Gray Cells has a few subtle and not so subtle references to mythology sprinkled throughout as well as some icons that have a hidden meaning. Although our story is more grounded than fantastical (there aren’t Gods and Monsters) we wanted to incorporate some of these ancient visuals to give the sense that the events of the story could have occurred throughout history. Here are a few that we wanted to call out and add some explanation to.
Throughout the story you’ll see this appear whenever a psychic uses their powers. The connection between the eye and the mystical pops up frequently in mythologies around the world, whether it is Norse Oden sacrificing an eye to gain wisdom, the three Graeae sharing an eye in Ancient Greece, or the Egyptian Eye of Horus which is said to have protective magical power.
Kay’s design for our magical eye is largely inspired by the Eye of Horus and the Turkish Nazar but it’s meaning is closer to the Eastern tradition of the Third Eye. In India, this is the Ajna Chakra, a gateway to higher consciousness. In Taoism, focusing on this during meditation allows practitioners to tune into the vibration of the universe. Visions, clairvoyance, and precognition are all associated with the Third Eye.
Our villain is a child abductor who can alter his appearance and the reality around him. In Slavic mythology, a Vodyanoy is a water spirit who drowns people who anger him. Local unexplained disappearances were often attributed to Vodyanoy.
Frogs and toads are also deeply associated with transformation in reality and mythology. Not only do the transform from tadpoles to their final form, they also live between two worlds, the water and the land. To the Chinese, they are associated with the moon and often appear in legends as magicians or tricksters. The same with the Celts who saw frogs as related to magic and witchcraft.
The Aztec Goddess Tlaltecuhti was the Goddess of Death (and rebirth), consuming souls as they passed to the afterlife. Frog toxins are used for weapons in like the Amazonian poison arrow tree frog, and also as psychedelics like the cane toad and the Colorado River toad.
Frogs aren’t inherently villainous though and are highly revered in some cultures. For the Ancient Egyptians, they represented the annual flooding of the Nile and other river based civilizations likewise saw the abundance of frogs as a positive. Though our Frogman is a villain, he’s chosen a form he thinks will put his victims at ease.
For most of the story, he is obscured, either in his frog form, or hidden in shadow. Only as young Josh attempts to break free from his control do we see snippets of his true appearance.
Mind control potions
What makes Frogman so dangerous is his ability to alter how people see reality and the environments he creates hint at how things are not all as they seem. In this page from part two, we see Frogman attempting to win young Josh over by taking him to his “wonderland”.
Jimson weed can be seen among the plants. The Algonquian, Aztecs, Navajo, Cherokee, and Luiseño used this plant in their rituals for its hallucinogenic properties. In Ethiopia it’s known for its ability to make the mind more receptive to learning and Haitian voodoo priests are said to use it to create zombies.
Scopolia is also there which was used by medieval witches for its ability to stupefy its victims and alter memories. The mushrooms are Fly Agaric, known for their hallucinogenic properties and used by Sami shamans in their rituals as well as to help Santa Claus fly, and Nintendo to power-up Mario.
Spot the symbols
Read part one of Gray Cells for free online before the book launches on Kickstarter.