32 x 42 inches, acrylic on mill paper, circa 1965
“Among the Cree, where these mysterious creatures are described as little men only two or three feet high living inside the rock, the English is “fairy.” Among the Ojibwa various translations run from “ghost,” “spirit,” and “merman,” even to “monkey.” The best rendering in English I could hazard from the scores of descriptions I have listened to would be “Rock medicine Man.” Specially gifted Ojibwa shamans, I was told, had the power to enter the rock and exchange tobacco for an extremely potent “rock medicine.” Many Indians to this day leave tobacco gifts on the ledges or in the water as they pass certain rocks “for good luck,” they usually explain.”
Selwyn Dewdney, 1962
There is no known source for the pictographs of the Great Lakes Region. Red rock, ground to an iron-rich powder, then bound with sturgeon cartilage and bear gut made a concoction that would chemically fuse with the stone it was painted on. Nobody knows how old they are because the paint used on them is so unique it can’t be dated.
The Ojibwe believe that there were legendary creatures, called Maymaygweshiwuk, who lived in the cliffs and had the ability to live both above and below the water. These strange small beings had their own society and were seen at rock painting sites and were credited by some for the actual pictographic paintings. Maymaygweshiwuk were believed to live within the rock face itself where shamans would petition them with their requests.
Legendary Creatures is a 1965 acrylic painting on 32 inch mill paper. It depicts a Maymaygweshiwuk conjuring up a prehistoric rock creature with teeth and claws bared, ready to protect the Anishinaabe against any sorcery or woe. This Maymaygweshiwuk is a shamanic seer, going so far as to look out of the artwork to peer at the audience. One of his feet is clawed yet the other is a merman fin, signifying that the conjurer is equally capable on land or water. The ferocious beast that the Maymaygweshiwuk has conjured up presents no danger to the one dreaming. The beast is there to protect the shaman and safeguard his village, just as the man had hoped and dreamed.
Red oxide inlay glyphs that adorn the man, the beast, and the conjurer, are meant to be read like scrolls. Legendary Creatures is a shamanic vision experienced in the dream-state where a rock medicine man is called into action to conjure up a guardian for the community.
Ritchie Stardreamer Sinclair, 2019