Latin Name: Ruta graveolens
During the Middle Ages, rue was hung in doorways and windows to keep evil spirits out. Rue is one of the ingredients of the famous ‘Vinegar of the Four Thieves’. This herb was grown around Roman temples to Mars and is considered sacred to him as well as to Diana and Aradia. Sensibly enough, it is good for purifying objects made of iron, Mars’ metal, before consecrating them.
The expression “rue the day” is said to come from the practice of throwing rue at an enemy while cursing him. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Italians made amulets called cimaruta from tin or silver made to resemble the tops of rue. The tip of each branch was decorated with a symbol, usually concerned with fertility: phalli, horns, solar disks, crescent moons, fish, keys, even the Sacred Heart of Jesus (how’d that get in there?). A cimaruta was meant to protect the wearer from the evil eye.
Nowadays, rue is thought to be ritually helpful in developing second sight, probably because it has a long history as a medicinal herb to improve the eyesight and creativity, and no less personages than Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci regularly ate the small, trefoil leaves to increase their own.
The legend of rue lives on in playing cards, where the symbol for the suit of clubs is said to be modeled on a leaf of rue.
An excess of rue causes vomiting and can interfere with the liver’s work; don’t use during pregnancy.