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The Malleus Maleficarum is one of the best-known treatises dealing with the problem of what to do with witches. It was 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, its influence on witchcraft studies has been extensive.

The only previous translation into English, that by Montague Summers produced in 1928, is full of inaccuracies. It is written in a style almost unreadable nowadays, and is unfortunately coloured by his personal agenda. This new edited translation, with an introductory essay setting witchcraft, Institoris, and the Malleus into clear, readable English, corrects Summers’ mistakes and offers a lean, unvarnished version of what Institoris actually wrote. It will undoubtedly become the standard translation of this important and controversial late-medieval text.

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.

Abstract only
P.G. Maxwell-Stuart

he could no longer guarantee his personal safety. Such were the immediate circumstances in which Institoris wrote the Malleus . Interestingly enough, Malleus maleficarum was not the book’s original title. It began life as Treatise about Workers of Harmful Magic or Treatise against Witches until, at Easter 1487, Jakob Kramer added a preface which he entitled “Author’s defence of the Malleus maleficarum”, and so the phrase stuck. 42 The metaphor of the hammer was by no means new. St Bernard of Clairvaux had called St Augustine “a very powerful hammer of

in The Malleus Maleficarum
Abstract only
P.G. Maxwell-Stuart

This section presents Part I of The Malleus Maleficarum, 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. Part I is addressed to fellow theologians, and is devoted to showing that the conspiratorial pact between workers of harmful magic and evil spirits is no fantasy but a present reality, and that the cause of the increasing numbers of witches lies in the sexual relations between women and evil spirits. It is thus an extended essay in demonology rather than a handbook.

in The Malleus Maleficarum
Abstract only
P.G. Maxwell-Stuart

This section presents Part IIII of The Malleus Maleficarum, 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. Part III is indeed more like a manual. Addressed to judges both ecclesiastical and secular, it covers a large number of technical points anent the arrest, examination, and sentencing of workers of harmful magic, offering examples of the appropriate formulae to be used in whatever circumstance the examining and sentencing judge might fi nd himself. This part could, in fact, almost be detached from the rest of the treatise without affecting the other two.

in The Malleus Maleficarum
Abstract only
P.G. Maxwell-Stuart

This section presents Part II of The Malleus Maleficarum, 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. Part II is intended for preachers and certainly contains a large number of anecdotes and instances which they could use in their sermons, but it is far from being a mere collection of useful stories. Its constant thrust not only repeats the messages of Part I, but also makes clear an important step in Institoris’s general argument – that the many popular beliefs and practices there presented, in one form or another, show that one cannot distinguish between a practitioner of magic of whatever kind she or he might be and a heretical devotee of Satan.

in The Malleus Maleficarum
Open Access (free)
Contested categories
Hans Peter Broedel

, 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
Open Access (free)
Hans Peter Broedel

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
Open Access (free)
Hans Peter Broedel

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
Hans Peter Broedel

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