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Theology and popular belief

The Malleus Maleficarum is one of the best-known treatises dealing with the problem of what to do with witches. Written in 1487 by a Dominican inquisitor, Heinrich Institoris, following his failure to prosecute a number of women for witchcraft, it is in many ways a highly personal document, full of frustration at official complacency in the face of a spiritual threat, as well as being a practical guide for law-officers who have to deal with a cunning, dangerous enemy. Combining theological discussion, illustrative anecdotes and useful advice for those involved in suppressing witchcraft, the treatise's influence on witchcraft studies has been extensive. The only previous translation into English, that by Montague Summers in 1928, is full of inaccuracies. It is written in a style almost unreadable nowadays, and is unfortunately coloured by Institoris's personal agenda. This new edited translation, with an introductory essay setting witchcraft, Institoris and the Malleus into clear English, corrects Summers' mistakes and offers an unvarnished version of what Institoris actually wrote. It will undoubtedly become the standard translation of this controversial late medieval text.

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uniformity of discourse in subsequent witchcraft debate. Almost immediately, authors of witch-treatises began to refer to Institoris and Sprenger as accepted authorities on the subject. In an extensive treatise written in the early sixteenth century, the Dominican inquisitor Sylvester Prieras treats the Malleus throughout as the authoritative witchcraft text, and refers to Institoris as a vir magnus.10 At about the same time, Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola praises the Malleus at length in his dialogue on witchcraft, and lists its authors along with Augustine and

in The Malleus Maleficarum and the construction of witchcraft
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maleficus , and its feminine variant malefica , came into common use in the fourth century CE and were used widely in the medieval and early modern periods to denote a person who committed evil deeds by means of magic. 5 Maleficus/malefica is often translated as ‘witch’. In the title Malleus maleficarum , the fact that the word maleficarum is a feminine plural noun would seem to suggest that the authors, Dominican

in Male witches in early modern Europe

together three authorities which shared an interest in the suppression of heresy and to enable them to act in unison, even though the possibility of jurisdictional conflict and mutual jealousy was latent in their relationship. Papal authority was represented firstly by the nuncio, who was not merely a diplomat but also a legate endowed with the powers of an inquisitorial judge, and secondly by the Dominican inquisitor, whose authority was delegated to him by apostolic brief. The ‘ordinary’, as distinct from delegated, authority of the patriarch of Venice was important to

in Judicial tribunals in England and Europe, 1200–1700

accounts, these women believed that they participated bodily in such activities, although some, like Jean de Meun, represent the night-travelers as entering trance-like dreams, knowing full well that they accompanied the goddess in spirit only. Like their mistress, these peripatetic female specters were known by many names – fays, fates, good women, and good sisters – but for the sake of convenience, and to avoid the anachronistic connotations of the word “fairy,” I will subsequently refer to them as the bonae res, the “good things,” a term used by the Dominican

in The Malleus Maleficarum and the construction of witchcraft