[Home]Malleus Maleficarum

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The Malleus Maleficarum ("The Hammer of Witchcraft") was the classic witch-hunters manual, published in 1487. It was compiled by two Dominican friar?s, Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer, and prefaced by the [papal bull]? Summis desiderantes that had been issued by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484?.

The book begins with a discussion of the nature of witchcraft. Women, by their weaker nature and inferior intellect, were naturally more prone to the lure of Satan. Some things confessed by witches, such as animal transformations, were mere delusions induced by the devil to ensnare them; other acts were real, such as causing storms and destroying crops. On the question of whether demons could father children on witches, they came to an ingenious conclusion. Demons could not possibly father children themselves, but a demon in the form of a succubus could collect semen, which would then be used later by the same demon in a male form to impregnate the witch - demonic artificial insemination. The style is totally serious, and utterly humourless: one section quotes a story that is plainly an anti-clerical joke as if it were a real ocurrence.

The next section deals with the methods of dealing with witches. It covers how much belief to place in witnesses' testimonies, the need to eliminate malicious accusations, and the reassurance, that as representatives of God, the witch can have no power over the authorities investigating her. It covers details of how to elicit confessions, including the sequence of torture and questioning to be used.

The book is notorious for its use in the witchhunts, but its main influence was as a codification of existing beliefs and practices.

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Last edited November 27, 2001 8:45 pm by Magnus Manske (diff)