What a beautiful little toughie is the hornbeam (Carpinus)! In addition to being radiant with power and magic, her wood is some of the hardest around. It has been historically employed to make wagon wheels and chariots, and in more modern times it has been featured on the elegant doors of the Rolls-Royce. Also, when used for fuel, her wood burns quite hot and for an exceptionally long while.
Aligned with both earth and sun, and with a bright, hot, and long-burning fire, the hornbeam’s essence reminds me of the Celtic fire goddess Brighid. Like Brighid, you can call on hornbeam for help with creating fiery boundaries through which negativity or anything that is not in alignment with your energy cannot cross. For example:
HORNBEAM FIERY BOUNDARY RITUAL
Anytime you need to establish a really powerful and positive boundary, you might lovingly gather a fallen stick from a hornbeam, simply offering a few heartfelt words of thanks in return. When you’re back home (or wherever you’re staying), safely build a fire in a fireplace or a fire pit. When it’s really burning, hold the stick in both hands. Get really clear on the boundary you want to set: what is allowed to cross it and what is not. (This can work with people, situations, or dynamics.) When this feels really strong in your mind, body, and spirit, toss the stick in the fire. As it’s burning, say:
Hornbeam, by your sacred name
Surround me in a wall of flame.
What I choose to allow shall stay
And what I choose to reject shall stray.
By forest, sunlight, sky, and sea
As I will it, so shall it be.
Hold the vision for a bit longer as the fire warms you. Feel strong in your conviction to set this boundary and know that for as long as you actively choose to keep it, it shall remain.
Hornbeam flower essence is often taken under the tongue or in water for a dose of bright-eyed enthusiasm, particularly when one’s energy is flagging due to a lack of joy in one’s daily tasks. One of the original thirty-eight remedies created by flower essence pioneer Dr. Edward Bach in the 1930s, it can be found at a large percentage of health food stores to this day. Try taking two drops under the tongue twice a day for a month. Pair with white chestnut essence if your frenetic thoughts are adding to your exhaustion or with wild oat essence if you’re pining for a life path that will bring you more natural enthusiasm.
Due to its protective benefits, Hildegard von Bingen, a renowned herbalist of the 1100s, recommended sleeping under a hornbeam if one found it necessary to sleep in a forest. In addition to the fiery boundary ritual, for protective purposes you might plant one or more hornbeams in your yard and request that they protect your home from any and all ill will or negativity from both seen and unseen worlds.
Hornbeams have traditionally been employed as hedges in labyrinths. In his 1838 book Arboretum et Fruticetum Britannicum, author John Claudius Loudon writes that “the object in planting a labyrinth is to form a puzzle, first to discover the centre, and afterwards to find the way out again.” If possible, wandering through a labyrinth fashioned of living hornbeam can be an excellent way to shed bright light on anything that’s been puzzling you. Similar benefits can be found by simply visiting a hornbeam with your challenge in mind, and then relaxing and tuning in to the wisdom of the tree.