“In this painting, seven snakes envelop the artist. A Freudian interpretation would read the snakes as phallic symbols. In Christian tradition, snakes are associated with evil. Yet given Morrisseau’s cultural background, an intersection of meanings is central to understanding this imagery. In Anishinaabe culture, the snake is not always a signifier of evil: as early twentieth-century ethnomusicologist Frances Densmore noted in her field research of the Anishinaabe, snakes also have powers to heal the sick and were used in mide rites of the Midewiwin religion.
“The number seven, too, is significant. In Christianity, it signifies spiritual perfection and completeness. As Anishinaabe scholar Edward Benton-Banai points out, this number is highly emblematic for the Anishinaabe: seven fires, seven original clans, and seven generations. Seven also denotes spirituality, completeness, and redemption.” — Carmen Robertson, excerpted from Norval Morrisseau: Life & Work