Herb Of Grace: Rue Rituals
It was day two of bathing in my Rue herbal infusion.
I was completely nude under the sun. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Alone, standing in front of my house, deep in the corn fields between Peruvian mountains. It was like a dream world. Rosemary and Rue bushes covered the entrance of the house. Every few days I picked some herbs then made a large pot of tea to drink and bathe in. Rue is known to have deep healing and cleansing properties. Indigenous Peruvian cultures use it to cleanse the energetic body. I learned about this ritual during my 4 month journey in The Sacred Valley of The Incas. I remember dreaming of days like this, where I could feel like a child again deeply immersed in nature, picking herbs and being nude around the house. Rue, also known as Ruta or herb-of-grace, is a magical, purifying plant that is used in Temazcal rituals and a variety of other ceremonies to cleanse the mind, body and spirit. The practice of bathing in Rue came to me spontaneously one day while I was menstruating. This didn’t feel like a coincidence to me. A woman’s menstrual cycle is a time of purification and letting go. Rue was introduced to me by a wonderful, visionary, art medicine woman that I met while living in the valley. Her name is Antua. She’s quite unique and special to say the least. Antua had invited me to a Temazcal ceremony a few days before my first ayahuasca ceremony. She recommended that I join her so I can begin my purging process before sitting with Ayahuasca.
Temazcales are Indigenous sweat lodge ceremonies – a steam bath used for therapeutic and spiritual purposes. My experience was profound and deeply healing. I didn’t think I’d be able to stay as long as I did. Thankfully, the chanting, singing and support of everyone else inside the tent, gave me the courage to breathe through the experience. I sat calmly with the mental and emotional challenges surfacing. Earlier that day, I watched men gather to build the Temazcal, they started a fire to begin the process of heating the stones. We were on a hill, surrounded by trees, bushes and rocks. The sun began to set and one by one we stood in line waiting our turn to enter the lodge. A medicine woman, holding a bundle of herbs in her hand, sang over each of us before entering. She chanted and brushed our skin with the herbs. I believe this was a form of initiation into the ritual but also a cleanse before the cleanse. A thin scarf wrapped around my naked body. I was both nervous and ready. I had spent the entire day preparing, consuming plenty of water and fruits. Finally everyone was inside the lodge, a few minutes after starting the ceremony with prayer and gratitude, a pot of boiled Rue was poured over the burning hot stones. Suddenly a vast amount of hot steam quickly took over the entire lodge and penetrated all of us. I can still remember the steam burning against my skin and how much my body wanted to breathe in cool air.
Just when I thought it was too intense, they poured more Rue over the hot stones. It was complete darkness. I remember hearing different noises around me coming from others. Moans, prayers, deep inhales, deep exhales. We were purging. Each of us having the same, yet unique experience. I could feel my organs purifying. I took slow and deep breaths to keep my nervous system calm. I didn’t know the women beside me but I could feel their skin rubbing against mine. Their sweat and their strength. We all held one another emotionally and spiritually. There were 17 of us in total. We cried, sweated, prayed, purged and sang in complete darkness. I remember feeling like I was going to faint, having no more energy left inside to chant but I would push through and sing along as loud as I could with everyone else. It seemed as though that was the only thing giving me the strength and courage not to faint. About 2-3 hours later, we were still chanting to the elements, the earth, thanking the stones and Pachamama for renewing our vessels, then the ceremony finally came to an end. One by one we exited the Temazcal. It was pitch black outside, by this time it was about 11pm and no moon light in sight. I rested for a few minutes eating bananas and oranges. I wasn’t yet aware that Rue was the sweet aroma that was cleansing us throughout this experience. Antua had informed me later on that this was the herb used during our ceremony and recommended that I bathe in Rue often, soaking my yoni in her essence to balance PH levels and shower my vessel in sweet love. Words could never fully describe how profound this experience was, how euphoric I felt after. The bliss of connecting with such a powerful and beautiful herb. I had never felt more at home, in my mind and in my body.