Malleus Maleficarum (1486)
translated by Montague Summers 
This is the best known (i.e., the most infamous) of the witch-hunt manuals. Written in Latin, the Malleus was first submitted to the University of Cologne on May 9th, 1487. The title is translated as "The Hammer of Witches". Written by James Sprenger and Henry Kramer (of which little is known), the Malleus remained in use for three hundred years. It had tremendous influence in the witch trials in England and on the continent. This translation is in the public domain.
The Malleus was used as a judicial case-book for the detection and persecution of witches, specifying rules of evidence and the canonical procedures by which suspected witches were tortured and put to death. Thousands of people (primarily women) were judically murdered as a result of the procedures described in this book, for no reason than a strange birthmark, living alone, mental illness, cultivation of medicinal herbs, or simply because they were falsely accused (often for financial gain by the accuser). The Malleus serves as a horrible warning about what happens when intolerence takes over a society.
Although the Malleus is manifestly a document which displays the cruelty, barbarism, and ignorance of the Inquisition, it has also been interpreted as evidence of a wide-spread subterranean pagan tradition which worshiped a pre-Christian horned deity, particularly by Margaret Murray.
The source version of this text, with notes and additional material, can be found at MalleusMaleficarum.org [External Site].
Introduction Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
Whether the Belief that there are such Beings as Witches is so Essential a Part of the Catholic Faith that Obstinacy to maintain the Opposite Opinion manifestly savours of Heresy.
If it be in Accordance with the Catholic Faith to maintain that in Order to bring about some Effect of Magic, the Devil must intimately co-operate with the Witch, or whether one without the other, that is to say, the Devil without the Witch, or conversely, could produce such an Effect.
Whether Children can be Generated by Incubi and Succubi.
By which Devils are the Operations of Incubus and Succubus Practised?
What is the Source of the Increase of Works of Witchcraft? Whence comes it that the Practice of Witchcraft hath so notably increased?
Concerning Witches who copulate with Devils. Why is it that Women are chiefly addicted to Evil superstitions?
Whether Witches can Sway the Minds of Men to Love or Hatred.
Whether Witches can Hebetate the Powers of Generation or Obstruct the Venereal Act.
Whether Witches may work some Prestidigatory Illusion so that the Male Organ appears to be entirely removed and separate from the Body.
Whether Witches can by some Glamour Change Men into Beasts.
That Witches who are Midwives in Various Ways Kill the Child Conceived in the Womb, and Procure an Abortion; or if they do not this Offer New-born Children to Devils.
Whether the Permission of Almighty God is an Accompaniment of Witchcraft.
Herein is set forth the Question, concerning the Two Divine Permissions which God justly allows, namely, that the Devil, the Author or all Evil, should Sin, and that our First Parents should Fall, from which Origins the Works of Witches are justly suffered to take place.
The Enormity of Witches is Considered, and it is shown that the Whole Matter should be rightly Set Forth and Declared.
It is Shown that, on Account of the Sins of Witches, the Innocent are often Bewitched, yea, Sometimes even for their Own Sins.
The Foregoing Truths are Set out in Particular, this by a Comparison of the Works of Witches with Other Baleful Superstitions.
A Comparison of their Crimes under Fourteen Heads, with the Sins of the Devils of all and every Kind.
Here follows the Method of Preaching against and Controverting Five Arguments of Laymen and Lewd Folk, which seem to be Variously Approved, that God does not Allow so Great Power to the Devil and Witches as is involved in the Performance of such Mighty Works of Witchcraft.
Of those against whom the Power of Witches availeth not at all.
Of the several Methods by which Devils through Witches Entice and Allure the Innocent to the Increase of that Horrid Craft and Company.
Of the Way whereby a Formal Pact with Evil is made.
How they are Transported from Place to Place.
Here follows the Way whereby Witches copulate with those Devils known as Incubi.
Witches commonly perform their Spells through the Sacraments of the Church. And how they Impair the Powers of Generation, and how they may Cause other Ills to happen to God's Creatures of all kinds. But herein we except the Question of the Influence of the Stars.
How Witches Impede and Prevent the Power of Procreation.
How, as it were, they Deprive Man of his Virile Member.
Of the Manner whereby they Change Men into the Shapes of Beasts.
How Devils may enter the Human Body and the Head without doing any Hurt, when they cause such Metamorphosis by Means of Prestidigitation.
Of the Method by which Devils through the Operations of Witches sometimes actually possess men.
Of the Method by which they can Inflict Every Sort of Infirmity, generally Ills of the Graver Kind.
Of the Way how in Particular they Afflict Men with Other Like Infirmities.
How Witch Midwives commit most Horrid Crimes when they either Kill Children or Offer them to Devils in most Accursed Wise.
Here followeth how Witches Injure Cattle in Various Ways.
How they Raise and Stir up Hailstorms and Tempests, and Cause Lightning to Blast both Men and Beasts.
Of Three Ways in which Men and Women may be Discovered to be Addicted to Witchcraft: Divided into Three Heads: and First of the Witchcraft of Archers.
Introduction, wherein is Set Forth the Difficulty of this Question.
The Remedies prescribed by the Holy Church against Incubus and Succubus Devils.
Remedies prescribed for Those who are Bewitched by the Limitation of the Generative Power.
Remedies prescribed for those who are Bewitched by being Inflamed with Inordinate Love or Extraordinary Hatred.
Remedies presribed for those who by Prestidigitative Art have lost their Virile Members or have seemingly been Transformed into the Shapes of Beasts.
Prescribed Remedies for those who are Obsessed owing to some Spell.
Prescribed Remedies; to wit, the Lawful Exorcisms of the Church, for all Sorts of Infirmities and Ills due to Witchcraft; and the Method of Exorcising those who are Bewitched.
Remedies prescribed against Hailstorms, and for animals that are Bewitched.
Certain Remedies prescribed against those Dark and Horrid Harms with which Devils may Afflict Men.
General and Introductory
Who are the Fit and Proper Judges in the Trial of Witches?
The Method of Initiating a Process
Of the Number of Witnesses
Of the Solemn Adjuration and Re-examination of Witnesses
Of the Quality and Condition of Witnesses
Whether Mortal Enemies may be Admitted as Witnesses
How the Trial is to be Proceeded with and Continued. And how the Witnesses are to be Examined in the Presence of Four Other Persons, and how the Accused is to be Questioned in Two Ways
In Which Various Doubts are Set Forth with Regard to the Foregoing Questions and Negative Answers. Whether the Accused is to be Imprisoned, and when she is to be considered Manifestly Taken in the Foul Heresy of Witchcraft. This is the Second Action
Which Follows from the Preceding Question, Whether the Witch is to be Imprisoned, and of the Method of Taking her. This is the Third Action of the Judge
What is to be done after the Arrest, and whether the Names of the Witnesses should be made Known to the Accused. This is the Fourth Action
What Kind of Defence may be Allowed, and of the Appointment of an Advocate. This is the Fifth Action
What Course the Advocate should Adopt when the Names of the Witnesses are not Revealed to him. Ths Sixth Action
Of the Same Matter, Declaring more Particularly how the Question of Personal Enmity is to be Investigated. The Seventh Action
Of the Points to be Observed by the Judge before the Formal Examination in the Place of Detention and Torture. This is the Eighth Action
Of the Method of Sentencing the Accused to be Questioned: and How she must be Questioned on the First Day; and Whether she may be Promised her Life. The Ninth Action
Of the Continuing of the Torture, and of the Devices and Signs by which the Judge can Recognize a Witch; and how he ought to Protect himself from their Spells. Also how they are to be Shaved in Parts where they use to Conceal the Devil's Masks and Tokens; together with the due Setting Forth of Various Means of Overcoming the Obstinacy in Keeping Silence and Refusal to Confess. And it is the Tenth Action
Of the fit Time and of the Method of the Second Examination. And it is the Eleventh Action, concerning the Final Precautions to be Observed by the Judge
The Third Head
Which is the last Part of this Work. How the Process is to be Concluded by the Pronouncement of a Definite and Just Sentence
Of Common Purgation, and especially of the Trial of Red-hot Iron, to which Witches Appeal
Of the Manner of Pronouncing a Sentence which is Final and Definitive
Of the Various Degrees of Overt Suspicion which render the Accused liable to be Sentenced
Of the Firth Method of Pronouncing Sentence
Of the Second Method of Pronouncing Sentence, when the Accused is no more than Defamed
Of the Third Kind of Sentence, to be Pronounced on one who is Defamed, and who is to be put to the Question
The Fourth Method of Sentencing, in the Case of one Accused upon a Light Suspicion
The Fifth Manner of Sentence, in the Case of one under Strong Suspicion
The Sixth Kind of Sentence, in the Case of one who is Gravely Suspect
The Method of passing Sentence upon one who is both Suspect and Defamed
The Method of passing Sentence upon one who hath Confessed to Heresy, but is still not Penitent
The Method of passing Sentence upon one who hath Confessed to Heresy but is Relapsed, Albeir now Penitent
The Method of passing Sentence upon one who hath Confessed to Heresy but is Impenitent, although not Relapsed
Of One who has Confessed to Heresy, is Relapsed, and is also Impenitent
Of One Taken and Convicted, but Denying Everything
Of One who is Convicted but who hath Fled or who Contumaciously Absents himself
Of the Method of passing Sentence upon one who has been Accused by another Witch, who has been or is to be Burned at the Stake
Of the Method of passing Sentence upon a Witch who Annuls Spells wrought by Witchcraft; and of Witch Midwives and Archer-Wizards
Finally, of the Method of passing Sentence upon Witches who Enter or Cause to be Entered an Appeal, whether such be Frivolous or Legitimate and Just
The Malleus Maleficarum (Latin for “The Hammer of Witches”, or “Hexenhammer” in German) is one of the most famous medieval treatises on witches. It was written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, and was first published in Germany in 1487. Its main purpose was to challenge all arguments against the existence of witchcraft and to instruct magistrates on how to identify, interrogate and convict witches.
Some modern scholars believe that Jacob Sprenger contributed little if anything to the work besides his name, but the evidence to support this is weak. Both men were members of the Dominican Order and Inquisitors for the Catholic Church. They submitted the Malleus Maleficarum to the University of Cologne’s Faculty of Theology on May 9, 1487, seeking its endorsement.
While general consensus is that The Catholic Church banned the book in 1490 by placing it on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (“List of Prohibited Books”), the first Index was, in fact, produced in 1559 under the direction of Pope Paul IV. Therefore such claims are dubious, at best. I believe people are confusing the fact that the Inquisition reportedly denounced Heinrich Kramer in 1490 as being a ban upon the Malleus Maleficarum. Thus far, I’ve yet to find theMalleus on any Index Librorum Prohibitorum (copies of which are available on the Internet – most notably the 1559 and 1948editions).
The papal bull, which appeared at the beginning of the book, could rightly be said to be misleading, because it addresses Kramer’s and Sprenger’s authorities as Inquisitors in certain lands, not the creation of the Malleus Maleficarum. The Catholic Encyclopedia states“Innocent’s Bull enacted nothing new. Its direct purport was simply to ratify the powers already conferred upon Henry Institoris and James Sprenger, inquisitors, to deal with persons of every class and with every form of crime (for example, with witchcraft as well as heresy), and it called upon the Bishop of Strasburg to lend the inquisitors all possible support.” So Kramer treated the bull as if it was an endorsement of his book, but it was not. However, the inclusion of the bull certainly gave the impression that the Malleus Maleficarum had been granted approval by Pope Innocent VIII.
Some believe that the Letter of Approbation from The Faculty of Theology of the University of Cologne was a falsified document. General consensus is that Heinrich Kramer brought the Malleus Maleficarum before the University of Cologne requesting an endorsement, but was rebuffed. Tradition has it that Kramer forged the document that he included with his work, that he and James Sprenger parted ways on bad terms, and that Kramer was denounced by the Inquisition in 1490. One would expect, however, that had such a document been forged, Mr. Kramer would not have subsequently been able to conduct very popular lectures in Venice starting in 1495, much less be empowered to proceed against the Waldensians and Picards in 1500.
I believe it’s much more likely that the Letter of Approbation was genuine, but that the Malleus itself was never actually read by the gentlemen who endorsed it. I think it’s much more likely that Dr. Edward Peters was correct when, in his section of the workWitchcraft and Magic in Europe: Volume Three – The Middle Ages [page 239], he stated; “The approval of the theological faculty of Cologne was arranged through a complicated series of academic negotiations – it, too, does not address the remarkable qualities of the work itself. It is doubtful whether Innocent VIII or the theological faculty of Cologne ever read the work.”
Also, according to Dr. Christopher Mackay, whose recent translation represents a reliable modern scholarly edition of theMalleus Maleficarum, “The argument was made in the nineteenth century by a scholar hostile to what the Malleus stood for that the approbation was a forgery by Institoris and that Sprenger had nothing to do with the composition. The evidence for this is in my view very tenuous (and the main argument is clearly invalid). Nonetheless, once the argument was put forward, it took on a life of its own, and people continue to advance arguments in favor of the idea that Sprenger’s involvement was a falsification perpetrated by Institoris, despite the fact that this argument was vitiated from the start.”
Whether or not the work was ever officially banned by the Catholic Church, the Malleus Maleficarum became the de-facto handbook for witch-hunters and Inquisitors throughout Late Medieval Europe. Between the years 1487 and 1520, it was published thirteen times, and between 1574 to 1669 it was again published sixteen times.
The Malleus Maleficarum perhaps owes most of its popularity to Johannes Gutenberg. It was the invention of the printing press in the middle of the fifteenth century that allowed the work to spread so rapidly throughout Europe.