Rue, the sacred plant of the Zoroastrian lore and the national herb of Lithuania
Rue called in Old Iranian svanta, spand, Modern Farsi Esfand,was a well known “auspicious” plant among the ancient Aryans. It plays a great role in both cooking and as incense among the Iranian Zoroastrians. Greek authors refer to it as persaia botane (Flattery and Schwartz, pp. 35-42, 144-48).
Two varieties of the plant are mentioned in the early medical texts, the white rue and the more potent black rue. Folk medicine practices reflect a classical belief in the medical properties of esfand. It is considered to be a divinely favored, auspicious plant which can cure seventy-two varieties of ailments. Furthermore, the smoke from its burning seeds is believed to ward off harm from persons or places that are exposed to its smoke. The practice of burning rue/esfand seeds to avert the evil eye is widely attested in classical Persian literature. The burning of the seeds is accompanied by the recitation of sacred verse or a prayer formula.
The continuity of Persian tradition has brought the ancient sacred plant into Islamic sources. A Shiʿite tradition states that there is an angel in each of the plant’s leaves and seeds. Its root drives away sorrow and sorcery, and the devil stays a distance of seventy houses away from homes in which it is kept. Shiʿite sources influenced by the Zoroastrian lore tell of the benefits of ingesting esfand or its juice.
I conclusion, I shall add that Rue or Esfand is considered a national herb of Lithuania and it is the most frequently referred herb in Lithuanian folk songs, associated with purity and maidenhood. Likewise, rue is prominent in the Ukrainian folklore, songs and culture.