Jul 14, 2016

Rue – plant which one nurtures better than a child

Sedefil, sedef or sedefat, also known as rue, Latin name Ruta graveolens, is the most famous plant in magical tradition of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its purpose is manifold, it is used to cleanse living space, repel parasites, and is used to clean the human body and spirit from negative thoughts and energy. Rue is a plant whose origins are from the Mediterranean region and it grows well in dry conditions. It naturally has an inclination towards sunlight. In BiH it is used for its peculiar fragrance as well as a fly and mosquito repellent and traditionally one stem is left inside a wardrobe.

Among the Illyrians, Greeks and Romans rue was used for the expulsion of negative energy and for curing various health issues. Remnants of these ancient beliefs are present in folk medicine where, for example, it is claimed that rue successfully cures all heart ailments, etc.

Even Shakespeare uses a peculiar name for sedefil “holly plant of the Sunday” because of the ritual practice that its stem is dipped in water and is used to spray people with water who were believed to be possessed by evil spirits. Curiously, when it comes to this plant, certain Mediterranean cultures it is profusely used in cooking because its leaves are rich in vitamin C. In Bosnia and Croatia, sedefil is added to schnapps, in order to get a cure for better digestion.

Plant against disease and evil

Sedefil is from the family Rutaceae, it is rich in silicic acid, alkaloids, flavonoids, phenol and numerous other substances which are used in pharmacy. With all of these benefits, sedefil is used when one gets poisoned by henbane, it is also a great remedy for bad breath. In natural healing sedefil is used to help the kidneys, bladder, intestines and inside of the ear. It can also be used for eye infections, constipation, sciatica, asthma, headaches, dermatitis and stroke. However, one needs to be careful when using rue and use it in appropriate doses, since if one overdoses a completely opposite effect is achieved. Pregnant women and those women which want to get pregnant should avoid consuming any part of this plant.

Besides its healing properties, rue possesses amazing power against evil, mostly because of its fragrance but also unusual appearance of the leaves which remind us of a human hand, i.e. five fingers. It was reason enough for it to receive a reputation as a plant against evil along the entire Mediterranean coast. That’s why in BiH rue is traditionally grown alongside a house, close to the entrance door, because of the old belief that in such a way, with its vicinity, it protects the home from spells, spirits and magic. A few leaves of this plant were usually placed under the pillow of children as a protection against spellbound eyes. Still today old women before autumn would gather the hard seed of rue and make so called “tespih” (beads) out of 33 beads, by using a needle and a string, they would tie it and place on a wall of a house, so that the beads would bring good luck into the house.

A faery fell asleep on a leaf of rue

In Bosnian mythology rue is a plant dedicated to good faeries. According to folk belief faeries love to sleep on the leaf of this plant because of its specific fragrance. It is probably corroborated by certain women’s love formulas, which are uttered while holding a stem of rue. In one of them, a girl which wants to be noticed wherever she shows up and with that have more suitors, would first bathe in order to wash away all the dirt from herself and then naked and wet, with her hair down, she takes a pre prepared stem of rue and a dish with warm water. First she pours some water in her mouth and holding it in her mouth, in her mind, she repeats the prayer Ihlas nine times. After that she spits the water out of her mouth back into the dish with warm water. Then she places the stem of rue and utters this magical formula:

On the leaf of a rue a fairy fell asleep,
from her it spilt over onto me
gold, silver and silk.
Gold, gilded me,
silver cleansed me
silk wrapped and a fairy blessed me;
to be healthy and happy,
to everyone in the world the best and prettiest,
veledalin amin from God amin!


Na listu sedefila zaspala vila,
sa nje se na me prosulo
zlato, srebro i svila.
Zlato me pozlatilo,
srebro očistilo,
svila obavila a vila blagosila
da budem zdrava i čila,
najbolja i najljepša svakom ja bila!
Veledalin amin od Boga amin!

After repeating this formula three times the girl blows into the water and washes herself from head to toe with it and lets the water pour down her. With that the ritual would be completed. From the bottom of the bathtub she picks up the stem of rue and after she is dressed she throws it out, somewhere where no human foot goes. Stravarke claim that with this spell cleanses the girl from spellbound eyes, hate and envy, and her kismet or fortune can open up, if it was closed. If she is completely unlucky in love, then it is believed that her “kismet is closed”, and then this ritual must be repeated three Tuesdays in a row and her luck will be opened any time soon and she will find her future husband.

Rue doesn’t just help girls to find luck in love but also to married women, especially ones whose husbands are unfaithful. From the old days in the north-western part of Bosnia there was a custom that a wife whose husband is unfaithful, whenever she washes her bra or panties, she would dry them on a rue bush, and then she would wear them. Allegedly, the plant will put a spell on the underwear with its fragrance which will make the woman attractive and desirable to her husband and he will be dedicated only to her.

Substitute for incense

Another unusual characteristic of rue is that it can be a substitute for incense. Namely, in talisman magic it is advised that instead of incense one should burn a few dry leaves of rue, together with the amulet, and with that smoke the diseased is to be fumigated, a person which is suffering from attacks of spirits or black magic. Along with that, the constructors of amulets after they have finished writing and start folding the amulet in its characteristic triangular or square form, they place a few leaves of dry rue in order to increase the power of their text and in order to ensure immunity from evil to the owner of the amulet. Because of all of the enumerated specifics of this plant it is important to mention the frequent statement of Bosnian stravarke that “rue should be nurtured better than a child because of its usefulness!”.

With dry leaves of rue one should fumigate the entire house or apartment at least once a year, in order to chase away all negativity and spells that the space has “absorbed” over time with visits of guests and family members. Namely, every time we go out into the streets we risk when coming into contact with other people or simply by stepping into unwanted negative elements whose span is varied, from various impurities such as urine, blood, trash all the way to purposefully spilt dirty water on the street, which one used to ritually wash away black magic from himself, and spilt the water for a random passer-by to cross the place and pick up all the evil. When a home is filled with negative energy then one can experience unreasonable friction, unrest, nervousness, there is no peace and money is lost and in the end discord and quarrel appear in a family.
Fumigation is performed in such a manner when a fistful of dried leaves of this plant are thrown on a few hot embers and with the smoke created from combustion goes through the entire house. While the smoke is spread throughout the rooms one needs to utter this spell three times:

Whatever the enemy brought,
rue brought it back to him,
the house goes up the hill,
all evil with this smoke flies away from the house,
the house stayed clean, all evil fell away,
with my formula and god’s will, amin!


Šta god da je dušman donio,
sedefil mu je nazad odnio,
kuća uz brdo kreće,
svako zlo sa ovim dimom od kuće odlijeće,
kuća čista ostade, svako zlo otpade,
sa mojom basmom a božijim emerom, amin!

After the house has been fumigated the windows and doors can be open so that negative energy can go outside and stay there. Residue from coal and dust, after they have cooled down, are brought to a crossroad and thrown there. with that the ritual of fumigation is done.