Information icon.svg Voting in the 2023 RationalWiki Moderator Election is now closed. Results to come!

Malleus Maleficarum

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The how-to guide for all your witch burning needs
As performed by
Tim the Enchanter

By the powers of woo

Malleus Maleficarum, or The Hammer of the Witches in English, was a serious attempt by the inquisitor Heinrich Kramer to debunk rebunk a number of myths about witches and was published in 1487. The Roman Catholic Church had previously denied the existence of witchcraft at various points during the Middle Ages, relegating witch burning to a folk practice (and notably, Kramer himself had been expelled from the town of Innsbruck after a witch trial he was involved in found the "witch" innocent, as his obsession with her sexual habits and supposed guilt convinced the local bishop that Kramer had gone insane). The publication of Malleus helped launch a new moral panic over witchcraft and became a standard handbook in the prosecution and torture of "witches." It was also responsible for helping to spread sexism as it claimed that women were easily tempted into making a contract with Kyubey sleeping with the Devil and thereby being turned into magical girls witches. The book discusses recruitment practices of witches and Satan, how to identify witches, and methods of punishment torture. In a possibly unrivaled-in-history instance of complete gullibility, Kramer included a 15th-century dirty joke (with the punchline, "But the biggest cock belonged to the priest") as a factual account of witchcraft:

And what, then, is to be thought of those witches who in this way sometimes collect male organs in great numbers, as many as twenty or thirty members together, and put them in a bird’s nest, or shut them up in a box, where they move themselves like living members, and eat oats and corn, as has been seen by many and is a matter of common report? It is to be said that it is all done by devil’s work and illusion, for the senses of those who see them are deluded in the way we have said. For a certain man tells that, when he had lost his member, he approached a known witch to ask her to restore it to him. She told the afflicted man to climb a certain tree, and that he might take which he liked out of the nest in which there were several members. And when he tried to take a big one, the witch said: You must not take that one; adding, because it belongs to a parish priest.[1]

As described in Malleus Maleficarum, the methods to be used in the witch hunt fall into six parts:[2]:221-222

  1. "Accusation equals guilt"
  2. "Suspension of the normal rules of evidence"
  3. "Allowing spectral evidence" (dreams and visions)
  4. "Methods of investigation as bad as the punishment for conviction" (torture and death)
  5. "Encouraging accusations"
  6. "Accusations used as a weapon"

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. The The Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer & James Sprenger: Part II, Question I, Chapter VII
  2. The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe: How to Know What's Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake by Steven Novella et al. (2018) Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 9781538760536.