#BEYOUROWN MEETS JANE HARDWICKE COLLINGS
Jane Hardwicke Collings is a grandmother, midwife, teacher, writer and menstrual educator. She gives workshops in Australia and internationally on mother and daughter preparation for menstruation, the spiritual practise of menstruation, and the sacred dimensions of pregnancy, birth, and menopause – a modern-day Women’s Mysteries Teacher.
Jane practised as a home-birth midwife for 30 years, this work from her late 20’s to early 50’s informed her worldview and brought focus to her knowledge of what’s possible when women feel safe.
Through her own life experiences, her learning and research of ancient and modern shamanic practices, evolutionary biology, psychology, spirituality, the ecology of the Sacred Feminine, and as a student of the Earth, she has found a common thread that weaves and connects our lives from one moment to the next and to each other, everyone and everything. With this awareness and her teachers’ guidance and help, she developed a way to teach this. Jane founded and runs The School of Shamanic Womancraft, an international Women’s Mysteries School.
The School, through Jane and other graduate teachers, offers a year, and two years long, in-depth immersions into the self and one’s relationship with all that is. The program offers a focus on ‘Know Thyself’ and is more than anything a grand awakening for each individual woman as she comes to know who she really is when she separates her self from the misogynist, power over the paradigm of the patriarchal culture. Profound and epic healing happens when women reclaim their body and their functions and remember that they do not visit Nature, they are Nature. Reclaiming Feminine Power, through Reconnection with the Women’s Mysteries.
Jane is the author of many books including ‘Thirteen Moons: how to chart your menstrual cycle’ a workbook, ‘Spinning Wheels,’ which is a guide to the cycles. ‘Becoming A Woman’ aimed at girls approaching menstruation, ‘Ten Moons: The Inner Journey of Pregnancy,’ ‘Mother Nature’s Wisdom,’ a book for children about the wisdom of the cycles and finally ‘Cyclical Wisdom Altar Cards,’ a shamanic tool for circle a personal use.
Jane also leads a grassroots activism program called Agents of the Goddess Special Ops and Cunning Stunts for all those who care about the state of the Earth, birth, menstruation, menopause and the rates of abuse and trauma, and how that shows up in all our lives and what to do about that!
Hey Jane, can you introduce yourself to us?
- Witch is my Tribe.
- Warrior Queen is my Status.
- A midwife is my Role.
- I am a Grandmother.
- Teacher of the Women’s Mysteries.
- I’m working for the Goddess.
- Witch = a woman re-wilded.
A witch is a woman rescued from domesticity, re-wilded, untamed, living in reciprocity with the Earth.
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
I grew up in a typical patriarchal family, although I didn’t know that at the time, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as the patriarchy. I came to my current work as a twenty-five-year-old who wanted to have a baby! I wanted to learn all about it so I went to study to become a midwife. I began my midwifery training in a big city hospital. I then was a rebellious, wounded (yet I did not know that!) young woman, a reluctant yet compliant daughter of the patriarchy.
I was like a fish swimming in the ocean unaware of the water, the culture is our ‘ water’ and I was blind to the water. Sure I felt there was unfairness toward women, but I’d been enculturated (brainwashed) to believe that that was just the way it was. Women were less than men. I didn’t really know that I knew that, I just ‘knew’ it. I couldn’t ‘see’ the water (our culture), I was simply immersed in it.
But I saw the patriarchy really for the first time in all its ‘glory’ as I saw how women were treated giving birth. I saw institutionalised acts of violence toward women and babies masquerading as safety. I saw men, fathers, treated without respect, told to ‘sit in the corner’ and their power as protector taken from them. I saw the system and those in uniforms take the power and abuse it. Realising my complicity in the damage being done by mostly unknowing protagonists, I wondered why women came back for more, why they returned next time to have the same or similar experiences—changes which resulted in disempowerment and trauma—over and over again. One could understand if the interventions were necessary to save lives or improve wellbeing, but most were routine and unnecessary. Could they not see what was going on?
Anthropologists have taught us that whatever happens during a rite of passage, such as giving birth, is significant. It teaches us on a subliminal level, how our culture values the role we are entering, in this case, mothering, and therefore how to behave. And what birth-giving in the system was creating were mothers who were mostly unaware of their power, taught that experts knew more than they did about their bodies and that they could not rely on their bodies—or on themselves—for birthing. This was the “Cult of the Expert,” as my dear, departed teacher and mentor, Jeannine Pavarti Baker, named this situation. Now I understood: the women returned each time to the hospitals and the “care” that I saw was wounding them, because they had been led to believe through what had unfolded for them, that they needed these “experts” and “interventions” in order to have a “safe” birth when actually the unnecessary interventions made the experience more dangerous. Once I realised that the midwives were serving this machine that was taking women’s innate power from them, I ran away as fast as I could, and I found the world of home-birth.
In the home-birth world, I met my tribe, a tribe that I did not even know I was searching for. I met my Soul midwives, Maggie Lecky Thompson, and Elaine Hodges Norling. At home-births, I met women of a different kind. They were awake and aware of things that others had no idea about, including me.
And then I learned from my own three experiences of giving birth, and from the women, I cared for as midwife over three decades – the impact of how our mothers and their mothers before they were born, the impact of our own birth, our early childhood experiences, and our menarche on the beliefs, fears, and attitudes that we develop, that become us, and how they then impact how we, in turn, give birth. And I have seen this ‘play out’ over and over. And I see all this as the unfolding of each of our soul’s journey here this lifetime. We have the birth we need to have to teach us what we need to learn about ourselves to take us to the next place on our journey to wholeness.
I worked as an independent midwife, often taking my children with me to births when they were little. I lived in the city and then the country and I learned more and more from Mother Nature, meeting the Goddess in everything as I grew into myself. I have been an activist, have held positions on professional bodies, and have worked tirelessly to do what I could to help, to make a difference, to “be the change I wanted to see in the world.” My work over the past few decades has included giving experiential workshops for women about the wisdom of the cycles, the spiritual practice of menstruation, the shamanic dimensions of pregnancy and the power and magic of menopause.
I founded, run, and teach at the School of Shamanic Womancraft (formerly the School of Shamanic Midwifery), an International Women’s Mystery School designed to shift the paradigm. The main objective is to raise consciousness and help heal the wounded feminine and wounded masculine of our time. The focus is on reclaiming feminine wisdom through reconnection with women’s mysteries, the wisdom of the cycles, the feminine way, and teaching women how to teach this by first experiencing it themselves. The School offers a year or two-year immersion into the Women’s Mysteries. The Journey is an experiential and educational program, open to women of all ages and circumstance. Students are offered an in-depth opportunity to remember the wisdom of the cycles. In a safely held circle, we explore our inner world, heal our past wounds and transform into sovereign women.
We reclaim Sisterhood, connection with the Earth and the Sacred Feminine for All Our Relations. I see myself working for the Goddess, and one of the ways I mean that is that I am working for the Earth: my teacher is Nature, the Earth.
I have learned so much from the Great Mother, the Goddess – our Earth. Nature is a wonderful teacher. I have learned by stirring my cauldron, through all my experiences in my life as I go round and round the wheel of the cycles. I have learned about the nature of rebirth, growth, and development, about what the ‘harvest’ of our growth reveals, about the need to let go, and that death is part of the cycle. And, I have learned about feminine and masculine ways.
Which brings me to now, I am a Maga, a grandmother, dedicated to doing whatever I can to help preserve natural birth and our earth for the great-great-grandchildren.
What is a day in the life of you like?
When I am at home, I get up at 6am or earlier, drink lemon juice and hot water, do a women’s Chi Gong practice and meditate. By 7-730 I’m into it – at work – checking in on social media, doing calls, preparation for my next gigs, activism, writing, planning a revolution and at about 4 or 5pm I head into the forest where I live with my husband and our dogs for a big long walk. I usually don’t do any more work after then and slow down into dinner, bath and bed. When I’m away, which is a lot, giving a workshop or a School of Shamanic Womancraft gathering, I am fully present there, doing whatever is required of me.
What was the concept behind launching The School of Shamanic Womancraft?
The School of Shamanic Womancraft began through me hearing a ‘call to action.’ Many many moons ago I had a conversation with a young midwife. She asked me to share with her what I had learned as a midwife to help her on her journey. To help her by shining some light in the dark she was experiencing in her midwifery training, which is a common story for student midwives in the ‘system’. She said I had had so many amazing teachers and that it was actually my responsibility to share, to teach what I had learned. To teach. I felt a spark of light, a quickening, energy build, and a question arises – what have I learned?
I began to gestate the idea of teaching, knowing the benefits I had had of this on my journey with my teachers. My excitement grew as did my doubts – what do I know? How can I teach? There’s so much I don’t know. I can be a midwife, I am a midwife, I am a guide and I can help facilitate the journey within, I can be a shamanic midwife. And so the seed for The School of Shamanic Midwifery, now Womancraft was sown.
Can you tell us more about your brand DNA and ethos at The School of Shamanic Womancraft?
The School of Shamanic Womancraft is a community of women united by a revolutionary impulse for social change and healing to bring forward a new sense of inner authority and inner power for all involved. We are committed to raising consciousness, supporting and reawakening deep feminine wisdom, healing birth and healing the Earth.
We understand and appreciate the interconnectedness of all life and believe that by reclaiming the power, magic and healing potential of the cycles of Nature, a renewed sense of balance and wellbeing can be restored to the Earth and her people.
The School of Shamanic Womancraft welcomes the participation of women of all ages and circumstance. We honour each individual as both student and teacher, able to share equally in the giving and receiving of the community. Eldership and leadership have new healed ways of being, with a unique space created for each woman to know the time for her to personally claim her own Sovereignty.
We respect mothers and their babies and children as the valuable members of our community that they are and seek to hold a strong and supportive space for them. We honour our ancestors and the wisdom of traditional cultures. We value and live according to the wisdom of all the cycles, seeing these as a reflection of our true nature.
Through information sharing, learning experiences and practices, the School of Shamanic Womancraft strives:
- To co-create a safe container for all involved at all times.
- To empower women to have their potential life experience.
- To facilitate the release of past karmic pain and wounding of Herstory.
- To create the opportunity for women to find within themselves the skills and abilities needed to facilitate transformation for themselves and others on their journey.
- To offer an education that honours menstruation, pregnancy, birth, and menopause as the shamanic experiences they are in a woman’s life journey.
- To offer an education that serves to deepen women’s understanding and connection with the natural cycles of the Earth, the moon and their bodies.
- To facilitate, mentor, support, guide and empower women to become leaders and facilitators of this education within their own communities.
- To co-create community between all SSW women that support the work – be that School specific adventures, women’s sharing/exploration in the wider community, or SSW future dreamings.
As an independent midwife, who has been attending home-births since 1984, you must have seen some super incredible things. Any powerful anecdotes to share?
I have a daily yoga and meditation practise. One of the things I do in my meditation is to ask for a vision that will help me best serve whomever of my midwifery clients I feel to focus on that day. Once I am in the quiet, focused place of the meditation, I bring the woman to mind and simply speak to myself the words – I give thanks for a vision of name’s birth so that I may be prepared and able to serve her to the best of my ability. Or alternatively – I give thanks for guidance for the birth of the name’s baby. Sometimes the whole birth movie plays in my head; sometimes just vague images appear. But they always make sense later. One particular vision stands out.
Sarah, a yogini, was pregnant with her second baby. Her first was born in a hospital birth centre after long posterior labour, and she was planning a home-birth for this one on the rural bush property that her family shared with another. In the final month or so of her pregnancy, Sarah decided that she would like to have a free-birth (unattended by a midwife) and asked me if I would come to her home after the baby was born. I love it when women feel the level of trust and confidence to make the choice to give birth without someone outside their partner and support people there. As my beloved teacher, Jeannine Parvati Baker would say, “without a paid professional there to be paranoid for them.”
I was hanging our washing out on the line one day just before Sarah’s baby was born and was visited by a sense of knowing that one day soon when I was hanging out the washing, I would know that the baby was coming. This filled me with loving trust. Not long after, in meditation, I had a vision of seeing Sarah, supported by her husband and another woman walking back up to her house from the surrounding bush, holding her newborn in her arms with the cord still attached to the placenta inside her. She was beaming, the sun was shining, all was good.
So, I thought from my feelings and visions that one day soon I would be hanging out the washing and Sarah would call to say the baby was coming. I would travel to her property and on arrival see her with her newborn emerging from the bush where she had given birth! I shared the vision with Sarah and her husband and they loved it.
At about 3am one morning soon after Sarah called to say she was in labour and wanted me to come. So much for the visions, I thought. I got there and she was having regular contractions every few minutes of moderate strength and the baby’s heartbeat was fine. I rarely do vaginal examinations and estimated that she was about 5 cms dilated – halfway. Several hours later I did check her cervix and found she had a swollen anterior lip (the remaining un-dilated front part of the cervix) and that the baby’s head was in a posterior position. Sarah lay in bed for the next hour or so on the opposite side to the ‘lip’ to take the pressure of the baby’s head off her swollen cervix so she could completely dilate. Her contractions slowed down, the baby was fine but Sarah was getting tired and despondent that the labour wasn’t progressing. I suggested that perhaps she needed to go to the hospital (a 40-minute drive) to get some help. This suggestion provoked a shocked response from her that had her leap out of bed with a second wind and renewed conviction. She said she was going to go for a walk along the creek down in the bush. So Sarah and Mark went off together into the bush with a water bottle. Sarah was doing a special walk to open her pelvis on its diagonal angle to enable the baby’s head to turn from posterior to anterior and move down her vagina to be born. With each step, she lifted her knee up to 90 degrees and then rotated it from the hip outwards (abducted her hip) then put her foot down. This style of walking opens the pelvis on the oblique plane, sideways, and enables the baby’s head to turn toward the front of the mother and move down.
I stayed up in the house with Sarah’s mother and her firstborn. After a while, I was looking out the window and I saw the other man who lived on the property hanging out his washing. I instantly remembered my vision and thought “the baby is coming!” I ran down to the bush track by the creek to join up with Sarah and Mark and Sarah was pushing! The next ten minutes were pretty interesting! I ran back up to the house to find Sarah’s mother and firstborn son and to grab what we needed for the birth. It was a fun few moments in my head when I was figuring out what to get from my birth kit to take back to the bush for the baby’s birth. I realised I had to just grab whatever I could carry in my two hands and get back there in a hurry.
I grabbed the Syntocinon injection, a pair of scissors, and a blanket. The only thing I used was the blanket! Sarah gave birth to Ben, standing up holding on to a tree, with Mark holding her from behind and me on the ground underneath her catching the baby. Her mother and son were watching – the whole scene was magical. Sarah lay down on the blanket with me supporting her and Mark took photos. It was a gorgeous, unseasonably warm day and there we were in the bush with that beautiful dappled light coming through the trees, and a nativity scene! Sarah was awesome, the baby was perfect, everyone was amazed.
After a while, I asked Sarah if she was feeling any contractions or pressure inside from the placenta. She reminded me of my vision of her walking back up to the house holding the baby with the placenta still inside her and said she’d be ready to walk back in a bit. We emerged from the bush into the yard around their house, Mark on one side of Sarah, me on the other, as she carried the baby still connected to the placenta inside her. I looked up at the house and saw her mother there looking down at us. It was her vision, what she saw, that had visited me in my meditation! Sarah came inside the house, so happy and pleased with herself. She gave birth to the placenta on the toilet and then had a shower before settling down into a comfortable place to drink up her baby and what had just happened.
Can you highlight 3 tips to help us to reclaim our feminine wisdom?
First and before my three tips, you need to wake up to the patriarchal culture and its effects on you.
- Heal your menarche (first-period rite of passage) and create a new message to the maiden within you (who is probably in the ‘driver’s seat’ most of the time) and will be operating with the beliefs that your first blood experience taught you – most common is a shame. Menstrual shame leads to body shame, leads to low self-esteem, leads to depression, self-harm, eating disorders, leads to dangerous sexual decision making … etc
- Chart your menstrual cycle and (re)connect with your body and what she is telling you (about you/your lifestyle/your diet/ toxic relationships/your stress levels etc) through your experience of menstruation, and pay attention and make the changes you know you must – ‘or else’ (if you’re on the pill or other hormonal contraception- the bleeding you have is not a real period, its a ‘breakthrough’ bleed from refusing the hormones you take with the sugar pills. If you are taking the Pill, take the sugar pills – the bleeding time – to align with the dark moon so you will be in the lunar cycle)
- Listen to the earth and spend as much time as you can in Nature.
Who does the team involve behind you and The School of Shamanic Womancraft?
Sequoia Krop, Grace Rebecca Funk, Arahni Tua Tao, Zenith Flume, Ayla Myra and all the Graduate Teachers and current Apprentices for the 4 and 8 Seasons Journeys and workshops (let me know if you want all the names – about 30) and others with specific projects eg Project Pomegranate – Kristan Stewart, Global Sanctuaries – Bo Kowalenko and Raven Abulhawa
Where can you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?
Four or Eight seasons (same thing over 2 years) Journeys in UK, France, Germany, Spain, USA, Canada, Brazil, New Zealand, Asia, and all around Australia.
Our Project Global Sanctuaries well on its way – with ‘private hospitals’ for birth and death and education on land growing food and housing the families that are there to give birth or be with their loved ones as they die, basically villages in operation in many places around the planet.
What strategies do you have in place when looking at the expansion of The School of Shamanic Womancraft?
Teaching teachers, raising the Leaders for the future digitalisation of all the teachings so women from anywhere can access them, Patreon subscription.
Can you tell us what areas you have struggled in professionally?
I have struggled with the power over tactics of obstetrics and their fear-based control spell they hold over women.
Have you ever had any other mentor? If so how has this benefitted you to grow?
I trained in Shamanic practices with James M Harvey, aka Blackbear and have had many wonderful teachers including Midwife Maggie Lecky Thompson, Birthkeeper Jeannine Parvati Baker and Teacher, and Author Cedar Barstow.
I carry 3 lineages.
- Homebirth midwifery – ancient wise woman practices passed down the generations that I learned from Maggie Lecky Thompson (Australia).
- EarthSong (Boulder, Colorado, USA) Shamanic Teachings and Practices – that I learned from James Harvey (AKA BlackBear) and Cedar Barstow.
- Shamanic Midwifery – the teachings and insights of the Late Jeannine Parvati Baker (USA).
What outlets do use to market The School of Shamanic Womancraft?
Social media including Instagram, Facebook and flyers/posters and talking/presenting at international and Australian conferences, festivals and events.
Which methods are you using to build your own support network?
My support network is my family and friends and co-workers, and this builds as our relationships do and with our common purpose
What do you believe are the common misconceptions about becoming a woman and how are you using your platform and voice to educate people more?
The usual situation is that our initiation into womanhood – becoming a woman – our menarche – first period – is not honoured nor celebrated and leads to the belief that it doesn’t matter and we should hide it (and for ‘God’s’ sake don’t whatever you do -leak!!!) This form of ‘becoming a woman’ the most common experience leads to the development and maintenance of menstrual shame.
Menstrual shame leads to body shame, leads to low self-esteem, leads to depression, self-harm, eating disorders, leads to dangerous sexual decision making.
So, I am using my voice and ‘platform’ to do all I can to help women and men back from that abyss of lies about being a woman. Especially to reclaim feminine knowledge, wisdom, and power through reconnection with the women’s mysteries and reclaiming and healing our rites of passage and the spiritual practice of menstruation. Removing and healing menstrual shame – which is one of the foundational ‘problems’
What is the best piece of business advice you have received to date?
To focus on the ‘narrow deep niche’ of women who know this work as important and life-changing.
What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned in your career so far?
To trust the process.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
I don’t really, there isn’t enough time! There is so much to do for this revolution. Saying that though, my lifestyle choices support me to be able to do what I do eg I’ve in the country, I eat an organic most paleo diet, and also ketogenic at times. I do chi gong, meditate and go to bed at 930pm every night and I spend a lot of time in Nature.
A seminal point in your career so far?
Starting the School of Shamanic Womancraft.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
When I know I make a difference.
What challenges have you seen to have been presented during the growth of The School of Shamanic Womancraft?
How to grow and maintain the integrity and weaning me out of the school’s offerings so it will live on beyond me.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
Starhawk for her innovative way of bringing permaculture into earth-keeping and Marianne Williamson for running for US president.
How do you define success?
Making a difference and helping heal the wounded feminine and wounded masculine of our patriarchal culture.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
#BEYOUROWN guru/boss and therefore dismantling the ‘cult of the expert.’
Finally, what can we expect from you and The School of Shamanic Womancraft?
So many awesome and exciting things! Transformation, global sanctuaries for our great-great-grandchildren, menstrual and menopause workplace policies apps, and documentary movies. Also graphic novels/comics of a Shero – Female Super Hero series. Then also menstrual education widely available in schools and other institutions.
Patreon Page: https://www.patreon.com/JaneHardwickeCollings