Malleus Maleficarum

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The Malleus Maleficarum[2] (Latin for "The Hammer of Witches", or "Der Hexenhammer" in German) is a famous treatise on witches, written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer, an Inquisitor of the Catholic Church, and was first published in Germany in 1487.[3] Jacob Sprenger is also often attributed as an author, but some scholars now believe that he became associated with the Malleus Maleficarum largely as a result of Kramer's wish to lend his book as much official authority as possible.[4]

The main purpose of the Malleus was to attempt to systematically refute arguments claiming that witchcraft does not exist, discredit those who expressed skepticism about its reality, to claim that witches were more often women than men, and to educate magistrates on the procedures that could find them out and convict them.[5] Kramer was denounced by the Inquisition in 1490.[6]

Contents

Genesis

The Malleus Maleficarum was published in 1487 by Heinrich Kramer (Latinised Institoris)[7] and James Sprenger (also known as Jacob or Jakob Sprenger). Scholars have debated how much Sprenger contributed to the work. Some say his role was minor,[8] and was written almost entirely by Kramer who used the name of Sprenger for his prestige only,[7] while others say there is little evidence for this claim.[9]

In 1484 Kramer made one of the first attempts at a systematic persecution of witches in the region of Tyrol. It was not a success, Kramer was thrown out of the territory, and dismissed by the local bishop as a "senile old man". According to Diarmaid MacCulloch, writing the book was Kramer’s act of self-justification and revenge.[10] Some scholars have suggested that following the failed efforts in Tyrol, Kramer and Sprenger requested and received a papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus in 1484. It allegedly gave full papal approval for the Inquisition to prosecute witchcraft in general and for Kramer and Sprenger specifically.[11] Malleus Maleficarum was written in 1484 or 1485 and the papal bull was included as part of the preface.[11]

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