Okay, I am an open-minded guy. I really am. I accept all faiths, creeds, races, religions, sexual-orientations, and firmly believe in their right to practice their beliefs in whatever manner they see fit so long as it 1) Does not hurt people; 2) does not hurt animals; and 3) I am not actively told I am wrong for not believing in it. But I have to say that there is very little more… evocative than the title of this book. In three different languages, it draws on the imagination like an insane zealous Teutonic preacher etching his initials in blood on the pages of history. I mean, the Latin is bad enough: Malleus Maleficarum. In English? The Hammer of Witches. But my all time favorite translation; the German: Der Hexenhammer. Seriously sounds like a Christian death metal band on tour with Beelzabub and a very confused Japanese tourist.
If you’re wondering just what the Hell (see what I did there?) I am talking about, you should go back and read my Heinrich Kramer post (http://www.historynaked.com/heinrich-kramer-first-witch-hunter/). The Malleus Maleficarum is credited to Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, though many historians dispute the latter priest’s involvement in the execution of this dark and morbid piece of our history. The Malleus Maleficarum is a detailed work of pure hatred. The manuscript is divided into three parts.
The first part discusses the existence of witchcraft and magic as a part of the natural world, through the lens of faith and biology. Sounds crazy for a book from the 15th century to discuss such things with an actual emphasis on the sciences, but you also have to realize that it was really more a philosophy than hard fact at this point. Ultimately Kramer concludes that such things are real because Satan is real. Kind of like saying that Bigfoot is a thing because mammals are a thing, but we’re dealing with a guy who was a bit unhinged.
The second portion of Der Hexenhammer (tee hee) discusses at length actual cases of witchcraft, the ways and means of recruiting witches, and how witches cast spells. But more importantly, it discusses ways to remedy malign spells cast upon you. I think it probably went something like this:
Peasant: “She turned me into a newt!”
::long awkward moment::
Peasant: “Well I got better.”
The third and final section is quite literally a “How-To” guide, including a step-by-step instructional tract discussing how a witch trial should proceed, from gathering witnesses, extracting (by way of torture, of course) a confession, and what to do with them once they’ve confessed. For example, a woman who does NOT cry during her trial is considered to be a witch. Whereas a man who DOES cry in his trial is generally considered a great big pansy.
The book on the whole has a lot of different elements to it, but the overarching theme is this: “Kill all witches. Kill everyone you even suspect might be a witch. And just to be thorough, kill everyone they’ve ever had contact with just in case they turn out to be witches by association. And, just to be safe, kill all women for only a woman is weak enough to succumb to the Devil’s wiles.”
The subtext here of course is that Kramer was a woman-hating extremist. When he brought the Malleus Maleficarum to the Inquisition of the Catholic Faith, they dismissed it (and by extension him) as being entirely too unethical to be practiced by Catholics at large. They even went to say that it went beyond the boundaries of Catholic doctrine.
The Catholic Church condemned the Maleficarum as false in 1490. The Spanish Inquisition even cast aspersions on it in 1538. The Spanish Inquisition!!! When the Spanish Inquisition tells you you’ve gone too far…. YOU’VE GONE TOO FAR. But of course, Kramer was dead by then, and would never see the true fruits of his labor: Sowing the seeds of oppression, sexism, and torture for hundreds of years to come. Even until this very day….