Malleus In Culture

The Right Waging Spiritual Warfare: You Too Could be a Witch

by Hrafnkell Haraldsson
October 22, 2010


You too could be a witch. All it takes is an accusation.

Why is it as the year 2010 draws to a close that we find ourselves talking about Witchcraft? I don’t mean Wicca, the religion that sees historical witchcraft as survivals of ancient Pagan religion, but of the medieval ideas about witchcraft, the sort circulated in the 13th century, the sort of nonsense you’ll find in Heinrich Kramer’s 1486 classic, The Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches).

What is ironic is that both witches and Christians agree that witches exist. The medieval Christian mindset was so determined that witches existed that it gave birth to the book named above, which was a treatise designed to refute claims that witches did not exist. It was a sort of Dummies Guide to Witchcraft for authorities; it told them how to find and convict this pernicious societal cancer.

Witchcraft is all the craze again, and we can’t blame Bill Maher for it, or even Christine O’Donnell. After all, it was Sarah Palin back in 2008 who found a video of her receiving blessings against witchcraft being administered flying around the internet. And who should be doing the blessing but a genuine, witch-hunting pastor from Africa, Pastor Thomas Muthee, who in true Malleus-fashion accused a woman of causing car crashes through witchcraft. Substitute a horse drawn wagon and old Thomas would fit right into the Salem community.

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Malleus In Culture

Fragments of Evolving Manhood: When Witches Stole Penises

In a very entertaining article, author Richard Jeffrey Newman explores some of the issues and subject matter involved in the Malleus Maleficarum, using a contemporary example of a man who has lost his penis (to a witch) to get the article rolling, and following with a more serious discussion. I recommend it for a fresh perspective on the Malleus Maleficarum and its role in contemporary perceptions.

~ Wicasta Lovelace


You won’t believe me. I know you won’t. I didn’t want to believe it myself, but I couldn’t deny what my eyes were telling me: My penis was gone! Really! Gone! I’d just come home from breaking up with my girlfriend, and I was undressing to take a shower before dinner when I reached down to touch myself and felt… nothing!

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Malleus In Culture

Is It Okay To Read The Malleus Maleficarum?

I stumbled across references in the Landover Baptist Church forums about the Malleus Maleficarum. If you’re not familiar with Landover Baptist Church, rest assured that it’s a parody of fundamentalist churches and the Religious Right. What makes this web site so poignant is that the issues that are parodied are often indistinguishable from the real thing.

The forum topic on the Malleus Maleficarum starts with a question;

“So I was visiting my new favorite Christian book store the other day when I found a weird book there. I forgot my wallet at home, but the clerk was so happy I had been recently filled and penetrated by the Gospel that he let me have it for free … Can a True Christian™ man let me know if its ok? Or if I should just throw it in the fireplace and read a cookbook instead?”

It’s what comes next that got my attention. I’ve heard this discussion before, and not in the form of parody. Some Evangelicals avoid anything that’s been written by Catholics, believing Catholic rites and the veneration of Saints is, at best, bordering on heathenism. Some have even suggested that Catholics secretly worship Satan because they had usurped Jesus Christ’s authority by elevating Mother Mary almost to the status of an equal.

Anyway, the forums are worth a read. Keep in mind that everything you find there is parody. But, like all good parody, it comes uncomfortably close to the truth.

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Malleus In Culture

Call Out My Name

by Ana the Imp

She was no ordinary succubus.
Late into the night
Through cold, electric clouds
She flew with broken wings
On currents kindled by dreams.
And finally, descending upon
His yearning body, she whispered:
“I’m late, my love, but tender is the morning.”

I have before me my copy of the Malleus Maleficarum (Hammerer of the Witches), the infamous fifteenth century witch-hunting manual of Heinrich Institoris, a Dominican inquisitor. Dear Heinrich knew so much about witches and women; he knew so much about succubae, my demonic sisters, and we are legion; even Japanese emperors want to sleep with us!

What is a succubus, you ask? The legend is simple and quickly told: a succubus is female, a demon – though I personally prefer to be called an imp – who takes the form of a living woman in order to have intercourse with mortal men. The Malleus is quite clear on the reasons for this;

The reason the evil spirits turn themselves into incubi or succubae is not for the sake of gaining or conferring pleasure, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones. The most potent reason is this – to harm a person twice over, that is, in body and soul, through the vices of lasciviousness, so that there comes into being people who are more inclined to all the vices.

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Malleus In Culture

Witchcraft and Aliens: Were Medieval Witches Actually Early Abductees?

This is an interesting take on the Inquisition and the role of the Malleus Maleficarum at a blog titled “Diary of an Alien Life Form“. Whether or not you agree with it, the ideas presented make for some interesting conversation. It’s easy to forget that during the time of the Malleus Maleficarum and the Inquisition, so-called “learned people” were as convinced of their beliefs as modern day scientists are of theirs.
~ Wicasta Lovelace

Between the 14th and 18th centuries, somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 people on the European continent were tried and executed for witchcraft. Most of these people were burned alive in the public square of the nearest town, and most were also tortured before burning. Between 70% and 80% of all “witches” executed were women, but many men, children, and even animals were executed as well.

What is most strange about the witchcraft trials of medieval Europe is that, despite being studied in great detail by historians and scholars of many stripes and biases, no single persuasive explanation has emerged for why they took place.

What is also interesting is that medieval “witches” had much in common with today’s “abductees”, and the witch hunters also resemble some of today’s abduction “researchers” in surprisingly consistent ways.

Something fairly powerful has to be going on either inside the public imagination or out in the real world or both, in order to sustain nearly four centuries of torture, carnage, and religious persecution. The Church did not simply try and burn witches: It aggressively sought them out to try and burn them.

The infamous Malleus Maleficarum (compiled in 1486) is a detailed instructional Church manual on how to identify a witch and what to do when you find one. Professional witch hunters, employed by the Church, roamed the European countryside searching out witches and delivering them into the hands of Church inquisitors who usually ended up torturing and killing them to save their souls.

Although the Malleus isn’t a word-for-word precursor to Intruders or Missing Time, many elements are similar enough to warrant a closer look.

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Malleus In Culture

Witch Hunter’s Bible

PagesNational Geographic

For the first time ever, an international investigation team joins forces to unravel the mysteries of the Malleus Maleficarum, or Hammer of Witches. Written in 1486, this infamous medieval manual changed the way the Western world saw evil. With detailed instructions on how to find, prosecute and punish witches, the Malleus inspired centuries of accusation and bloodshed on both sides of the Atlantic.

SUN MAY 9, 2010 – 10P


One of the most controversial and infamous texts of all time, The Hammer of the Witches put many innocent people to death. But who wrote this book? What did it say? And how did it convince so many people of the dangers of witchcraft?


  • The witch hunter’s bible was referred to in Latin as the Malleus Maleficarum, which translates to mean The Hammer of the Witches.
  • This text was written in 1486, published in 1487, and consisted of 256 pages of facts proving that witches were real and must be killed.
  • Between the 16th and 17th centuries, researchers speculate that over 30,000 copies were in circulation throughout Europe, during which an estimated 60,000 “witches” were put to death.
  • The text contains three separate sections: the first is a philosophical explanation of witches’ existence, the second is a clergy guide to recognize a witch, and the third is a legal manual for the accusation, persecution, and death penalty for witchcraft.


  • A man named Heinrich Kramer, one of the most infamous witch hunters in history, eventually became the author of The Hammer of the Witches. His initial motivation for writing the text was to prove his theory to many of his critics because he had, thus far, failed as a witch hunter.
  • The most powerful endorsement the Hammer ever saw was the Papal Bull, a document signed by the Pope himself stating an official church opinion, making it the only book on witchcraft to receive this approval.
  • It is said that in order to persuade the Pope to condone the Hammer of the Witches, Kramer brought him a sum of money.
  • Kramer’s favorite punishment for witchcraft is called the “strappado,” which is a device that attaches to the wrists and pulls upward, hanging its victims by their arms until they dislocate.
  • In Kramer’s first successful trial, he implements this type of torture until two women confess to committing acts of demonic sorcery; for this, they were burned alive.


  • The text’s two objectives are to warn the general public against the danger of witches and to give Kramer official authority to hunt them.
  • The Hammer of the Witches put fear into the general public by warning them that witches were accomplices of the devil.
  • The text also convinced its readers that witches were a sign of the apocalypse.
  • The book attempted to persuade its audience that female sexual seduction is another sign of witchcraft.
  • Often women were blamed for conjuring a hailstorm with the intention of destroying the area’s crops.
  • According to the Hammer, the weak are the most dangerous; it condemned women who were poverty-stricken, mentally ill, and even those who simply practiced herbal medicine.


Malleus In Culture

Beyond the Burning Times

[From an article by Cody Liska, featured in Insight Magazine, that mentions the Malleus Maleficarum]

In a dimly lit cave, a sorority of witches stands around a bubbling cauldron, cackling as they await the witching hour. Their faces are lousy with sores and their breath putrid with death. Behind their abysmally black eyes, the devil can be seen looking back… plotting. The night yields a full moon, magic is aplenty. They’ll need all the help they can get. After all, an unbaptized infant is a delicacy. The midnight bell tolls – time to act. And in devilish accordance, they snatch their broomsticks and vanish into the night.

Although a Medieval foreboding of a witch is a far cry from today’s understanding of one, it’s difficult to skirt the misconception. It has a permanent locale in our collective unconscious. Needless to say, a real witch lacks these stereotypical prerequisites.

Sixty-three-year-old Ellyn Darrah is a witch. In fact, she’s a High Priestess. She writes and orchestrates rituals, dances around campfires and drinks mead. She is not possessed, nor does she eat babies. She’s more like a hip grandmother than a spooky spell-caster. The depth of her quirkiness is immediately obvious as she orders a vegetarian pizza with pepperoni.

Twenty years ago, Darrah began her journey as a witch. It all started in her college years back at the University of Santa Barbara, California, when a poster read “Come Celebrate Mother Goddess” caught her attention.

Malleus In Culture

The Hammer Of Witches: Why Can’t Witches Cry?

I came across an interesting article on a Blog post, which cites the Malleus Maleficarum and author Carl Sagan, among other sources, to examine some of the issues behind the Malleus and the Inquisition. It makes for an interesting read. Excerpts;

With no separation of Church or State (they were essentially one and the same) the Catholic Church set into motion it’s own version of the “Final Solution” in an effort to rid society of witches, for according to Pope Innocent, “If ‘the abominations and enormities in question remain unpunished,’ the souls of multitudes face eternal damnation.” Clearly then, for the sake of “family values”, witches needed to be sought out and brought to justice. Carl Sagan summarizes the situation quite well in Chapter 7 of his book, “The Demon-Haunted World”:

What the Malleus comes down to, pretty much, is that if you’re accused of witchcraft, you’re a witch. Torture is an unfailing means to demonstrate the validity of the accusation. There are no rights of the defendant. There is no opportunity to confront the accusers. Little attention is given to the possibility that accusations might be made for impious purposes – jealousy, say, or revenge, or the greed of the inquisitors who routinely confiscated for their own private benefit the property of the accused. This technical manual for torturers also includes methods of punishment tailored to release demons from the victim’s body before the process kills her. The Malleus in hand, the Pope’s encouragement guaranteed, Inquisitors began springing up all over Europe.”

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Malleus In Culture

High School Marching Band Show: Malleus Maleficarum

I came across a bizarre performance by the Mount Pleasant High School Marching Band in Mount Pleasant, North Carolina, titled “Malleus Maleficarum: The Witches’ Hammer”. It’s benign enough, except for the one part where a “witch” gets caught within a tightening circle, and then the band forms into something resembling a hammer. I’m sure nothing terribly controversial was intended, but parts of the performance disturbed me. I couldn’t tell you why.

– Wicasta

Malleus In Culture

Google Timeline

We’ve recently stumbled onto another way of perceiving the influence of the Malleus Maleficarum, by observing its position using Google’s Timeline. I highly recommend taking a look at the work through the prism of this Google tool. If nothing else, it shows us how many of the documents on the Internet that are related to the Malleus are spread across the centuries. If you’re a geek like me, this helps put some of what’s been written about the Malleus into a historical perspective.

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