The French have long had a reputation for being especially sexy and amorous. According to Etymonline, the words "French letter "condom" (c.1856), French (v.) "perform oral sex on" (c.1917) and French kiss (1923) all probably stem from the Anglo-Saxon equation of Gallic culture and sexual sophistication, a sense first recorded 1749 in French novel. "
French Love Powder is one of the oldest hoodoo conjure formulas there is, dating back to the middle of the 19th century. The "French" of the name refers not to any country of origin but rather to its erotic characteristics. Anna Riva describes its use as "A powerfully sexually attracting fragrance which is to be used daily but sparingly to draw friends and lovers" and as "The fragrance to use when the aim is to arouse passion and increase sexual desire in either men or women." It is mentioned in The Black and White Magic of Marie Laveau as a powder to use to attract "friends."
Tarostar's Old Love Charms and Spells gives the recipe for incense as 1/4 ounce lavender buds, 1/4 ounce verbena, 1/4 ounce rose petals and 1 bottle of gardenia oil mixed into red and pink incense powder base. The Magickal Formulary suggests it be made from musk, orris, ambergris and vetivert. Conjure Cookbook recommended musk, lavender, gardenia and rose.
Th oldest known recipe for French Love Powder, which is included in the book Conjuration: Hoodoo Spells from 1800 to 1920 on page 79, and which is much less perfumey than the others, is:
3 ounces powdered lodestone
1 ounce "certain parts of fish"
2 ounces stinging nettle
10 grains otto of rose
(The fish parts might be scales or dried bladders, intended to add sparkle in an era when glitter was yet unknown... though some sparkly cosmetics still use these fishy bits today.)
Stinging nettle may seem an odd choice at first, for an ingredient for a love formula, but when you consider its heart shaped leaves and its intensely stimulating properties the logic can be clearly seen.