Malleus Maleficarum – indoctrinated the world to “the dangers of free-thinking women"

A Celebration of Women™ has been motivated into Taking Action!

With our world in such a state of crisis due to excessive Violence Against Women, we decided to share some research and opinions on the History of this Act Against Women; some of the beginnings, reasons, and sources of the origin of this fear or threat of women by men, state and church. Understanding some of the original motives may assist with a re-birth of attitude, positive change creating a new respect for the role of a Woman.

DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, Excerpts;

‘The Catholic Inquisition published the book that arguably could be called the most blood-soaked publication in human history. Malleus Maleficarum – or The Witche’s Hammer – indoctrinated the world to ‘the dangers of freethinking women’ and instructed the clergy how to locate, torture, and destroy them. Those deemed “witches” by the Church included all female scholars, priestesses, gypsies, mystics, nature lovers, herb gatherers, and any women “suspiciously attuned to the natural world.” Midwives also were killed for their heretical practice of using medical knowledge to ease the pain of childbirth – a suffering, the Church claimed, that was God’s rightful punishment for Eve’s partaking of the Apple of Knowledge, thus giving birth to the idea of Original Sin.

During three hundred years of witch hunts…

the Church burned at the stake an astounding five million women.’

The Malleus Maleficarum

Genesis

The Malleus Maleficarum was published in 1487 by Heinrich Kramer (Latinized Institoris) and James Sprenger (also known as Jacob or Jakob Sprenger). Scholars have debated how much Sprenger contributed to the work. Some say his role was minor, and was written almost entirely by Kramer who used the name of Sprenger for his prestige only, while others say there is little evidence for this claim.

In 1484 Kramer made one of the first attempts at a systematic persecution of witches in the region of Tyrol. It was not a success, Kramer was thrown out of the territory, and dismissed by the local bishop as a “senile old man“. According to Diarmaid MacCulloch, writing the book was Kramer’s act of self-justification and revenge.Some scholars have suggested that following the failed efforts in Tyrol, Kramer and Sprenger requested and received a papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus in 1484. It allegedly gave full papal approval for the Inquisition to prosecute witchcraft in general and for Kramer and Sprenger specifically. Malleus Maleficarum was written in 1484 or 1485 and the papal bull was included as part of the preface.

The preface also includes an approbation from the University of Cologne’s Faculty of Theology. The authenticity of the Cologne endorsement was first questioned by Joseph Hansen but Christopher S. Mackay rejects his theory as a misunderstanding. The university in fact condemned the book for unethical legal practices and contradicting Catholic teaching on demons. Scholarly opinion is divided on whether the Cologne endorsement was a complete forgery, but there is general agreement that even if it were genuine it was misrepresented by Kramer, and that neither the Pope nor the University of Cologne was aware of the true authorship of the book, or even of its contents. The Malleus Maleficarum drew on earlier sources such as the Johannes Nider’s treatise Formicarius, written 1435/37.

The book became the handbook for secular courts throughout Renaissance Europe, but was not used by the Inquisition, which even cautioned against relying on the work. Between the years 1487 and 1520 the work was published thirteen times. It was again published between the years of 1574 to 1669 a total of sixteen times. Regardless of the authenticity of the endorsements which appear at the beginning of the book, their presence contributed to the popularity of the work.

Folk belief in reality of witchcraft had been denied by the church in earlier centuries; Charlemagne had specifically outlawed the old practice of witch burning “in the manner of the pagans”.By the 15th century, belief in witches was once again openly accepted in European society, but they typically suffered penalties no more harsh than public penances such as a day in the stocks. Persecution of witches became more brutal following the publication of the Malleus, with witchcraft being accepted as a real and dangerous phenomenon.

Contents

The Malleus Maleficarum asserts that three elements are necessary for witchcraft: the evil-intentioned witch, the help of the Devil, and the Permission of God. The treatise is divided up into three sections. The first section tries to refute critics who deny the reality of witchcraft, thereby hindering its prosecution. The second section describes the actual forms of witchcraft and its remedies. The third section is to assist judges confronting and combating witchcraft. However, each of these three sections has the prevailing themes of what is witchcraft and who is a witch. The Malleus Maleficarum can hardly be called an original text, for it heavily relies upon earlier works such as Visconti and, most famously, Johannes Nider’s Formicarius (1435).

Section I

Section I argues that because the Devil exists and has the power to do astounding things, witches exist to help, if done through the aid of the Devil and with the permission of God. The Devil’s power is greatest where human sexuality is concerned, for it was believed that women were more sexual than men. Libidinous women had sex with the Devil, thus paving their way to become witches. According to the Malleus “all witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable.”

Section II

In section II of the Malleus Maleficarum, the authors turn to matters of practice by discussing actual cases. This section first discusses the powers of witches, and then goes into recruitment strategies. It is mostly witches as opposed to the Devil who do the recruiting, by making something go wrong in the life of a respectable matron that makes her consult the knowledge of a witch, or by introducing young maidens to tempting young devils. This section also details how witches cast spells and remedies that can be taken to prevent witchcraft or help those that have been affected by it.

Section III

Section III is the legal part of the Malleus that describes how to prosecute a witch. The arguments are clearly laid for the lay magistrates prosecuting witches. Institoris and Sprenger offer a step-by-step guide to the conduct of a witch trial, from the method of initiating the process and assembling accusations, to the interrogation (including torture) of witnesses, and the formal charging of the accused. Women who did not cry during their trial were automatically believed to be witches.

Major themes

Because the work deals with women as witches, some believe and claim that the Malleus Maleficarum is a work of misogyny. The treatise describes how women become inclined for witchcraft, claiming they were susceptible to demonic temptations through their manifold weaknesses. It was believed that they were weaker in faith and were more carnal than men. Michael Bailey claims that most of the women accused as witches had strong personalities and were known to defy convention by overstepping the lines of proper female decorum. After the publication of the Malleus, most of those who were prosecuted as witches were women. Indeed, the very title of the Malleus Maleficarum is feminine, alluding to the idea that it was women who were the villains. Otherwise, it would be the Malleus Maleficorum (the masculine form of the Latin noun maleficus or malefica, ‘witch’). In Latin, the feminine “Maleficarum” would only be used for women while the masculine “Maleficorum” could be used for men alone or for both sexes if together.

The Malleus Maleficarum accuses witches of infanticide, cannibalism, casting evil spells to harm their enemies, and having the power to steal men’s penises. It goes on to give accounts of witches committing these crimes.

The Malleus Maleficarum was heavily influenced by humanistic ideologies. The ancient subjects of astronomy, philosophy, and medicine were being reintroduced to the West at this time, as well as a plethora of ancient texts being rediscovered and studied. The Malleus often makes reference to the Bible and Aristotelian thought, and it is also heavily influenced by the philosophical tenets of Neo-Platonism. It also mentions astrology and astronomy, which had recently been reintroduced to the West by the ancient works of Pythagoras.

Reasons for widespread use

The Malleus Maleficarum was able to spread throughout Europe so rapidly in the late fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century because of the innovation of the printing press in the middle of the fifteenth century by Johannes Gutenberg. That printing should have been invented thirty years before the first publication of the Malleus, which instigated the fervor of witch hunting, and, in the words of Russell, “the swift propagation of the witch hysteria by the press was the first evidence that Gutenberg had not liberated man from original sin.” The Malleus is also heavily influenced by the subjects of divination, astrology, and healing rituals the Church inherited from antiquity.

The late fifteenth century was also a period of religious turmoil, for the Protestant Reformation was but a few decades in the future. The Malleus Maleficarum and the witch craze that ensued took advantage of the increasing intolerance of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation in Europe, where the Protestant and Catholic camps, pitted against one another, each zealously strove to maintain the purity of faith.

Consequences

Between 1487 and 1520, twenty editions of the Malleus were published, and another sixteen editions were published between 1574 and 1669.However, there is scholarly agreement that publication of the Malleus Maleficarum was not as influential as earlier modern historians originally thought. According to MacCulloch, the Malleus was one of several key factors contributing to the witch craze, along with popular superstition, jealousy of witches’ knowledge from humanist scholars, and tensions created by the Reformation.

‘Women, once celebrated as an essential half of spiritual enlightenment, have been banished from the temples of the world. There are no female Orthodox rabbis, Catholic priests, nor Islamic clerics. Holy men who had once required sexual union with their female counterparts to commune with God have feared their natural sexual urges as the work of the devil, collaborating with his favorite accomplice … woman.’

‘Not even the feminine association with the left-hand side could escape the Church’s defamation. In France and Italy, the words for “left” gauche and sinistra – came to have deeply negative overtones, while their right-hand counterparts rang of righteousness, dexterity, and correctness. To this day, radical thought was considered left wing; irrational thought was left brain, and anything evil, sinister.’

The Malleus Maleficarum: http://darkbooks.org/pp.php?v=210114408

RELATED ARTICLE:

Angela Bonavoglia: http://thewildreed.blogspot.com/2008/11/angela-bonavoglia-on-churchs-continued.html

Research: Thanks to Wikipedia, Google, Britannica

A Celebration of Women

Speak Your Mind

*

Copyright 2014 @ A Celebration of Women™ The World Hub for Women Leaders That Care