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Malleus Maleficarum: The Hammer of Witches

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Have you believed or have you shared a superstition to which some wicked women claim to have given themselves, instruments of Satan, fooled by diabolical phantasms?  During the night, with Diana, the pagan goddess, in the company of a crowd of other women, they ride the backs of animals, traversing great distances during the silence of the deep night, obeying Diana’s orders as their mistress and putting themselves at her service during certain specified nights.  If only these sorceresses could die in their impiety without dragging many others into their loss. Fooled into error, many people believe that these rides of Diana really exist. Thus they leave the true faith and fall into pagan error in believing that a god or goddess can exist besides the only God.  — Canon Episcopi ca 906 AD

Some Historical Perspective on Witches and Witchcraft

Halloween is a couple of days from now.  Before you send your daughter out dressed as a Witch be aware that at a certain point in history being suspected as a Witch was some pretty serious business.  The document quoted in part above is one of the earliest references to Witches that exist as part of the history of the Christian church.

The Hammer of Witches

Things really got going in the later medieval period with a fairly comprehensive text called Malleus Maleficarum.  Translated from Latin meaning “The Hammer of Witches”  This text written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer, an Inquisitor of the Catholic Church, is a sort of handbook of the late medieval period defending the reality of witchcraft, describing the power of witchcraft, and giving step by step instructions on how to conduct a witch trial replete with a description of cases.

But by what authority could these trials and inquisitions be done.  Another pivotal point in history was December 5, 1484 when Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull ( Summis desiderantes affectibus )

Papal Bull of Pope Innocent VIII on December 5, 1484

This papal bull written in response to the request of Dominican Inquisitor Heinrich Kramer for explicit authority to prosecute witchcraft in Germany, after he was refused assistance by the local ecclesiastical authorities.  ( Read more here )

Here it is in part

… It has recently come to our ears, not without great pain to us, that in some parts of upper Germany, as well as in the provinces, cities, territories, regions, and dioceses of Mainz, Ko1n, Trier, Salzburg, and Bremen, many persons of both sexes, heedless of their own salvation and forsaking the catholic faith, give themselves over to devils male and female, and by their incantations, charms, and conjurings, and by other abominable superstitions and sortileges, offences, crimes, and misdeeds, ruin and cause to perish the offspring of women, the foal of animals, the products of the earth, the grapes of vines, and the fruits of trees, as well as men and women, cattle and flocks and herds and animals of every kind, vineyards also and orchards, meadows, pastures, harvests, grains and other fruits of the earth; …

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Written by frrl

October 30, 2010 at 12:16 am

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