1484

The Dominican monks Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger assembled many fairy tales and magic stories, nightmares, hearsay, confessions and accusations and put this all together as factual information in what became the handbook for the witch hunters, examiners, torturers and executioners, called the Malleus Maleficarum, a title which was translated as Hammer of Witches.

It was published in 1487, but two years previously the authors had secured a bull from Pope Innocent VIII, authorizing them to continue the witch hunt in the Alps which they had already instituted against the opposition from clergy and secular authorities. They reprinted the bull of December 5, 1484 to make it appear that the whole book enjoyed papal sanction.


Anybody with a grudge or suspicion, very young children included, could accuse anyone of witchcraft and be listened to with attention; anyone who wanted someone else’s property or wife could accuse; any loner, any old person living alone, anyone with a misformity, physical or mental problem was likely to be accused.

Open hunting season was declared on women, especially herb gatherers, midwives, widows and spinsters. Women who had no man to supervise them were of course highly suspicious.

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Digitising Rylands Latin MS 113.