Love Medicine

Once labeled Erotic, this section highlights how sexual works are repositioned within larger, relational forms of passion. Morrisseau’s gender fluidity is expressed in his concept of Love Medicine.

Introduction from Michelle McGeough

Michelle McGeough


Michelle McGeough provided audio commentary for several works by Norval Morrisseau in the section related to Love Medicine. Along with Anishinaabe knowledge keepers, Michelle was involved in conversations about reconsidering Morrisseau's spiritual works beyond the confining label of "erotics".

Originally from Amiskwaciwâskahikan, Michelle McGeough is a Métis scholar, curator, artist and an Assistant Professor at Concordia University. She is a member of the Morrisseau Project: 1955-1985 research team. Michelle has done research and written about Morrisseau's Love Medicine works of art.

The Ojibwe of the Lake Nipigon area would go to a frog pond in early spring, and if a man saw two mating frogs he would make a sharp pointed stick and try to pierce them together without separating them and would say,

In the same manner that you are enjoying together, let me be loved by the woman that I desire to be loved by. The two frogs would be dried in that position and when the Indian tired of his partner he would hit the frogs apart and the love-spell would release its hold on her.

Norval Morrisseau, Legends of My People: The Great Ojibway, 1965, p. 56.
This quote by Norval Morrisseau is read by Logan Fiddler, Great-grandson of Norval Morrisseau, 2023. 


Norval Morrisseau, Artist Spearing Two Mating Frogs to Put on Love Spell, 1975.


Norval Morrisseau, Apprentice, 1980.

Norval Morrisseau, Shaman, 1980.

I think all shaman are homosexual or bisexual…I want to be a shaman and an artist… As far as sex is concerned I did everything under the sun.

Norval Morrisseau, Art of Norval Morrisseau, 1979, pp 42-46.


Norval Morrisseau, Artist in Union with Mother Earth, 1972.

The erotica of Morrisseau deserves a special place among his works. His concepts of sexuality are further proof of the artist’s vibrant and fertile imagination.

Jack Pollock and Lister Sinclair, Art of Norval Morrisseau, 1979, p. 89.

Artist shaman and Apprentice

Some of the red onaman sand was used for love medicine and other sand that was light coloured red was mixed with grease and used for a medicine rub for rubbing on the affected parts of the body.

Norval Morrisseau, Legends of My People: The Great Ojibway, 1965, p. 53.

Norval Morrisseau, Artist Shaman with Apprentice, 1979.

Sacred Bear

Norval Morrisseau, Sacred Bear Ancestral Figure, 1969.

Morrisseau’s Sacred Bear expresses the transformational power of shifting between human and bear form by rendering this figure with one human leg and hand and a bear leg, arm, and head. Morrisseau uses line to denote power and energy. The power of the phallus is prominent, as are the hearts of both the bear and the spirit figure that emerges from the sacred phallus. The artist draws the sacred bear's heart just below his head, prominently displayed above the horned spirit figure. Energy lines capture the dynamism of the transformational process underway.

Morrisseau created this work for the exhibition at St. Paul de Vence in 1969.

Love medicine teachings explore carnal relationships within the larger understanding of kinship and relationality in Morrisseau’s art.


Twenty years after Morrisseau created Sacred Bear in 1969, he did this complex drawing that includes similar interconnected relationships to shamanism and transformation. The phallus remains a prominent device in this work that expresses the complexity of the concept of love medicine.

Morrisseau’s drawings typically include far more detail than his painted images do. It is in his drawings that we can more deeply explore his interconnected ways of seeing and visual storytelling.

Norval Morrisseau, Untitled (Sexual Shaman Communication/Erotic Man with Bear Spirit), 1988.


Norval Morrisseau, Untitled (Phallic Shaman), 1989.

Morrisseau presents a shaman with a powerful phallus that is surrounded by seven phallic symbols connected by line and colour. The background includes the two shades of blue to visually express the spiritual nature of this union.


During the final years of his career, Morrisseau continued to explore sacred and sexual relations. This work includes the two shades of sacred blues gifted to Morrisseau, and in this work, a sacred bear transformation is part of this union.

Norval Morrisseau, Untitled (Two Men Blues), 1991.

Norval Morrisseau, Untitled (Male and Female Blues), 1991.

In this painting created in the early 1990s, Morrisseau returns to the concept of love medicine involving male and female union. The figures are enveloped with flora and fauna. The background colour shifts from darker to lighter blues, acknowledging the sacred colours gifted to the artist.

Back to top