“Gossip-Craft”: What is it?
How many times have we walked into conversations that start with something like, “Did you hear what happened at the coffee shop yesterday between Sue and Rob?” Most people at least initially are curious about what happened. A quick look at broadcast shows will bring a plethora of gossip programs. The supermarket is full of magazines that are primarily about he said, she said, they were, for celebrities.
Well, what exactly is it?
Individuals across the globe have participated in and been the subject of, gossip. According to dictionary.com at one time a Gossip was a friend, usually female, in some British dialects it once defined a godparent.
Today, however, it is best described as:
idle talk or rumor, esp. about the personal or private affairs of others, light, familiar talk or writing, Also, gossiper, gossipper. a person given to tattling or idle talk.
In the strictest sense, every person who interacts with another individual is one who partakes in some conversations along these lines. In all spiritual disciplines and religions, this is considered at least bad form, and sometimes downright destructive to the well being of the subject of the information and the person relying the information.
When an individual becomes very experienced, and utilizes this mode of information giving as a means to manipulate another, THIS is Gossip-Craft.
A look at Gossip
Many individuals who have crossed my path have been veritable experts in spreading character assassination of those who they perceive as easy targets or potential competitors for what they perceive as their territory. This territory can be seekers, fellow workers of a particular healing discipline, fellow card readers, ministers, workers, other covens, and organization members.
Some of these individuals are so self deluded that they feel that spreading this information is their DUTY, and they are standing up, to show how bad another practitioner is, whether they have investigated, experienced, or even spoken to anyone who has participated in the practice with the individual they are berating is immaterial, they KNOW the person is “bad news”.
However, as is often the case, experts in gossip craft, sometimes deliberately speak against individuals who as we said earlier, they perceive as a threat to their group, pocketbook, or organization. Especially in the case of organizations where an individual is successful at what they do, when the gossip expert does NOT want that particular success because of their personal opinion. These opinions are actually based on low self esteem, and fear of people finding out they are NOT what they profess to be, or against their personal wishes for a particular organization.
Now, it is true that there are unscrupulous individuals that proclaim themselves as experts in particular fields, and upon due diligence it is determined that their claims are invalid. When such an individual is “exposed” this is NOT gossip. However, even individuals who are deliberately misleading other individuals are still human and it is the WAY one discusses these claims, and exposes them that determines whether one is participating in Gossip – Craft or being appropriately protective.
It has been my personal experience as a Spiritual Counselor that both appropriate and inappropriate “concern” is prevalent in our society. Patricia Crowther in her book “High Priestess” tells of one individual who spoke with authority of his initiation into the Sheffield Coven, and utilized this “lie” to show his credentials and expertise. This particular individual was quite destructive to the Craft of the Wise with his sensationalist and carnival type act, and it was only with appropriate, non confrontational, strictly factual answers to just the fact that he had never been initiated into that particular coven, that the individual was exposed (69-74) .
In another case, an individual proclaims that he is a “Teacher of Witchcraft” and utilizes his elevation in a particular tradition as a way to justify his “teaching” ability. This particular individual was never elevated to a sufficient rank within that particular tradition to be a teacher of that tradition. When a seeker, doing due diligence, asked a particular yahoo group, about the individual, it was suggested that the seeker, contact directly the coven that the individual proclaims to be elevated from, and make her own determinations.
As it turned out, the teacher soon revealed that he had only received the first level of training and was actually teaching an eclectic version of the craft NOT that particular tradition. This was handled WITHOUT rancor, and all was well. As no one in the yahoo group had ever had any contact with the individual, as the “facts’ were brought out, the moderators made sure that ONLY facts, and not opinions were published. This has allowed all concerned to walk away with no hard feelings or damage to the seeker.
Spiritual and Religious Views of Gossip
In Judaism there are ten rules of Shmiras Haloshon, or Right Speaking. These are based on the work of the Chafetz Chaim, a great Jewish scholar of the 19th century. These rules are as follows:
1. It is Loshon Hora (evil speaking) to convey a derogatory image of someone even if that is true and deserved. (False derogatory statements are called Moitzi-Shem-Ra)
2. A statement, which is not actually derogatory but can ultimately cause someone physical, financial, or emotional harm, is also Loshon Hora.
3. It is Loshon Hora to humorously recount an incident that contains embarrassing or damaging information about a person even if there is not the slightest intent that they should suffer any harm or humiliation.
4. Loshon Hora is forbidden even when you incriminate yourself as well.
5. Loshon Hora cannot be communicated in any way, shape, or form (i.e. through writing, body language, verbal hints, etc.) .
6. To speak against a community as a whole is a particularly severe offense. Harmful remarks about children are also Loshon Hora.
7. Loshon Hora cannot be related even to close relatives, including one’s spouse.
8. Even if the listener has previously heard the derogatory account or the information has become public knowledge and the subject will suffer no further harm by its repetition, it nevertheless should not be repeated.
9. R’Chilus (telling one person derogatory statements that another person said about them) is forbidden because it causes animosity between people.
10. It is forbidden to listen to Loshon Hora or R’Chilus. If someone inadvertently hears Loshon Hora, it is forbidden to believe that it is true. One should give the person the benefit of the doubt. Assume the information is inaccurate or that the person does not realize they are doing something wrong.
Notice that in rule ten it states that one must NOT BELIEVE negative information. This is a great example of doing one’s due diligence in determining for oneself character, expertise, or training of a particular individual.
In the New Testament (Titus 3:2 – NIV version) it states: to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. According to John Wesley, a reformed theologian of the 18th century, in his sermon The Cure of Evil Speaking, states that evil speaking, (gossip) , is:
.. neither more nor less than speaking evil of an absent person; relating something evil, which was really done or said by one that is not present when it is related. Suppose, having seen a man drunk, or heard him curse or swear, I tell this when he is absent; it is evil-speaking. In our language this is also, by an extremely proper name, termed backbiting. Nor is there any material difference between this and what we usually style tale-bearing. If the tale be delivered in a soft and quiet manner (perhaps with expressions of good-will to the person, and of hope that things may not be quite so bad, ) then we call it whispering. But in whatever manner it be done, the thing is the same; — the same in substance, if not in circumstance. Still it is evil-speaking; still this command, “Speak evil of no man, ” is trampled under foot; if we relate to another the fault of a third person, when he is not present to answer for himself.
In fact, Rev Wesley goes on to say that the biblical dictum for the “cure” to evil speaking is to go directly to the person and speak to them directly of the issue. NOT spread it all over town. Of course, if it is only your supposition, or your own thoughts, and no particular incident is at the root, then perhaps one should examine ones OWN issues, lessons, and insecurities. In other words, what are YOU hiding behind!
According to Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami in an article that was published by Hinduism Today (2001) he states:
One of the greatest spiritual laws is saucha kriya, doing good… Therefore, we teach, “Think before you speak, and speak only that which is true, kind, helpful and necessary.” This is very, very difficult for most people to do. Like those who swear, those who gossip and backbite do not think. They pick up the low, seething vibrations of the instinctive mind of everyone around and, like stovepipes, emanate the smoke of the fire that is going on underneath.
Gossiping is like scratching an itch. Something is antagonizing your mind, so you gossip, and you go on and on and on until somebody changes the subject for you, or until somebody does something else that you can gossip about…that’s all they are, the dissipation of your great, God-given inner power. Anyone will tell you that to dissipate your energy is bad for you, but you do that when you gossip…Gossip invokes the asuric beings on the lower astral plane and makes new karmas for the gossiper, who will be gossiped about in the future when the karmas return.
Let’s paint another picture. When you defile others, mentally and verbally, through backbiting gossip about the happenings in their lives, you are hurting them. You are actually making it difficult for them to succeed, to even persist where they are. They sense, they feel, the ugliness that you are projecting toward them.
So we see that in Hinduism it is also taught that Gossip-Craft is not good. It is a low self tool, and one that points to one’s OWN deficiencies.
In Wicca we have the Wiccan Rede (Celtic version) which in its entirety (from Wicca.com) is:
The Wiccan Rede (Full Version)
“Bide within the Law you must, in perfect Love and perfect Trust. Live you must and let to live, fairly take and fairly give.
For tread the Circle thrice about to keep unwelcome spirits out. To bind the spell well every time, let the spell be said in rhyme.
Light of eye and soft of touch, speak you little, listen much. Honor the Old Ones in deed and name, let love and light be our guides again.
Deosil go by the waxing moon, chanting out the joyful tune. Widdershins go when the moon doth wane, and the werewolf howls by the dread wolfsbane.
When the Lady’s moon is new, kiss the hand to Her times two. When the moon rides at Her peak then your heart’s desire seek.
Heed the North winds mighty gale, lock the door and trim the sail.
When the Wind blows from the East, expect the new and set the feast.
When the wind comes from the South, love will kiss you on the mouth.
When the wind whispers from the West, all hearts will find peace and rest.
Nine woods in the Cauldron go, burn them fast and burn them slow. Birch in the fire goes to represent what the Lady knows.
Oak in the forest towers with might, in the fire it brings the God’s insight. Rowan is a tree of power causing life and magick to flower.
Willows at the waterside stand ready to help us to the Summerland.
Hawthorn is burned to purify and to draw faerie to your eye.
Hazel-the tree of wisdom and learning adds its strength to the bright fire burning.
White are the flowers of Apple tree that brings us fruits of fertility.
Grapes grow upon the vine giving us both joy and wine. Fir does mark the evergreen to represent immortality seen.
Elder is the Lady’s tree burn it not or cursed you’ll be. Four times the Major Sabbats mark in the light and in the dark.
As the old year starts to wane the new begins, it’s now Samhain. When the time for Imbolc shows watch for flowers through the snows.
When the wheel begins to turn soon the Beltane fires will burn. As the wheel turns to Lamas night power is brought to magick rite.
Four times the Minor Sabbats fall use the Sun to mark them all. When the wheel has turned to Yule light the log the Horned One rules.
In the spring, when night equals day time for Ostara to come our way.
When the Sun has reached it’s height time for Oak and Holly to fight.
Harvesting comes to one and all when the Autumn Equinox does fall. Heed the flower, bush, and tree by the Lady blessed you’ll be.
Where the rippling waters go cast a stone, the truth you’ll know. When you have and hold a need, harken not to others greed.
With a fool no season spend or be counted as his friend. Merry Meet and Merry Part bright the cheeks and warm the heart.
Mind the Three-fold Laws you should three times bad and three times good.
When misfortune is enow wear the star upon your brow.
Be true in love this you must do unless your love is false to you.
These Eight words the Rede fulfill:
“An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will”
Of course, the last two lines are those that each Wiccan, and member of the Craft of the Wise utilizes: An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will. Let us apply this to evil speaking, or Gossip-Craft. Does not each word go against the Rede?
The Ripple Effect of Gossip-Craft
Regardless of your spiritual or religious proclivities it is obvious that there are admonitions and warnings against speaking Gossip. In fact, for some it is paramount to murder. One particular story told by the Chafetz Chaim stands out as a great example of what I call the Ripple Effect:
“One day two Rabbis were having dinner in a restaurant. The owner of the Restaurant came over to the table and asked the two men how they were enjoying their meal. The first rabbi stated that all was wonderful. The second Rabbi said that the food could use a little salt.
The first Rabbi stated that the second Rabbi had just spoke Loshon Hara against the cook. Of course, the second individual said this was nonsense as all he did was give an opinion from his own perspective, therefore he was being truthful.
The two men stood up and went to the kitchen. When they arrived the owner of the restaurant was berating the cook for preparing bad food for the two great rabbis’. The cook got upset and started to speak angrily to the owner, which resulted in the cook quitting and leaving the restaurant.
The story goes further by saying that upon following the cook home, he told his wife he had quit for being insulted, and the wife got angry with her husband for being bull headed, and egotistical. They continued to fight until the man began to say some very disparaging things to his wife, and she locked the door in his face.”
Can we see the chain of events here?
Not withstanding that the restaurant owner, cook, and cook’s wife all could have chosen different responses to the original statement, the Ripple Effect of the original TRUE statement, from the perspective of the original speaker had some part in the loss of job, loss of family for several individuals. Imagine if the second Rabbi would have told several people that the food at the restaurant needed more salt! How many ripples might come from that!!
This shows in an extreme way the effects of TRUE speaking. Let us imagine what happens when one deliberately speaks ILL of another. In business we are taught that for every negative experience a customer has, it takes five good experiences to overcome them.
In the craft, entire covens are destroyed by what is called Wiccan Wars. This is where one set of individuals speak ill against another set of individuals within the craft. Usually, BOTH groups are affected.
In organizations, the same thing occurs, even amongst those individuals who are not directly part of the situation, particularly in a volunteer organization, the fall out in insidious. Many people on the fringe of the “powerful” and even some individuals who have been working diligently for the organization, leave, never a good thing for any organization.
As an individual I have worked diligently to not speak ill of another individual, even in the face of gossip. While, I too, am human, I take solace in the fact that by “staying in the light”, or staying positive, truth eventually comes out to the detriment of the member of Gossip Craft.
Conclusion and Summary
Staying in the light, running away from gossip, not engaging in it, listening to it, or spreading it, is the only way to stop the spread of the practice of Gossip-Craft. It has no place in spirituality, or in relationship with whatever manifestation of God (ess) one follows.
It is damaging most of all to the bearer of the tales, because eventually, the weight of evidence turns against them, and then THEY become the object of further gossip, or lose the very thing they were trying to protect.
Stay true to oneself and to one’s spiritual path. Remember:
“An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will”
“To dissipate your energy is bad for you, but you do that when you gossip”
“To slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men””
“It is Loshon Hora (evil speaking) to convey a derogatory image of someone even if that is true and deserved. (False derogatory statements are called Moitzi-Shem-Ra) “
Or dare I say,
Do unto others as you would have done to you
That’s right. The Golden Rule. It just makes sense.
Note: This article was posted originally in Witchvox in January of 2010. It is reprinted here with permission
Alfred Willowhawk is one of the founders of the Wite Rayvn Metaphysical Church of the Ozarks – ATC. He is also a professor at the Woolston-Steen Theological Seminary.