Species: Ruta graveolens
Related genera: Citrus, Dictamnus
Names: Rue, Herb-of-Grace
Plant description: Perennial, semi-hardy subshrub, native to mediterranean regions. Heat and drought tolerant. Grows 30–70 cm high, with decorative, blueish silver-green leaves and sulphur yellow flowers from June to August. The caterpillars of the Common Yellow Swallowtail feed on rue. Plant in hedges as a natural ‘magical’ defense around your witch garden. The smell of rue repels insects and also cats. Harvest leaves before flowering and cut back stems in early summer.
CAUTION: Mutagen and phototoxic. Contact with skin exposed to sunlight can cause skin irritations. Acts abortifacient. Consumption is considered critical.
Folklore: Rue was used as a culinary herb in ancient Rome. The leaves are aromatic and still used to flavor dishes and grappa. They are however also a strong abortifacient and toxic if consumed in larger amounts. In magic and folklore rue is believed to break hexes and protect. E.g it was part of the infamous Four Thieves Vinegar, which protected four thieves from the Black Death. It is also known as Herb-of-Grace. Ritual sowing methods demand the pronouncing of curses whilst scattering the seeds respective a young plant ought to be stolen in order to be potent in magic. In Milton’s Paradise Lost the arch-angel Michael uses rue to bestow Adam clear sight. (Note parallels to clary sage and eyebright.) Rue is also part of and lends its name to the Italian Cimaruta charm, from cima di ruta = “sprig of rue”. The charm is a silver amulet, consisting of several small apotropaic charms attached to a rue branch. It is worn around the neck or hung above an infant’s cradle to avert the evil eye. In folklore rue also symbolizes regret: Thyme represents virginity whilst rue stands for regretting of its loss.
Rue aids recuperation from illnesses and protects from future health issues. It is added to healing incense and protection poppets. It improves intellectual skills and helps to retain a rational point of view, e.g. in love matters. Rue added to a bath cleanses, removes all unwanted influences and breaks all hexes and curses that may have been sent against a person. Placed in sachets or rubbed on the floor it returns any malign spell to its sender. The house is cleansed from negativity by sprinkling with a sprig of rue dipped in salt water. Rue tinctures or washes are used to protect the practitioner before, during and after ritual, especially to wash off the stench of the dead. Considered most potent in magic is a rue plant that has been stolen. Toads are believed having an aversion against rue.
Magical uses: banishing, binding, blessings, cleansing, consecration, curse & hex breaking, exorcism, grace, health, inspiration, love, mental powers, protection, purification, releasing, removal of blockages, reversal, road opening, visions, wisdom
Planet, Element: Sun + Mars, Fire
Medicinal & toxicology: anti-venom, chilblains, colie, eye sight, gout, headaches, menstruation inducer, nervous indigestion, rheumatism, sprains, tendonitis, uterine stimulant
Propagation: via seed – the seeds need warmth to germinate. Sow 0,5 cm deep into fresh seeding compost, which has been mixed with some sand. Keep warm and moist, but not soppy. Use a grow tent for stable temperature and moistness, or place sowing pots under glass or transparent plastic foil. Make sure to air out regularly. Germination temperature: 20-25°C, germination time: 1-2 weeks. Prick out young plants when grown to 5 cm tall and plant outdoors after the last night frosts, in full sun, on normal or sandy, well-drained soil.
Shop note: I have grown my own rue plants from seed, which grant my each year a small harvest of fresh rue leaf. I use them in tinctures, incense and talisman making. Rue herb and seeds can be bought from me in small quantities.
- Scott Cunningham, Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs
- Rue at FlowerSociety.org
Photos by Wiebke Rost