Florida Water Isn't That Mysterious After All

Chances are, you’ve seen the tall, slender bottle of Florida Water on a shelf in a local botanica, witch shop or metaphysical apothecary. But what is this brisk-smelling stuff? It’s most commonly used for cleansing or purifying. Eliminating negativity. Washing that bad juju right outta your hair. Or off your hands, or from your home, or off your spiritual tools, or whatever. But that’s not how it got its start in life.

Regardless of how it’s used in spiritual practice, it was born as an American copycat of Eau de Cologne, a citrus-based fragrance. Cologne, indicated that it was made in Cologne, Germany.

That’s it! There was no mystical beginning to this well-known bottle of liquid.

Back in the day, however, many believed Eau de Cologne could protect the wearer against contracting bubonic plague by repelling fleas. Some folks even drank it believing the oils would work their way out through the pores!

Just so you know, we don’t recommended that.

At all.


The original Eau de Cologne was a sharp, slightly sweet and bitter citrus blend invented in the early 1700s. Murray & Lanman Florida Water with the fancy label, the stuff that you probably see most often, isn’t identical to Eau de Cologne, but it’s close. It was first manufactured in the early 1800s.

Chances are, the bottle of cologne that Scarlett O’Hara gargled in Gone With the Wind was none other than Florida Water.

Scarlett O'Hara Gargles Florida Water

Look familiar? Yup. I've never heard anyone else mention it, but that bottle she's holding has always looked exactly like Florida Water to me.

Although the recipe is elusive, perfumers tend to agree that it contains sweet and bitter citrus oils, perhaps some herbal oils, perhaps some floral oils and just a pinch of something spicy.

The actual recipe, however, is under tight lock and key.

There are loads of recipes available in books and online for making your own Florida Water. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But every recipe that you see is an attempt to duplicate the perfumer’s recipe.

There is no such thing as a magickal, mystical recipe that anyone has found within the pages of a dusty, ancient grimoire. There is only the Murray & Lanman cologne, which, itself, is a copy, and which has also been copied by other perfumers and metaphysical cologne manufacturers.

Fortunately, real deal Florida Water is ridiculously cheap, even if they do still claim that it's the most popular perfume in the world and the richest perfume of all, or some such. It's not even perfume by strict definition, but that's another topic for another day.

Murray & Lanman Florida Water, which is a nod to the Fountain of Youth that's believed to be in Florida, is usually used for purification in spiritual practice. Sold in early apothecaries or pharmacies, it developed a reputation over time for everything from curing headaches, soothing nerves and easing tension to reducing fevers, soothing skin after shaving, calming insect stings and bites, and cleaning wounds.

Some of those aren’t surprising, considering the insane alcohol content.

But that still doesn’t answer the big question: how did Florida Water become so intrinsically tied to spiritual work?

You might as well ask why rose oil is related to love or bay is tied to money. The best guess is that what we know about its ingredients tells us that that the cologne—particularly the alcohol in it—is useful for shooing bad juju out the door. Citrus oils are known for their uplifting qualities. Theories about the herbs that might (or might not) be in authentic Florida Water also lend some authenticity to purification.

No matter what's really in that bottle with the shiny foil wrapping, people from many different paths, including good old fashioned Appalachian folk magick and hoodoo, use it constantly to get rid of negativity.

The most common way that I use Florida Water is rather like a spiritual hand sanitizer. Magickal Purell, if you will. If I feel gross or spend time around someone who gets their residual yuck all over me, I grab my bottle of Florida Water and pour a little into my hands. I might rub it on my hands only, or I might swipe it from the top of my head down to my toes. It gets rid of the yuck you pick up from other people, or it can wash off yuck that you create on your own. And it can do that in a literal way, since alcohol kills germs, and in a spiritual way, when you believe that it works.

So the bottom line is that this famous cologne purifies and smells pretty doing it. It doesn’t matter who makes it, where you buy it or if the recipe is 100% authentic or not. Authentic Florida Water, which is kinda ironic for a copycat cologne, comes from a manufactured bottle, and some folks just aren’t down with that. Make it, buy it, or whatever you like. Just give it a try and see if it works for you.

Caution: never, ever use Florida Water around an open flame. TRUST ME on this. You see, if you wipe down your hands with the cologne and then light a candle, there’s about a 99.963% chance that you’ll set your hands on fire.

Not that I have ever done such a thing. Nope. Not me. OK, maybe me. But just once.

Use Florida Water to cleanse your candles. Use it to purify your altar tools. Use it to purify a room or even yourself. Just make sure that the alcohol has dried away before you strike that match or flick that lighter.

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