I learned of the word “foisin” and it’s esoteric meaning through Joshua Cutchin’s work on food exchange between humans and various entities of uncertain ontological status. Foisin refers to the subtle strength, power or nourishment present in a food item. For example, if milk has been left out for the fairies and accepted by them as an offering, a human may consume that milk but will receive no benefit from it – even if it appears fresh and wholesome – as the foisin has been consumed by the fae.
I appreciated this vocabulary lesson as I had run across this concept in various traditions but never stated so succinctly. Foisin comes into play in a sub-species of divination, namely how to determine if an offering has been accepted.
Yesterday I was gardening out in the side yard. My project last afternoon was to take advantage of the shade and deadhead and tie up some climbing roses. Flotsam accumulates here, and about a month ago I noticed on the ground a piece of rope which had fallen into the shape of a heart. It charmed me to see it, so I never threw it in the trash.
I worked steadily when suddenly a shadow caught my eye – I followed it’s trace to find myself face to face with a mourning cloak butterfly, resting on the lathe maybe 18” from me. I only admired it for a few seconds when it took off and I couldn’t see where it went. I did see that I had roses in my hand and a heart at my feet, and thus twigged to the presence of a certain Greek lady who I fondly hope looks upon my work with favour.
Given the abundance of appropriate offerings so near to hand, it would’ve been shockingly rude for me not to sacrifice a few roses in gratitude. I left them near the rope heart.
This morning, foisin had obviously gone out of the roses – but they were left in hot weather with no water, of course they would shrivel. That’s not much of a sign pointing to foisin ‘feeding’ our butterfly lady.
However, for the first time in a month, some nocturnal creature had pulled the heart shape out of the rope. The teachers who I knew would consider this a sign that the offering had been accepted.
Notes on Symbolism:
Psyche’s symbol is the butterfly, and I personally associate her especially with the mourning cloak butterfly (who shows up on this blog’s header image). Both Psyche and Eros went through a period of mourning when they were separated, and their relationship was ‘cloaked’ from most of the Greek pantheon, conducted literally in the shadows. Indeed, for the first part of their romance Eros’s very identity was hidden from Psyche.
Closer to home, I smelt skunk in the garden yesterday morning, for the first time in at least a year. I love skunks, they lived near my old house and I miss having them around. In many North American traditions, skunks are associated with sexuality.