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Kananga Water is a cologne based on a foundation of the essential oil of Ylang Ylang (also known as Cananga odorata). Plantations for producing Kananga Water were established by the British in Jamaica in the 19th century. Kananga Water, like Florida Water, is used in various rituals including spiritual cleaning, and appeasing the spirits of the dead. Its use is particularly common among people of the African diaspora.[citation needed]

Peter L. Patrick in his list of "Some Recent Jamaican Creole Words" (An earlier version of which appeared in the journal American Speech in Fall 1995, 70(3):227-264.) suggests that the origin of the word is possibly from Kikongo kalunga '(Angolan) for lake, sea, ocean', Laman 1936, 207; but also in senses 'proper name' and 'in the depths, right at the bottom, in the heart of the earth'. Patrick also notes Bettelheim (1979, 323), as quoted in Ryman (1984, 84), that "kalunga is also the name of an underworld deity and/or the home of this God".[1]

As far as reporting on the use of the water is concerned Patrick reports that it has be quoted by Patterson (1964) as being a type of "holy water" that is used for purification in Revival ceremonies. Quoting Patterson "male church leader, Shepherd John, cleansing a sinful woman: " 'Bring de robe an' de cananga water an' call de Water Mother'. The period of cleansing began with a purity bath. [Shepherd John] sprinkled some of the cananga water over the room, then poured the rest in the tub. Then the Water Mother came forward, helped her in the tub, and bathed her from the neck downwards."[1]


  1. ^ a b http://privatewww.essex.ac.uk/~patrickp/papers/RecentJCwords.html#k A version of the Glossary in Patrick's article in the journal American Speech in Fall 1995, 70(3):227-264.


  • Laman, Karl E. 1936. Dictionnaire Kikongo-Francais. Brussels. Rpt. 2 vols. Ridgewood, NJ: Gregg, 1964.
  • Patterson, Orlando. 1964. The Children of Sisyphus. Essex: Longman. Rpt. 1982.
  • Ryman, Cheryl. 1984. "Kumina: Stability and change." Afro-Caribbean Institute of Jamaica Research Review 1: 81-128. Kingston: ACIJ.

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1 news items

Trinidad Guardian

Trinidad Guardian
Mon, 29 Jun 2015 21:52:30 -0700

While growing up, the smell of incense and Kananga water defined holiness—not merely religion—for me. The clanging of the big brass hand-bell in a Baptist service meant as much as the tinkling altar bell rung at the consecration in the Catholic mass.

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