Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The History of Wicca: The Malleus Maleficarum

In 1486, two German monks wrote a book that was soon to become infamous. Jakob Sprenger and Heinrich (Institor) Kramer created the Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches’ Hammer) to give very definite instructions for the persecution of witchcraft during the Witch Trials. This book only ignited the already delicate situation in Europe, adding fuel to the raging persecution of innocents.

The Witches’ Hammer was divided very carefully into three separate parts.

The First Part of the Malleus Maleficarum

The first section of this book concludes that there are three things that must be present for witchcraft to be practiced. These are:
  • A witch;
  • The Devil; and
  • The permission of God.
The Malleus Maleficarum declares that to not believe in witchcraft must be heresy. It goes on to discuss several matters regarding what witches can and cannot do. Some items prominently discussed are:
  • A witch’s copulation with the Devil;
  • Whether witches can impede the ability to have children;
  • Whether children can be produced by Incubi and Succubi;
  • The various ways in which witches can kill children in the womb; and
  • Whether witches can sway the minds of men.
This first part of the infamous book has several chapters addressing the sexual aspects of witchcraft, revealing a certain obsession of the authors.
The Second Part of the Malleus Maleficarum
There is much detail concerning how witchcraft is worked, how it can be detected, and the ways in which it may be undone or warded against. This is the purview of the second section of the Malleus Maleficarum. Most of the items dealt with here are pulled simply from the imagination of the authors. For example, there is a chapter that focuses purely on how witches entice innocents to follow them, making a pact with evil. This, of course, is the purest nonsense.
There are many other interesting, yet completely incorrect details in this section of the Malleus Maleficarum. For example:
  • How witches transport from place to place in an instant;
  • The ways in which witches are able to prevent a woman from conceiving;
  • How witches, in the guise of midwives, kill children or offer them to devils; and
  • The various means of controlling the weather and animals.
Following these descriptions of the powers of witches are remedies for each.
The Third Part of the Malleus Maleficarum
This is by far the most famous section of the book. It is in the third section of the Malleus Maleficarum where you can find descriptions relating to the prosecution of witches, both in civil and clerical courts. Trials are explained in detail, beginning with an account of who the proper judges for a trial of this kind might be. From there, the book continues:
  • Beginning the trial process;
  • The examination of witnesses; and
  • Eliciting a confession.
It should be noted that the Malleus Maleficarum suggests that the testimony of anyone should be accepted. Even those who could give testimony in no other case were permitted to speak when it came to trials regarding witchcraft. Mortal enemies, criminals, and even children could testify, and their words would be taken as evidence against the accused.
The Malleus Maleficarum was submitted to the University of Cologne, the appointed censor of the time, for approval. However, the Theological Faculty refused to acknowledge the ridiculous work. Undaunted, Kramer and Sprenger simply forged the approbation of the entire faulty. Unfortunately, this forgery was not discovered until the year 1898. By then, the damage had been done, and the Witch Trials continued upon their timeline.
It would be hundreds of years before the persecutions would die down enough for some of the beliefs from early Europe to be resurrected. When they were, in the 20th century, one of the new adaptations was Wicca.

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