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The Magic of Eau de Cologne

cut glass bottle of eau de cologne
(note: this post contains some affiliate links)

The Origins of Eau de Cologne

Traditional Eau de Cologne (EDC) has been known for its light, citrusy fragrance for centuries. It combines citrus oils like lemon, orange, and tangerine with other essential oils like neroli, lavender, rosemary, etc., creating a refreshing and uplifting effect. 

An ancient potion known as "admirable water" or Aqua Mirabilis was created in Italian monasteries during the Middle Ages. By mixing alcohol with plant essences, they made aromatic waters with healing, cleansing, and mystical properties, showcasing the therapeutic power of Eau de Cologne.

Legend has it that a secret recipe passed from a monastery to Giovanni Pablo Feminis, an Italian grocer who settled in Cologne. He later shared it with his great-grandnephew, Giovanni Maria Farina, a chemist who developed and distilled a much more pure version of the formula than the monks could produce.

Captivated by the unique blend, Farina added his touch with lavender and bergamot essences. Believing in its potential, he opened a factory in Cologne in 1709, creating Aqua Mirabilis di Colonia.  Chemists and perfumers have been building upon this basic formula ever since.

The Label "Cologne"

Eau de Cologne translates to Water of Cologne, a name derived from its production in Farina's city of Cologne. Despite its widespread production across Europe, the name "Eau de Cologne" remained, becoming a universal term for the perfume, regardless of where it was made.

In modern commercial perfumery, 'cologne' is a term commonly used informally to refer to men's fragrances. For example, one might say, "That's a nice cologne." Additionally, in the perfume industry, 'Eau de Cologne' denotes one of the various strengths in which a perfume is available, with Eau de Cologne representing the least concentrated option.

However, these contemporary uses of the term bear no relation to the authentic essence of Eau de Cologne. It's crucial to recognize that Eau de Cologne is a distinctive and historic fragrance category that predates modern commercial perfumery. A classic Eau de Cologne is known for its fresh, light, and unisex scent due to its rich essential oils. EDCs are meant to have a fleeting allure—if the scent lingers on the skin for over an hour, it's not a traditional EDC.

The History and Popularity of Eau de Cologne

drawing of 19th century bottle of Eau de Cologne

Over the centuries, Eau de Cologne has remained popular for its fresh and light scent, reminiscent of a spring morning with daffodils and orange blossoms after rain. It became a favorite among European high society and was used on their skin and handkerchiefs.

By the eighteenth century, as bathing became popular again in Europe, Eau de Cologne rose in favor of its refreshing departure from heavier scents meant to cover up bad smells. Farina's Admirable Eau de Cologne became symbolic of cleanliness and refreshment.

In 1806, Maison Jean-Marie Farina opened in Paris, keeping Farina's remarkable scent creation alive. Today, its Eau de Cologne Extra-Vieille is still loved by fragrance fans around the globe.

By the early 19th century, Eau de Cologne was advertised as having magical healing properties. Perfumers claimed it could cure various ailments and was used as both a tonic and perfume. It became a household staple, with each bottle sold with a list of its supposed benefits.

What is in Eau de Cologne

The first Eau de Cologne was made from wine spirit, lemon balm water, and rosemary spirit, infused with bergamot, neroli, and lemon essential oils. Due to its high volatility, its citrusy scent fades fast. Initial notes, like orange blossom or lavender, give a calming and uplifted experience.

Over time, different versions of Eau de Cologne emerged to cater to diverse preferences. It was revamped as Florida Water in America during the 19th century and also made its way to Asia. The 20th century saw the use of synthetic components, making Eau de Cologne more affordable and popular. In the 1930s, it became the go-to fragrance for families and was loved by all.

Even today, Eau de Cologne sticks to its classic recipe with minor tweaks and adjusts to our changing tastes.

How to Make Your Own Eau de Cologne

Essential oils ready to be used to make Eau de Cologne

To make an EDC (Eau de Cologne), mix pure essential oils with grain alcohol called ethanol or "Everclear." If ethanol is unavailable, vodka is sometimes used, but its lower alcohol content won't thoroughly blend with the oils, causing separation. If this happens, shake it well before use.

From my files, here's a simple Eau de Cologne formula:

This uncomplicated formula uses fresh, light oils, which are part of many classic EDC blends.

For the right balance, add essential oils at 2% to 7% in your mix and pure ethanol for the rest. Be cautious not to use too much essential oil, as overpowering it can alter the essence of EDC.

Combine these essential oils: 8 parts Bergamot, 6 parts Neroli, 6 parts Rosemary, 2 parts Lemon, 2 parts Lavender, and 1 part Clove.

Mix in the ethanol and gently shake.

Store in a cool, dark place with a tight seal. Let it sit for a week before use.

The Spiritual and Magical Benefits of Eau de Cologne

Eau de Cologne, also known as Cologne Water, is valued in various modern magical practices worldwide for its spiritual properties. It is commonly used in rituals for cleansing, attracting positive energies, love spells, and money-drawing rituals. Practitioners also use it in spiritual offerings for blessings and protection. Eau de Cologne is a versatile tool for enhancing spiritual practices and connecting with the divine realm.

In my experience, the magic of Eau de Cologne is in its ability to cleanse negative energy while drawing in harmonious energy and elevating one's well-being. Crafted from ingredients renowned for their mood-lifting properties and stress-reducing effects, EDC not only awakens the senses but also instills a profound sense of tranquility. 

How to Use the Magic of Eau de Cologne

Magical Perfume Bottle

Using Eau de Cologne (EDC) is a simple and effective way to boost positive energy and purify spaces, serving as a fantastic alternative to incense or sage burning. Its refreshing qualities have made it a go-to for centuries for removing negative energy and promoting peace. EDC refreshes the atmosphere and protects and enhances spiritual practices like visualization and prayer, making it a gentle tool for spiritual health.

To use EDC, spray it on yourself and around your room. A few spritzes in each room, including in corners and less frequented spaces, can help eliminate negative energy and create a welcoming environment. Generally, one to three sprays are enough, depending on the room size. Overpowering a space with any kind of perfume or incense is not recommended.

Spraying Eau de Cologne into some water makes a wonderful wash for cleaning surfaces such as countertops, windowsills, and doorknobs. It purifies and blesses these areas while leaving a clean scent that promotes clarity. I lightly spray it on a dry cloth to cleanse tarot cards and other magical tools, enhancing my connection with them and maintaining their pure energy. Spraying EDC in the air toward the four cardinal directions is an excellent ritual for invoking the angels of each direction.

An old money spell involves a wash with EDC, water, sugar, and three coins in a jar. After shaking the mixture while focusing on prosperity, pour it at your entrance to attract wealth.

In short, EDC is a versatile magical perfume used in various ways to cleanse, protect, and enhance spells, spaces, and ritual tools.

Which Eau de Cologne Should I Use?

A wide range of Eaux de Cologne are available, ranging from very affordable to quite expensive. However, a higher price doesn't mean more magical power. It all comes down to personal preference. You can even make your own EDC.

One of the most budget-friendly options is Florida Water, which is actually one of my favorites. It's a bit spicier than other traditional EDCs but enjoyable. Another affordable choice is 4711, closer to the original EDC formula than Florida Water. Roger and Gallet's Extra Vielle and Alvarez Gomez’s Aqua de Colonia offer excellent quality at a mid-range price for those willing to spend a bit more.

Guerlain is known for its premium EDCs, which are pricey but may be worth it if you love their scents. Despite their cost, Guerlain EDCs, like the discontinued Eau de Coq and the current Eau de Cologne Imperiale, are equal in magical power to lesser expensive colognes such as Florida Water and 4711, showcasing that magical tools don't need to be expensive to be powerful.

Eau de Cologne being sprayed from a bottle


In conclusion, the magic and history of Eau de Cologne continue to captivate and inspire generations. Eau de Cologne remains a timeless fragrance with mystical properties, from its origins in Italian monasteries to its modern manifestations as a versatile magical tool. Whether used for its refreshing scent or spiritual benefits, Eau de Cologne holds a special place in perfumery and magical practices. As we appreciate and embrace the legacy of Eau de Cologne, may its aromatic allure continue to enchant and uplift our senses for years to come.

Suggested Reading:

"The Secret of Scent" by Luca Turin

"Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume" by Barbara Herman

"Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent" by Jean-Claude Ellena

"Aroma" by Constance Classen, David Howes, and Anthony Synnott

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