[This article from the Sierra Times Herald in Arizona by police Lt. Jim Adams. It's a timely article, and references the Malleus, so I thought I'd mention it here.]
Behind the Badge: Treat kids to a safe Halloween
Americans spend $6.9 billion annually on Halloween, which is second only to Christmas. I love Halloween, but the concept puzzles me from a parenting standpoint. Consider that we will collectively buy costumes to conceal our children’s identities and then let them go out after dark to run the streets and ask strangers for candy (of all things)! Equally interesting is that many of the costumes we buy are personifications of people we consider villains, such as pirates and witches.
Witches (and the hunting of them) have an interesting history. In 1486, a pair of Dominican monks authored the Malleus Maleficarum, which set guidelines by which a witch could potentially be identified from amongst the general populace. Standards included women who keep pets (construed as companions granted by satan), were old (their longevity being a gift from the devil), had strange markings on their body, failed to bleed properly when their skin was punctured, or missed church without good cause.
This literary work was likely inspired by the papal bull of 1484 issued by Pope Innocent VIII titled the Summis Desiderantes. It stated that “all heretical depravity should be driven far from the frontiers and bournes of the Faithful.” This amounted to his blessing relative to the practice of rooting out suspected witches as part of the Inquisition.
All of this was further complicated by the invention of the Gutenberg press in 1439, which made it possible for the Malleus Maleficarum to be published 13 times between 1487 and 1520, leading to the book’s message spread across Europe.