I had never heard of moon water until very recently. It seems to be a piece of North American folk magic. It also seems to have gained in popularity very rapidly, especially on Instagram (and possibly on Tiktok too, but I’m not on there). So I wondered where it came from.
In Britain, there are many many holy wells, originally sacred to Celtic and Romano-British deities or spirits of place, and subsequently dedicated to saints. The most obvious and well known example is Aquae Sulis (Bath), which was sacred to the goddess Sulis. There are two sacred springs in Glastonbury (Ynys Witrin), the Chalice Well and the White Spring. There’s also Aquae Arnemetiae (Buxton), and many other holy wells and sacred springs around the country. The same is true for Europe.
So I began to wonder if the reason why moon water was practically unheard of in Britain was because there were plenty of holy wells, so people didn’t need to make sacred water by leaving it to absorb moonlight.
However, I found a map of springs in Turtle Island (North America), and there are a lot of springs, except in Louisiana.
So I asked a friend on Instagram who is originally from Louisiana if that’s where the idea of moon water comes from, and she said yes, it is used in her magical tradition.
If you Google for moon water, there are a lot of pages about how to make it, but not very many about its history.
According to Moon Water: History, How To Make It, And Its Spiritual Uses, by Emma Kyteler, moon water has been made and used since the 1800s. (Her article also contains lots of Moon lore and tips for making and using moon water.)
“One of the oldest references to water charged by the moon for the sake of a spell comes from Fontaine’s Golden Wheel Dream-Book And Fortune-Teller, which was published in the 1800s.”— Emma Kyteler
According to FullMoonRougarou on a Reddit thread about moon water, its use was documented in Ozark folk magic as well. (The Ozarks are a mountain range in southern Missouri.) According to the map showing locations of springs in North America, there aren’t very many in the Ozarks either, so that would bear out my theory.
Of course, the potential flaw in my theory is that people might have wanted to get water from a holy well or spring and charge it with moonlight.
Using moon water in your magic
Moon water is mainly a North American magical practice. The equivalent practice in Britain and Europe (and possibly even parts of North America with springs) would be to go and collect water from a holy well or sacred spring.
Many people have picked up on the idea of moon water from Instagram. This also seems to be accompanied by ideas like “setting intentions” and “manifesting” (what we used to call “doing a spell for”) and “shadow work” — all of which seem to be trendy new words for older occult concepts.
Even Cosmopolitan recently had an article about how to make full moon water.
There’s nothing wrong with learning new magical practices online — but it’s a good idea to research the practice, see if it’s from a tradition that is compatible with yours, or whether it is from a different culture entirely, and look for a tradition that is more local to you.
At least there’s no shortage of water (yet), so you’re not depriving any other people of it by gathering it and charging it with moonlight. Emma Kyteler’s article also has some sensible safety precautions, like not drinking your moon water if you’ve left it charging for a whole month.
Older practitioners are sometimes concerned about these trends that emerge, but I think that if these practices work for people, they will keep doing them and over time, they will deepen their practice. If the practices don’t work, they will be discarded. Either way, the practitioners will have refined their practice.
Remember back in the early 2000s when we were all tutting and sighing at Charmed and Practical Magic and Silver Ravenwolf? The practitioners who cut their baby witch teeth on those movies and books will now have been practising for twenty years. The kids will be alright.