Cosmic Reference Library Source Sheet

Rue/Ruda (Ruta Graveolens)
Peigam (פיגם)
aka Herb of Grace

Rue: Work with Rue along with salt and garlic for protection, cleansing, and blessing
Rue: Work with Rue along with salt and garlic for protection, cleansing, and blessing

I first learned about the use of rue in Jewish sacred arts, spiritual, and magick in the amazing book Ritual Medical Lore of Sephardic Women: Sweetening the Spirits, Healing the Sick.  It women (and some men) refer to using rue in EVERYTHING.  Need to bless something up — sprig of rue.  These were women of Italian and Iberian descent, so it didn’t surprise me.  I was already familiar with the Strega (Italian witchcraft) practice of the cimeruta, an amulet in the shape of a sprig of rue with other symbols hanging from it.  I even made one for a Strega friend, years back.

Cimaruta Amulet by Kohenet Ketzirah
Cimaruta Amulet by Kohenet Ketzirah

Most likely, women of this region used it because it was everywhere.  Folk magick is practical.  What’s around that you can use?  Rue?  Great.  The amulets and medicines these women made seemed to always have garlic, rue, and salt.  I have made those the basis of many of my own amulets.  Garlic for cleansing and protect, salt for sacralizing and rue for blessing it up.

Rue is mostly likely a substitute for hyssop, based on what I can find.  Hyssop was used to sprinkle water or blood on altars in the Torah. Rue is native to the Balkans, and found all over the Mediterranean.  While it only vaguely resembles rue, both are antiseptics.  Although be careful with rue, it can cause dermatitis and is somewhat toxic when ingested.

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Talmud & Commentaries

Bartenura on Mishnah Pesachim

And the Halakha is according to Rabbi Yehuda that refers to the approach of Rabban Gamaliel where the Halakha is according to him in the Tractate Sheviit (chapter 9), the “Chapter of Rue.”

והלכה כרבי יהודה דקאי בשיטתיה דרבן גמליאל שהלכה כמותו במסכת שביעית פרק הפיגם

Sheviit 9:1

Rue, goosefoot, purslane, hill coriander, celery, and meadow-berries, are exempt from tithes. Plants that are ownerless such as those in this section need not be tithed. Since these things grow wildly and people don’t gather them in order to store them, they are not subject to tithes.

הַפֵּגָם, וְהַיַּרְבּוּזִין הַשּׁוֹטִים, וְהַחֲלַגְלוֹגִית, כֻּסְבָּר שֶׁבֶּהָרִים, וְהַכַּרְפַּס שֶׁבַּנְּהָרוֹת, וְהַגַּרְגֵּר שֶׁל אֲפָר, פְּטוּרִין מִן הַמַּעַשְׂרוֹת, וְנִלְקָחִין מִכָּל אָדָם בַּשְּׁבִיעִית, שֶׁאֵין כַּיּוֹצֵא בָהֶם נִשְׁמָר. רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר, סְפִיחֵי חַרְדָּל, מֻתָּרִין, שֶׁלֹּא נֶחְשְׁדוּ עֲלֵיהֶן עוֹבְרֵי עֲבֵרָה. רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן אוֹמֵר, כָּל הַסְּפִיחִין מֻתָּרִין, חוּץ מִסְּפִיחֵי כְרוּב, שֶׁאֵין כַּיּוֹצֵא בָהֶם בְּיַרְקוֹת שָׂדֶה. וַחֲכָמִים אוֹמְרִים, כָּל הַסְּפִיחִין אֲסוּרִין

Sukkah 39:b

Rue and sorrel, two types of herbs, and vegetables such as asparagus, purslane, coriander that is found in the mountains, water parsley of the rivers, and garden-eruca are all exempt from the requirement of tithes in all years, and they may be purchased from any person during the Sabbatical Year because there is no plant of their species that is safeguarded. These plants are not cultivated but grow wild, rendering them ownerless. Apparently, these plants that grow wild may be purchased in any quantity, even from an am ha’aretz, with no three-meal limit.

הפיגם והירבוזין והשיטים וחלגלוגות והכוסבר שבהרים והכרפס שבנהרות והגרגיר של אפר פטורין מן המעשר וניקחין מכל אדם בשביעית לפי שאין כיוצא בהן נשמר

Mishnah Oktzin 1

Roots of garlic, onions or leeks that are still moist, or their top-parts, whether they are moist or dry, also the central stalk that is within the edible part, the roots of lettuce, the radish and the turnip, the words of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Judah says: only the large roots of the radish are included, but its fibrous roots are not included. The roots of the mint, rue, wild herbs and garden herbs that have been uprooted in order to be planted elsewhere, and the spine of an ear of grain, and its husk. Rabbi Elazar says: also the earth covering of roots; All these things contract and convey impurity and are included.

שָׁרְשֵׁי הַשּׁוּם וְהַבְּצָלִים וְהַקַּפְלוֹטוֹת בִּזְמַן שֶׁהֵן לַחִין, וְהַפִּטְמָא שֶׁלָּהֶן בֵּין לַחָה בֵּין יְבֵשָׁה, וְהָעַמּוּד שֶׁהוּא מְכֻוָּן כְּנֶגֶד הָאֹכֶל, שָׁרְשֵׁי הַחֲזָרִים וְהַצְּנוֹן וְהַנָּפוּס, דִּבְרֵי רַבִּי מֵאִיר. רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר, שֹׁרֶשׁ צְנוֹן גָּדוֹל מִצְטָרֵף, וְהַסִּיב שֶׁלּוֹ, אֵינוֹ מִצְטָרֵף. שָׁרְשֵׁי הַמִּתְנָא וְהַפֵּיגָם וְיַרְקוֹת שָׂדֶה וְיַרְקוֹת גִּנָּה שֶׁעֲקָרָן לְשָׁתְלָן, וְהַשִּׁדְרָה שֶׁל שִׁבֹּלֶת וְהַלְּבוּשׁ שֶׁלָּהּ, רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר אוֹמֵר, אַף הַסִּיג שֶׁל רְצָפוֹת, הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ מִטַּמְּאִין וּמְטַמְּאִים וּמִצְטָרְפִין

Shabbat 128a 12-14

With regard to bundles of savory, hyssop, and thyme, fragrant plants suitable as food for people, if one brought them in for use as firewood, he may not supply himself from them on Shabbat for food. If he brought them in for use as food for animals, he too may supply himself from them on Shabbat.

And one may pick them with his hand and eat, as long as he does not pick them with a vessel. And one may crushand remove the seeds with his hand and eat them, as long as he does not crush a lot with a vessel; this is the statement of Rabbi Yehuda. And the Rabbis say: One may crush them only with the ends of his fingers, in an atypical manner, as long as he does not crush a lot with his hand in the manner that he does during the week.

And that too is the halakha with regard to amita, and with regard to rue [peigam], and with regard to all the other types of spices. The Sages asked: What is amita? They answered: It is mint [ninya]. What is sia? Rav Yehuda says: Sia is savory. Ezov is hyssop. Koranit is called koranita, i.e., it is not known to us by any other name.

חֲבִילֵי סִיאָה אֵזוֹב וְקוֹרָנִית, הִכְנִיסָן לְעֵצִים — אֵין מִסְתַּפֵּק מֵהֶן בְּשַׁבָּת, לְמַאֲכַל בְּהֵמָה — מִסְתַּפֵּק מֵהֶן בְּשַׁבָּת.

וְקוֹטֵם בַּיָּד וְאוֹכֵל, וּבִלְבַד שֶׁלֹּא יִקְטוֹם בִּכְלִי. וּמוֹלֵל וְאוֹכֵל, וּבִלְבַד שֶׁלֹּא יִמְלוֹל בִּכְלִי הַרְבֵּה, דִּבְרֵי רַבִּי יְהוּדָה. וַחֲכָמִים אוֹמְרִים: מוֹלֵל בְּרָאשֵׁי אֶצְבְּעוֹתָיו וְאוֹכֵל, וּבִלְבַד שֶׁלֹּא יִמְלוֹל בְּיָדוֹ הַרְבֵּה כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁהוּא עוֹשֶׂה בַּחוֹל.

כֵן בְּאַמִּיתָא וְכֵן בְּפֵיגָם וְכֵן בִּשְׁאָר מִינֵי תַּבְלִין. מַאי אַמִּיתָא? ״נִינְיָא״. סִיאָה? אָמַר רַב יְהוּדָה: (סִיאָה) ״צִתְרִי״. אֵזוֹב — ״אַבְרָתָא״. קוֹרָנִית — ״קוֹרָנִיתָא״ שְׁמָהּ.

Sources from the Web

  • Jewish Virtual Library
    • The small shrub Ruta graveolens, whose leaves have a pungent aroma (regarded by some as unpleasant), is popular among Oriental communities. In the Mishnah (Uk. 1:2; et al.), it is called pigam, and in Arabic fijn or rudah (= Ruta). The Mishnah (Shev. 9:1) also mentions a rue that grows wild, the reference being to Ruta bracteosa, which grows in the woods  in Israel. To the family of rue – Rutaceae – belong species of the Citrus.
  • Alchemy Works
    • During the Middle Ages, rue was hung in doorways and windows to keep evil spirits out.  It was thought to protect against plague, and since people also rubbed their floors with fresh rue to keep out fleas, it probably did.  Many spiritual paths have recognized the potency of rue: It apparently got the name Herb of Grace because early Christians used it as a tool for asperging during exorcisms and before performing Mass, and this herb is the only one that the Prophet Mohammed blessed.
    • Rue was sometimes called witchbane because people carried bunches to keep off witches (who must have been thick as mosquitoes in those days), and 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. 
  • Lithuanian Charm
    • Charm to protect against venomous snakes It is by fate that our difference is born, rue, Fate has made us meet, rue, Be not evil, Rue, Do not suffer, Rue, Show proof or your kindness, Rue. (repeat three times) Show proof of your kindness from (present time) From this day, From this sigh. Show proof or your kindness, Rue, We thank you, Rue, With our beautiful words, Rue, With our beautiful words, Rue. 
      • Note: The rue is a plant with lots of meaning in Lithuanian mythology. I can explain it best as my informant did when telling me a personal anecdote. While on a bus, she saw an old woman who was having a difficult time getting off the bus. The old woman turned to her and said, “Please help me, rue.” So, she helped her, and the old woman said, “thank you, green rue”. Hopefully, you will now better understand the tenderness that Lithuanian people hold for this herb.
      • Source:

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