Malleus Maleficarum Essay

Topics: Malleus Maleficarum, Witchcraft, Witch-hunt Pages: 7 (1593 words) Published: April 12, 2015
Malleus Maleficarum

Heinrich Kramer, a Dominican friar, wrote the Malleus Maleficarum in 1486. He believed witches to be “members of a vast conspiracy directed against Christian society that was allowed by God to cause immense physical and spiritual hardship” (Behringer 716). Therefore, Kramer believed the real way to rid witches was through physical eradication. The start of the manuscript came from his experience in witchcraft trials in Upper Germany. Kramer’s views on witchcraft and activities weren’t well received wherever he went, particularly authorities that believed he was merely interfering with the local administration. Annoyed at the opposition, he obtained papal rights for Pope Innocent VIII’s witchcraft prosecutions through the papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus in 1484, which gave him authorization for inquisitions against witches throughout German Church provinces. Kramer started his inquisition at Innsbruck and employed intimidation, brute force and endless forms of torture. Along with this, he denied anyone legal defense and altered the inquisition reports. However, Bishop George II Golser created a commission to halt Kramer’s activities and thereafter liberated all accused women. Defeated, Kramer quickly compiled his notes on witches into a manuscript that helped urge the necessity of ridding witchcraft. The Malleus was the result. However, there is still much confusion as to who actually wrote the Malleus and where it was printed. Many scholars believed that Jacob Sprenger coauthored the work but it turns out that he was one of Kramer’s enemies, constantly trying to suppress his activities and eventually drove him out of Sprenger’s province. Kramer was willing to use any method that served his purpose, as evidenced by contradictions between Innsbruck’s records and Kramer’s own records. He did everything he can to promote his publication by including the papal bull and going as far as forging the approval of the University of Cologne. Authors like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas were intentionally misquoted and he even emphasized his inquisitorial success at Innsbruck. The manuscript is littered with grammatical and spelling errors, further indicating his hasty publication that was finished in just 9 months. His main concerns in the text were female witches, which can be derived from the fact that Christian theology asserted that women were susceptible to temptation by the Devil. These attacks on women included the idea that women has constantly changing opinions that showed less inclination to believe in God and slippery tongues that made them share the craft with friends. Contrasting his views, Sprenger believed in the “positive aspects of female religious devotion” (Behringer 720). Rather than questioning the reality of witchcraft, Kramer questioned reality itself and believed deeply in the existence of demons. Furthermore, he believed that “heresy and apostasy lay at the core of witchcraft” (Behringer 720). Contradictions arise when Kramer states that harmful magic had “no physical agent” and stems from witches that are seduced by demons (Behringer 720). However, if this were the case then witches wouldn’t be able to be tried in court because the witches are not directly causing physical harm. There are five ideas in the Malleus that can be called original: 1) “witchcraft was a real crime, not just a spiritual one”, 2) it is the worst of all crimes combining “heresy, including apostasy and adoration of the Devil”, 3) it’s difficult to trace, therefore “legal inhibitions must be abandoned”, 4) “witches were primarily women”, 5) “secular courts should prosecute the crime” (Behringer 721). Behringer hints Kramer’s origin for his ideas came from his belief of women’s susceptibility to the Devil. This keeps in line with discussion in class that witchcraft is the service to the Devil. He doesn’t state specifically about the pact that is struck with the Devil, but working for the devil...
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