Pour vodka over top of the herbs until covered (there should be 1/4 to 1/2 line of vodka above the herbs). Place lid on jar and give a gentle, rolling mix. Place the jar in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks. Check every few days to give a turn and see if the vodka needs to be topped off again (you want to be certain the herbs remain fully covered). After 4 weeks, open jar and strain plant material through a wire mesh into another clean glass receptacle. Store in cool dry place. Use as needed.
What can you do with Florida Water?
You can purchase the original cologne from the creating company. Wear it as a light perfume or aftershave. Add some to the washing machine to freshen the laundry. Put some in the solution you use to wash the floors of your home. There are online sources from which you can purchase Florida Water, offering their own formulations, including our friends at Artes and Craft, Big Liz Conjure, and Box of Reign.
As mentioned, you can make your own version. Experiment. Do some research and give it a try. And remember, while you may be inclined to use water in your recipe (since it’s in the name), Florida Water is a cologne. Using vodka or some other clear alchohol will provide you with a longer shelf life.
Here are suggestions for magickal use:
Spritz it to purify a space before ritual.
Add it to bath water for spiritual cleansing before magical working or ritual.
Wipe down your altar and/or tools with a cloth after spritzing it with Florida Water.
Wash your floors (and walls) with it to remove negativity from the home.
Pour some in a bowl as an offering to ancestors and/or house spirits.
Use it as a substitute for holy water.
Use it to bless a new home.
Anoint your head with Florida Water for added protection.
Wash your hands with it after dealing with negative people.
Use it in a spell to attract something you desire into your life.
Anoint your head, neck, heart, and feet when feeling unbalanced.
*Take care to keep out of reach of children or pets.*