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Frans Vermeulen Prisma 2002 pp 1149 - 56:
Rue was alleged to be the antidote which Mercury gave to Ulysses to counteract the drugged drink offered by Circe, the enchantress.
Rue has been valued for centuries as a bitter herbl. The finely chopped leaves were eaten in salads as a digestive aid. In the Middle Ages it was believed that carrying sprigs of rue would ward off plague. The plant was credited with anti-magical powers [esp. against evil brought to a village by strangers] and allegedly cured countelss ills. Due to its strong scent, rue had always been considered a powerful repellent of all kids of vermin. Early American colonial recipes for the herbal vinegars that were used to disinfect sickrooms and ward off germs, contain rue, and the herb was hung in wardrobes and placed in linen chests. "It was the custom for judges sitting at assizes," writes Mrs Grieve, "to have sprigs of rue placed on the bench of the dock against the pestilential infection brought into court from goal by the prisoner, and bouquet still presented in some districs to judges at the assizes was originally a bunch of aromatic herbs, given to them for the purpose of warding off goal-fever." It was called the herb of grace or repentance because holy water used to be prinkled at the ceremony preceding the Sunday celebration of High Mass using brushes made of rue. "We may call it a herb of grace o'Sundays; O, you must wear your rue with a difference," says Ophelia to Queen Gertrude in Shakespeare's Hamlet. In flower language the plant stands for repentance, contrition and grief. The English name rue is derived from its earlier English name, ruth, which meant incant, sorrow, and repentance. There is also a curious relationship with thieves. Rue is one of the ingredients of the Vinegar of the Four Thieves [a protective beverage drunk by a small band of men who stole from corpses during the Great Plague}, and according to an old English tradition the plant grows best when it has been stolen from another garden. Several other beliefs are associated with the plant. For instance, weasles are said to eat the herb before attacking a snake, and shot boiled in rue ensures a direct hit each time. As a symbol of repentance and sorrow, but also of pity and mercy, rue could be used to help or harm, bless or curese. It is the traditional herb of brides in Lithuania. An example of its use as a curse is the following story told in Herefordshire, England: "It is only a few years since a young girld went to Cusop [Herefordshire], to the wedding of a young man who had jilted her; waiting in the church porch till the bridegroom came out, she threw a handful of rue at him, saying 'May you rue this day as long as you life! ... the curse would come true, because the rue was taken dirct from the plant to the churchyard, and thrown 'between holy and unholy ground' ... if there was any difficulty in obtaining it [rue] for this spiteful purpose, rue-fern [i.e. wall rue], the leaves of which resemble it, might be used; it must be found growing on the churchyard wall, and be gathered directly from thence."