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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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, ecclesiastical community over these same issues. Thus, inspired by this local humiliation, Henry Institoris retired to Cologne to write a detailed and comprehensive defense of his beliefs. And so, in a way, the insults of an otherwise obscure woman were responsible for one of the best-known, most quoted, and, indeed, most infamous of all medieval texts, the “Hammer of Witches,” the Malleus Maleficarum. The study which follows examines the problem of the construction of witchcraft in fifteenth-century Europe, with particular reference to this text. Prior to the fifteenth

in The Malleus Maleficarum and the construction of witchcraft
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was to preach against heresy and to collect money to assist the campaign; in October of 1467, we find the head of the commission, Rudolf, bishop of TMM2 8/30/03 12 5:38 PM Page 12 THE MALLEUS MALEFICARUM Wratislava and papal legate, writing to encourage and assist Institoris by delegating to him the power to remit sins and the authority to grant plenary indulgences.6 In another letter, written four years later, Institoris agreed to lift the interdict he had placed upon the town of Lipczk in retaliation for the continued presence of “supporters of Bohemian

in The Malleus Maleficarum and the construction of witchcraft
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Augustine’s thought. Not only was man’s TMM3 8/30/03 42 5:39 PM Page 42 THE MALLEUS MALEFICARUM own fall the direct result of a failure to resist the devil’s lure, but the temptations of the fiend continued to inspire all manner of sins and create countless roadblocks on the way to paradise. For Augustine, “evil” was first and foremost moral evil and an expression of sin; when Augustine’s devil did evil in the world, his presence was known principally by human behavior and not by mischance or misfortune.7 In comparison, the devil’s power to cause physical harm was

in The Malleus Maleficarum and the construction of witchcraft

notions of gender to explain why witches were women.4 Institoris and Sprenger, however, are adamant that their characterization of witches as predominately female is no more than an accurate description of reality: their own first-hand experience and the reliable testimony of trustworthy witnesses show this to be true.5 Though this claim of objectivity has often been dismissed by scholars, who point out that prior to the Malleus men were at least as often identified as witches in learned treatises TMM7 8/30/03 168 5:37 PM Page 168 THE MALLEUS MALEFICARUM as were

in The Malleus Maleficarum and the construction of witchcraft

similar things possible, or likely, or credible?1 In this passage, Ambrosius describes the “cumulative concept of witchcraft” as he encountered it – a combination of traditional legendary motifs, demonolatrous heresy, and maleficent magic that some of his learned colleagues considered the definitive characteristics of a very real and very dangerous sect. As aspects of a coherent and supposedly quite real whole, this particular arrangement of heterogeneous elements was new to the fifteenth century, and many TMM5 8/30/03 92 5:40 PM Page 92 THE MALLEUS MALEFICARUM

in The Malleus Maleficarum and the construction of witchcraft

therefore did not escape with impunity. Thus, by a misfortune of this kind, God demonstrated his justice.4 For Salimbene, the cause of the young man’s punishment lay directly in his sin. Such an explanation did not necessarily rule out subsidiary factors – the workmen may have been careless, the platform may have been unstable, or a demon may have pushed over the bell – but it did establish why this man was harmed and no other, and explained the precise nature of his injuries. TMM4 8/30/03 68 5:39 PM Page 68 THE MALLEUS MALEFICARUM The basis for Salimbene

in The Malleus Maleficarum and the construction of witchcraft

more common over time. In 1257, for example, Pope Alexander IV specifically prohibited inquisitors from prosecuting simple sorcery unless it savored of manifest heresy, yet by 1400 the papacy was prepared to admit that manifest heresy was present in virtually all sorcery, and TMM6 8/30/03 124 5:37 PM Page 124 THE MALLEUS MALEFICARUM that the inquisition ought to be involved when it was discovered.6 Ritual magic, practiced by more or less learned men and involving the explicit invocation of demons, was the first target of the Church’s campaign against magic

in The Malleus Maleficarum and the construction of witchcraft
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Demonological descriptions of male witches

‘canon’ includes Jean Bodin’s De la demonomanie des sorciers , Johannes Nider’s Formicarius , and the Malleus maleficarum , which occupies pride of place within the literature as possibly the most (in)famous treatise of them all. In this chapter, we present data compiled from ten of these canonical works, as well as a brief discussion of demonological illustrations. Demonological literature has received relatively little

in Male witches in early modern Europe
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historiography, based on our readings of learned demonology,statistical evidence and certain cases drawn from wide geographical and temporal spans. The Malleus maleficarum , or Hammer of Witches, is the best-known early modern work on witchcraft,infamous for its misogynist statements about women and for its argument that most witches were women. With very few exceptions, modern scholars have taken a one

in Male witches in early modern Europe