Samhain 2010

janine pavarti bakerWhere to start… I think actually she was the one, the one who helped me put it together, pull it together and really start the life I’d come for. She helped me connect my spiritual life, my shamanic practices with my professional life and my practice as a homebirth midwife. She helped me realise it all belonged together.

I wonder what she thought of me when we first met. She was so gentle with me. But also a bit impatient. I met her in Texas on the floor in a circle. She called the group together at a preconference workshop with the enticing title ‘Shamanic Midwifery’, this was in 1990. We emailed back and forth, long letters about the meaning of life and what the ‘fuck’ was going on. I’ve kept all these emails; it’ll make a great book. ‘Conversations with Jeannine’.

Jeannine stayed with us in Australia on our property in Kangaroo Valley a few times, once alone, once with Halley and Quinn and once with Rico, Halley and Quinn. We shared fun family times together. I especially remember an event they participated in ‘The Mad Hatters Tea Party’ with Jeannine telling stories and Rico playing saxophone. And that night the ‘Spring Ball’, fancy dress come as your inner treasure. I was dressed as a warrioress and she was an Indian Goddess. She was a funny woman, the classic ‘hippy’, sometimes shy and often times brash and as an Australian would say – American! Full of her knowingness and ready to share it with you. Blessed be! And as she would say Blessed Do! And that’s what she was always doing, the Goddess’s work, being and doing.

I was sitting on my veranda in Australia in the rain, full of the news of her death. The brewing storm came on strong, wild winds, thunder and lightning and I cried out in pain and anguish at the devastating loss of one of the greatest human beings I knew. How could we do without her here? Where is the wisdom in this?

Jeannine was, or I should say – is, my mentor, my teacher and my dear, dear friend. She taught me so much. One of the things I loved was her explanation of her lifestyle as an experiment, not a prescription. She called her vision, as she lived it, the ‘possible family’, and the way she nurtured and cared for hers was inspirational. She was so allowing of the ‘all’ and so out there on the edge. ‘Way before her time’. What does that really mean –  she was a pioneer, a way shower, a seer and a revolutionary.

“Do you speak Astrology?” she would ask. Herself so eloquent in the language of the stars, the planets and mythologies.  I’ve often thought if it were possible, ‘Matrix – style’, to download someone’s mind, knowledge into your own, that it would be hers I’d want!
When I wonder what to think, when I’m lost, I conjure two voices in my inner ear, as she would often call it, and I ask: What would Jeannine say? and What would the Dalai Lama say?

I’ve kept all the cards she sent me, the words such rich prayers, the envelopes a work of art. Her music compilations I have and I have loved. Her poetry is outstanding and her writings, her books, such treasures. I said to her often how amazing she was that she had achieved so much, written so much, travelled and taught so much and I compared myself to her at my age and felt so inadequate. She said, ‘but you’ll live longer than me.’

Jeannine worked so hard, tirelessly, travelling and speaking and writing for ‘the cause’. Whatever that was then. She spoke out against harmful environmental practices, against circumcision, and for women’s choices in childbirth, lay midwifery, free birth, and gentle newborn baby care.

It was her ‘word medicine’ that we all loved so much; she called herself a neologist – an inventor of words. God-Us was a great one. And one of the ones most used now is Birthkeeper. Jeannine was a birthkeeper and I give thanks and honour her for that. Jeannine taught me to see the ‘other worldliness’ of birth; she introduced me to the shamanic birth realm. And 19 years after I met her, I started The School of Shamanic Midwifery.

I invoke the spirit of Jeannine at my Pregnancy – The Inner Journey workshops, I have dedicated my book “Ten Moons – the Inner Journey of Pregnancy, Preparation For Natural Birth” to her memory and I am forever quoting her in my presentations. Jeannine lives on in many of us, the ‘Sisters in the Clan of Encouragement’ as she would say. I give such great thanks for having her present, sometimes very present, in the work that I do as Birthkeeper.

I spent a week staying in Joseph, Utah, at ‘Hygeia House’ sitting with Jeannine as she was dying. It was a painful process to watch, so painful. We researched together the possibilities of a liver transplant. This seemed like the only thing that could save her and it was out of her reach. “I’m dying” she said to me. “I know” I replied.
She shared some deep wisdom that week. She said that she had realised the purpose of life – to bring beauty to the world.

Jeannine’s ‘work’ lives on in me and many others, She was and is a constant source of inspiration and encouragement, sometimes I feel like I am ‘channelling’ her! She was, is, an icon, a representation of what’s possible.

She was named as one of the “3 Homebirth Icons”, in a DVD made by another of my mentors Maggie Lecky Thompson for the 24th National Australian Homebirth Conference in 2006. The DVD tells the story of three great women who have greatly influenced homebirth practices all over the world. The other two women featured on the DVD are Dutch Australian Henny Ligtermoet and New Zealand Joan Donley.
Maggie writes: “Jeannine Parvati Baker (1.6.1949 – 1.12.2005) A native born Californian, Jeannine derived her energy from her spiritual beliefs and values to work for women’s health, promoting herbalism and illuminating damaging environmental issues. She was a teacher and an activist, a writer and a midwife. Her books and teaching circles live on to continue her influence and spread her considerable knowledge. Her trips to Australia instilled in her a love of our country and the warm friendships she formed here reflect those she made all over the planet. She remains an inspiration to all women to tread their own unique paths with courage and feminine authority.”

I thank Jeannine for introducing me to the music of Ani di Franco! And for her great questions, the maieutic method and ‘one liners’ that I ask and say over and over.
How does this serve?
The wound reveals the cure.
You birth how you conceived.
Every woman is her own midwife.
And driving out in the dark of night, feeling cold, alone, sometimes nervous and wondering why I do what I do, I would remind myself of my mission so eloquently served up by Jeannine– Heal the Earth one Birth at a Time.

And just recently, due to the wonderful find of one of the School of Shamanic Midwifery students, herself the muse for the school and a self confessed ‘JPB-o-phile’, I had the absolute pleasure to watch a series of YouTube videos of Jeannine and Rico co-presenting at a conference some years ago. It was so lovely to see and hear her again!

Blessed Be and Blessed Do



9 Responses to A Tribute to Jeannine Parvati Baker

  1. Marguerite link Carney

    Thank you for this sharing. I had not realised Jeannine was so present in Australia. Very nice to feel. And thank you for the opportunity to mark the ten years. It seems yesterday I was on the stones of lake Hawea in NZ sending a cloud of all the pink rose petals my garden could offer flowing out over the mirror still reflection of mountains and clouds with tears and celebration, raising my song to add to the crescendo of love that was sending her as high as she wanted to rise in her transition. My one year old helped me to sing her along. I told him about her and what she had said to me. About the doors she had opened. We had candles and sent our prayers and gratitude on the smoke of leaves. I held a big heart stone and filled it with her death force that I could feel embracing the planet in the essence of her wisdom. -I threw it far out into the lake, to ripple out and in. Birthkeepers, birthkeepers, birthkeepers.

  2. Deborah Gutierrez

    I ,too, had the pleasure of meeting Jeannine years ago when she came to Nevada City, California to give a series of workshops on birth and parenting. She was an amazing, courageous, expressive creatrix.
    I heard that she did a circle around the topic of abortion. I remember her speaking about it. Do you have any information about it or know where I can find info about what the circle entailed? I am very curious and would like to offer the circle in my community. Perhaps she wrote about it in HYGIEA?

  3. annie

    thank you so much for writing this. Jeannine had a radical impact on my life as well as the lives of many of us at sonoma state university in the early 70’s. i was thinking of her and googled her to find out what she was up to and just found out she’d died, which almost seems inconceivable for her at such a young age. she was just a few (3) years older than me but we all looked up to her, she was very wise in her early 20’s (which to an 18-19 year old she seemed very experienced, milestones ahead). her ideas were expanded and mingled as a mosaic or marvelous weaving of life and she taught us all about a connectedness we had not previously considered. mostly about the power and magic and beauty of womanhood, in a spiritual way that permeated virtually everything. i will never forget her. she was an early mentor to me. i’ve thought about her many times over the years, many times.

    an interesting feature about her, even in her youth she appeared (and was) wise and had a crone character. beautiful wavy grey hair — as if it followed her from a previous life. and a serene nature even in the most trying times.

    again, thank you for writing this. she left a deep footprint on this planet for our generation.


    annie robbins

  4. Leticia

    Thank you so so much for share! Beautiful post! Jeannine words about the purpose of life “to bring beauty to the world”, makes me cry.

    Blessings for you, Soul Sister!

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  6. Emily catherine

    8 only recently learned of her passing…in long ago years did studies with her and kubler Ross.others.own.self..was of love light..stable home healers..treasures..not knew as lost from ones healing ways warriors..powerful. Healing protectors….I remember story I wrote for her as came true for othetd.some made gain off..women together got with power men world..and old studies ffromthere had been plans to gone to no..austrslis..holy land sacred of lost from…had developed visions comm with spirits..causes of but got too poisoned…was nice you had blessed exp…some ailments had or to escaped..before.neg forces..ones took possessions..mind spirit..research…

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