Intuiting Norval Morrisseau

We have a number of jewelry pieces in the “Gallery on the Lake” in Buckhorn, Ontatio.

From time to time they also sell one of my Medicine Pouches there  and so the gallery owner knows about my work as a shaman.

Shamanism, the Spirit World of his people and their lore and legends also were the main focus of  Native artist Norval Morrisseau’s art and several of his paintings are still available through this gallery.

Recently I was asked  by the owner to look at 2 of  the paintings of Morrisseau and write a short intuitive interpretation of what I see.

Here is, what I submitted:

Intuitive interpretation

Mi-Shell Jessen, Shaman, Healer, Educator, Artist

In his familiar highly stylized format, the Artist, Norval Morrisseau depicted 2 indigenous persons looking up.

The artist was himself deeply immersed in the shamanistic worldview of his people, the Anishnabe of Northwestern Ontario.

The painting reflects the color schemes of his people: primary colors, reds, greens, blues, yellows with black lines surrounding them.

The mouth of any Being depicted, is emphasized as the most important part, as it “speaks about the Spirit” of the Being, shows its  soul, while the eyes are seen as the windows (pools) into its soul.
Since the painting is called Shaman People I feel save to say, that we are looking at 3 shamans, looking in the same direction. The colors are light with yellow in the uppermost corner, which I feel, indicates they are looking at the morning sun, watching the sun rise and may very well be chanting their Morning Prayers to Gemnedoo, Great Spirit.

I find it very meaningful, how the 3 shamans are placed on the painting. It reminds me of the universal concept of the 3 worlds:

Lower World =the realm of the ancestors, of instinct, the unconscious, the realm where a shaman journeys (on his / her song l chant ) to find answers to problems and also learn of a cure for illness

Middle World =The realm of Man the natural world, Mother Earth, Father Sky and all the human and
none human relations of man (Four Leggeds, Winged Ones, Swimmers, Shape Changers = insects, the   Rock People the Green People, the Standing People…..)

Upper World: The realm of the archetypal Manitous, guides and teachers, that advise every shaman.

Might we here look at 3 Medicine People chanting the same song

– or is there a shaman calling his I her Spirit helpers and we see a Spirit from each of the 3 realms answering the call?

Painting “Inorganics”

Keeping in mind the mentioned background of the artist and his interest in shamanism as well as the title of the painting “Inorganics” I feel save to say, that we are here looking at a Spirit Being. It is partly human, partly Bear and partly Bird.

The human head, again with prominent mouth and eye is the human striving ever upwards to and beyond the limits of human knowledge and experience. The 2 Bird / allies give the shaman the ability to fly into any of the 3 previously mentioned realms, one looking up, one looking back from where the Spirit being originated. The most intriguing Spirit part however is the Bear, huge, heavy, fierce facial features, it speaks of the weight of the animal instinct, of the body, of the fierceness of the emotions and of the essentially earth-bound human existence.

Maqua, the Bear is the Power of the unconscious, the dreaming, the wisdom within our dreams, the inner teachings we all carry. But Maqua is also the fierce powerful healer, that gives the wisdom about healing plants to his human brothers and sisters, the one invited into the Midewewin Healing lodge.

The larger Bird in front is looking back upon the weighty earth-bound Maqua. He reminds me of Zhashagi, the Heron, mighty clan totem of the Anishnabe, the leader of the way, but also the pragmatist that keeps order within the circle.

While Zhashagi keeps order there is Gigiganenshii’, the Chickadee, who is the bringer of joy and spontaneity.

The red center of the painting may very well be the standing for heart.

I venture to say, that the Spirit Being we see here is the human soul with all its parts well integrated and on its flight into the light of the setting sun.


More about Norval Morrisseau:

Gallery on the Lake: