Living WildJane Hardwicke Collings
Jane Hardwicke Collings
Southern Highlands, NSW, AUS
Founder of School of Shamanic Womancraft,
Revolutionary, Visionary, Leader.
Women and their men having all the information
they require, to live the lives they want to live.
Being in service to the Goddess
The Four Seasons Journey from the School of Shamanic Womancraft is the brainchild of Jane Hardwicke Collings, with the first Journey starting in 2008.
Photo credit: Hope Ryan
It’s a year-long process, and I started my Four Seasons Journey in the inaugural Victorian Journey, in December 2016. I am camping with 23 women in the wild, unravelling my hurts and re-wilding my heart. I know that I’m not the same woman I was back then, and the woman sitting here writing this now is but a fleeting one… she will not be the same woman who graduates at the end of the year.
And I give thanks for that transformation to Jane Hardwicke Collings.
Jane started the School of Shamanic Womancraft in New South Wales, Australia and now teaches programs internationally – in Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK, Europe and Canada. When I met Jane for the first time at a Shamanic Dimensions of Pregnancy workshop in April 2017, I was apprehensive. You know how they say, don’t ever meet your idols, for fear of disappointment?
I was not disappointed. Jane is the most down-to-earth, unassuming idol I’m ever likely to meet. It really isn’t all about her, which is handy because one of the aspects of the school I love, is that Jane urges all the graduates to take the material and shape it, to take it out into the world in all our many different ways.
I talked with Jane about so many things; nature, rites of passage, a 7 hour talking circle in France, Human Female 101, biology, her Big Hospital Dream, and how we can start claiming ourselves back.
What are some of the changes you have seen in graduates of the School of Shamanic Womancraft and their families once they begin this work?
The first thing that happens is that relationships shift, because that’s where we are all playing out our stuff – in our relationships, in our bodies, in our menstrual cycles. In many cases, the woman can bring her healed self to the relationship and not be playing games anymore, and to be able to see that for what it was. In situations where women have been in relationships that have not been good for them, these women start to listen to what they had already been saying to themselves the whole time and then go and do something about it.
Another big change happens with children, and you could say the grown-ups catch up with the children. Women realise that their children are their teachers and that firstborns teach us how to be mothers. The interactions with our children are really the frontline where we can really be making a difference forever.
How we mother and how we parent our children is probably the most significant thing we can do.
Also, women who do the Four Seasons Journey realise that a lot of the self-enquiry is about what happened to her during her rites of passage. She learns how significant rites of passage are and that they happen whether they are being consciously conducted or not – whatever happens, is actually the rite of passage. As women realise this, they start to become more involved in supporting the rites of passage with their girls at menarche and their boys at puberty.
Likewise there is more of an honouring around pregnancy and birth – rather than focusing on trying to magic up an orgasmic birth with a dolphin(!), the real opportunity then is for the pregnant woman to do the preparatory organic inner work, while trusting that she will have the birth she needs to have.
Why do you think more and more women are coming to this work?
A lot of the emails we get now are from women saying “I’ve been wanting to do this for years!” So I think it’s a timing thing; often children are little, something has to finish up, or they save up.
Or, word of mouth where the woman who wants to come has seen what her friend has been through and she wants a bit of that!
Many women come because they have deep wounding, a deep distrust in the Feminine and in other women, so it provides an opportunity to be with that too. Women are coming for the Healed Feminine and to feel part of a tribe – there’s a real tribal aspect to the work.
What the school provides, which is absent in many places, is the healed sisterhood, which we are all trying to be by doing it and living it. And it’s challenging because we all come with our stories, but we want to live the Healed Feminine in every moment.
One of the main things this requires is a really strong level of self-awareness and witness perspective. Then you don’t just operate from your wounded defaults, but can be present in the moment and speak and really be who you want to be, and say what you really want to say.
What are some of the stories women might have told themselves before they came in contact with the School?
That a woman is less than, that her body can’t be trusted and that it’s so unpredictable. The menstrual cycle is a curse, that childbirth is dangerous and risky and needs to be controlled by experts. That menopause is a disease and that death is not an option!
And the many deaths in everyday life!
Yeah, the not letting go – to hold on at all costs on to what you know. A lot of women before they get what they get from this program are living in a state of fear, including fear of their bodies.
That shows up in physical symptoms. All you have to do to see how the Feminine is doing, is to look at the stats around menstrual problems and menopause and childbirth. It’s a very sad state of affairs.
What childbirth stats do you mean?
A new study Safe Motherhood for All shows how only 58% of women were happy with their birth experience, and 27% said they did not have the birth they wanted.
Then there are the stats for intervention, forceps and vacuum deliveries, drugs in labour and caesarians.
The World Health Organisation says there should be nothing greater than 10-15% caesarian rate – Australia is now in the high 30s.
Photo Credit Kath Dumas
If the first birth is a caesarian, then it is such a challenge to attempt a vaginal birth after caesarian section for the next birth.
So, it’s so critical for that first birth to be born vaginally. If you need to have a caesarian, then yes please! But if you don’t, it takes you on a different path full of so many booby traps.
At least a third of women in Australia are going into motherhood, through her rite of passage of labour and birth, believing that her body doesn’t work because she didn’t go into labour at the ‘’right time’ – the time according to her obstetrician or the hospital.
Motherhood requires you to have all your mammalian senses and intuition switched on, and these women are starting motherhood believing that their body doesn’t work.
Thank you for talking about birth – no one likes to talk about birth because it brings up their own experiences.
Yes and most of those experiences are unresolved. You know that sad thing that happens when you are pregnant and everyone tells you their horror stories?
That’s an indicator, a signpost of the wounded feminine living the wounded feminine.
She hasn’t had the opportunity to debrief her experience and hidden within that, are great lessons for her about why it all happened the way it happened.
There is the opportunity to go deep into the experience, to look at every fork in the road and see that it was a choice point and it was linked to something from before.
And when women get all of that it’s like “Oh wow! That’s why I do what I do, the way I do it!”
There is so much in our stories – everything that happens to us is a readout of our mindset, our attitudes, our beliefs and our fears.
Can you tell me what starting out looked like back in 2008?
It was in a paddock on my property, in the Southern Highlands in NSW in a beautiful big red tent. It was a camping situation with a little camp kitchen, and there were maybe 15 women and we sat there and began what has now ended up becoming an annual program in many different places.
We called it the Virgin Journey and we really honoured it for that, in the moment, all of the time. It taught all of us about what we were doing, how to tweak it, how to do more or less of certain things, so it was very much the teacher.
That also happens each time – every program teaches us for the next one. It’s constantly in evolution, constantly in flow.
The School of Shamanic Womancraft is kind of like Human Female 101. It’s basic and it’s common sense, but it’s not so common anymore. It’s basic in that it’s what we’ve forgotten to recognize and it all boils down to nature being the teacher.
And not that we are separate to nature – we are the human variety of nature and one of the animals that makes up nature.
But that first time camping was a big thing for me. I never expected to be doing this – about to turn 59 with an international School of Shamanic Womancraft!
I thought I’d would just continue being a homebirth midwife, perhaps still doing the workshops I was already doing around menstruation and preparation for birth.
The School of Shamanic Womancraft came about after a young woman saw me present at one of the national homebirth conferences, where I talked about my practice, philosophies and my awesome opportunity to learn from Jeannine Parvati Baker.
This young midwife told me I had a responsibility to share this information.
Jeannine was dead at this point so there was no more coming out of her, so I really felt like it was a call to action to share what I had learnt already and to bring all the other things – to create a Women’s Mysteries school to help us all reconnect to what is really going on.
The things I was offering and what lead up to it, was what I had learned from being a homebirth midwife for the past 30 years.
A lot of women that I had come to know well through their pregnancy – to the point of being a confidant and knowing about their families and their upbringing – were behaving differently in labour.
When it came to forks in the road in their labour, when it was the time they had to really draw on their inner “whatever”, so often the situation would just take off into directions they would never have wanted.
I saw this time and time again and realised that women had this default thing going on. Their patterned behaviour was showing up in the way they were with their bodies and in labour, and in the way they could let go or not let go.
I realised there was a lot more going on in that moment than just a woman having a baby. It was a culmination of their life so far that was playing out in their birth.
Their experience of menstruation was connected to their birth, their own birth was connected to their birth, and any childhood trauma would be present in every transformation in their life, including birth.
This was very different to how I’d been trained as a midwife, where you could be lead to believe that birth was just this thing that happens. Just this mechanical process, that was dangerous and needed to be watched – but not that it had anything to do with anything else.
Were there some challenges in those early days with the Workshops and the Four Seasons Journey?
The weather was always a big challenge, yet I know that it is ‘just what the group needs’ for that particular time, the shamanic dimensions of the weather! Then there was the challenge of time; the processes and timing everything. As we have gone on, I’m seeing that less is more and that there is much more that happens when we ‘see’ the circle as shaman.
The magic that happens with the group is something that you can’t predict or plan for, but to be fluid so that whatever goes, comes.
For example, when I was doing my first international Four Seasons Journey in France, there were 23 women. They were mostly English women, 9 of them were French and some didn’t speak English, so everything was being translated.
It got to a point, were we had to abandon the program and had a 7 hour talking circle to work out the stuff that was arising between the English women and the French women.
And always being fully aware that they were doing the work for all their relations.
We didn’t finish that night until 4am – I wasn’t expecting that, so that was a real challenge but also incredible and amazing too.
Then there’s the constant challenge with being with women in their process and their pain and knowing that we can’t fix them. Wanting everything to be okay and it may not be.
There’s that challenge of instead of rushing in to fix, to instead open arms and hold and guide. I know that that’s a more useful way, but the challenge of being with women in pain and trauma is big.
To not fix is hard, and women are inherently problem solvers. Do you have any hot tips on how to stop rushing in and trying to fix?
Hot tips would be to trust the process – and to actually know that there is a process.
To surrender and also to notice in the person who is wanting to fix, for her to notice what arises for her in the process and to own one’s own story, motivation and feelings in the process.
It could be a story that comes from her childhood how it’s not okay to cry.
So often that whole fixing other people thing, is about making yourself feel better, and being comfortable in someone else’s grief and not trying to talk them out of it.
Midwifery is such a great teacher for all of this, because you can’t make it all better. You just have to be with what is and offer support.
We finished a gathering recently where there were 59 women – 40 women doing it for the first time, so 19 of us as teachers and apprentices. We were able to be quite hands-on when women required support and we were directed by them.
It’s very similar with being with women in labour. If they could speak, they might say, “Hold me,” or “Get me something.”
If they can’t speak, then it’s important not to trip them into something else or take them away from what they are feeling.
In my experience, the teachers and the apprentices of the School of Shamanic Womancraft do this so well – holding that supportive space, no matter what comes. I know there’s no story of mine that I could ever reveal that could possibly alienate me from the group. I will always be held in love.
So then you feel safe, and when you feel safe, you are able to grow and heal.
When you don’t feel safe you have to protect yourself and so you don’t grow and heal.
That’s the work of Bruce Lipton and his work as a cellular biologist.
He was working on cloning and he found that in the petri dish, cells had open cell walls (semi-permeable membranes) if their environment was not toxic and was safe.
But if there were toxins in the environment the cell walls would close and the cell would go into protection mode.
Humans are a trillion cells – so same, same – if you feel safe, you can grow and learn, and if you don’t, well, then you shut down.
That’s part of the mission in the School, is to create a safe environment and to hold everybody in love.
For women starting to awaken to the idea of women’s mysteries, what are some small actions they can begin to take in their everyday life?
Charting your menstrual cycle is the easiest and most obvious one. Alexandra Pope says “The menstrual cycle is the barometer of your wellbeing.”
Everything that is needing to get your attention will show up in your menstrual cycle, so that’s the place to start.
A way to connect to your body is by how you feel about your blood, how you deal with your blood, and to see that it’s a whole cycle and not just about when you are bleeding.
To understand your cycle is the way to begin.
To chart your cycle, see the rhythm of the cycle, and then, depending where you are in your life, for women to be ready for the next rite of passage that they are going to encounter – whether that’s having a first baby, having another baby, a menarche daughter, a puberty son, or menopause – begin to recognise the impact of the rites of passage and the impact from their previous rites of passage.
Also to connect in with nature and notice what it feels like to live on the earth in the different seasons. Once you connect that, that’s the answer to most things.
The menstrual cycle is the way – it’s actually a portal back into the All, or the Web of Life or the Gaiasphere, or you could say the Goddess – and is a direct plug-in back to all that represents.
For women who connect with their menstrual cycle who haven’t before, it’s like a dawning, an awakening – the curtains are opening to the shamanic dimensions of life and the interconnectedness of everything.
The menstrual cycle as an entity is really sick and is screaming for attention.
The information about how women perceive and experience their menstrual cycles will come out in the Waratah Project. The Waratah Project is a huge research project to look at how women feel about their menstrual cycle and what they do about it, plus endometriosis and menopause. The results will come out in the coming months with recommendations regarding how we can be with these really sad stories that abound around the menstrual cycle in a new healed way. Another way to say that is, it will reveal what the Wounded Feminine looks like and what we can do about it.
Women are starting to realise, “Oh yeah, I have a body. If I don’t look after myself, something is going to happen.”
The menstrual cycle is calling us and it is a way that we can reconnect and notice again the inter-connectedness of everything.
The hospital idea is based on an awareness of the way the system works. There are boxes that need to be ticked in order to provide services. Rather than run and go against that and take everything underground again, as the options for birth just keep decreasing, then why don’t we join that way?
To create within the system a place where women can have the births they want to have, that they would have in their own homes if they could, and be supported with that style of care.
It would be a birth-centre set up, and I know that’s been done before, but the difference here, the biggest dream of this is that it’s a training facility as well. We would train midwives in this style, this way of being with women. We would have the full support of pediatricians and obstetricians who believe in this way. And we know these people exist – but at the moment, they have to duck and put on disguises or they get ostracised.
So, imagine a place where everybody was on the same side?
The woman can have her best potential birth experience – whatever that is – and there is an operating theatre for emergency caesarians, and a full system there for babies that need intensive care.
We are just loving the dream to be the change we want to see in the world and create the facility so everyone could go there.
I don’t know, perhaps it would take a few hundred million dollars? So now we have to figure out how to make that happen. I would just love to imagine these facilities all around the world, a known and trusted brand of care facility that was also a place where all the Well Baby/Well Mother childbirth education would happen.
It’s really about creating the facility that we really want it to be, and the first step is to dream it. I don’t know what the gestation of this is, it might be in my lifetime, it might be in my grandchildren’s lifetime, but it has to happen.
What keeps you going?
As the big umbrella, I am so motivated by a desire for women and their men to have all the information they require to live the lives they want to live. The motivation then comes in realising the places where positive intervention can happen – like at rites of passage, or around the menstrual cycle.
I’m motivated by a desire to shift the paradigm, to help and participate in the evolution that is required for the re-volution.
But when the pendulum swings, before it turns back in the other direction, it swings as far out as it can go. In nature, everything looks dead in winter and then the spring comes.
Stuff needs to happen in so many places, and on so many levels things need to change – like sexualisation of childhood and the pornophication of our culture.
We need to do things differently, and women’s circles can be a way to recreate the heart and hearth of community – because community is what is required. Women’s circles are step one in recreating community.
And, I’m motivated to heal the mother on every level. The way our culture treats the earth is not okay, the way mothers are treated, the way the menstrual cycle is perceived – all of that needs to change.
I think its pretty simple, we’re really just needing to find respect – respect for each other and the earth and all the animals etc, to heal the wounded feminine and the wounded masculine so that we can heal the wounds of our patriarchal culture.
At my first workshop with you, I was stunned by your dare at the start of the circle, daring us to not judge another woman. Can you tell me more about the power of the idea of no judgment and how it came to be?
Well I think we are encouraged to judge and that creates the Us and Them thing which creates the isolation, or at least part of it.
The first thing to understand behind the ridiculousness of judgment, is that knowing, that everyone is on a journey and they are making the choices they need to make. It could be so they understand that they had another choice; it could be so it leads them over there, because that’s the next place they need to be.
Everybody’s choices are the ones they need to make, even if they were coerced.
I think judgement comes from the perspective that we live in a culture of blame – we are encouraged to hand over responsibility all the time. So then you can’t be held accountable for your choices, because someone else made them for you. If you are feeling dis-empowered, that could be because of the culture of the expert and not having to take personal responsibility.
Also, there are so many options around how to care for ourselves in women’s health. How you take care of your blood, how you flow with the cycle, or not. How you birth, how you conceive, what your contraception is – there are so many options! A lot of women make choices without all the information, and a big part of this work is helping to share the information and education so women can make informed decisions about what they are doing.
For example, do they really know all the effects of the pill?
Or with birth, if you set yourself up with a specialist obstetrician, (because that’s what many women do, thinking its the best possible care they can get), then look at the stats. There’s a A + B = C thing going on here, where this leads to that.
Everybody is making the choice they need to make so judging them just creates pain for everybody and is not necessary.
It might not be what you would choose to do but just let that be, and think “Wow that’s not what I would choose.”
Part of the problem of the wounded feminine is making people wrong. No one is wrong. No one is broken.
Jane, if you were in a position to lead a group of women, to lead them into a life more wild, a life more feminine, what would your battlecry be?
I’m not sure I should say this, but the battle cry I already use now is…
Find Jane on Instagram, @janehcollings
and on her four websites:
Jane has written a number of books available at Apple Tree House.
If you are drumming for and by yourself, you may find it easier with a recording – take a look at Jane’s Shamanic Drum Journey recordings.
I need to hear more stories about strong women leading beauty-filled and spiritual lives, and so I created Empress Crow and Rabbit. It’s a forum to showcase the inspirational stories of women in uniquely feminine careers. It's also a bridge between what we think we know and what we feel is right. Thank you for joining me – let’s all learn, grow and celebrate the feminine together.
Photo credit: Lucy Spartalis