In 1326 Pope John XXII responded to Dominican pressure by making witchcraft an official heresy.
Until recently it’s been said that in 1486, two educated Dominicans monks, Heinrich Kramer and James Sprengler wrote the Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches or Witches Hammer). However, some researchers believe that the book was written by Kramer, and Sprengler was merely added as an author to increase its supposedly authoritative status.
The book, based on Exodus 22:18 (“thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”), not only refuted the idea that witches are not real. It’s also is a grisly, perverse three-part manual on how to identify and legally force confessions out of suspected witches, who for all intents and purposes were considered guilty before their arrest.
Torture is outlined as an acceptable method for obtaining confessions.
Part I describes how the devil, with the permission of God, tempts people through various succubi and incubi, and turns them into animals.
Part II outlines how witches cast spells and bewitch people. This includes stories of pacts with the devil, the sacrifice of children and sexual intercourse with Satan. These stories were based on real inquisitions conducted by Kramer and Sprengler. And in retrospect, one wonders if they are not a map (i.e. projection) of the inquisitors’ own dark unconsciousness and hidden fantasies.
Part III provides methods for gathering evidence and testimony as well as outlining interrogation and torture techniques.
Judges were permitted to lie. They often said that mercy would be granted with a confession when in reality mercy was never on the agenda, confession or no confession. This kind of twisted lying apparently was for the “greater good.”
The book was also contradictory, at one point saying that many good people are susceptible to Demonic influence and, later, that only wicked individuals are vulnerable.
Although the Catholic Church officially banned The Witches Hammer in 1490, it was repeatedly published well into 1669. During that time many Inquisitors and witch-hunters used it as a how-to manual. And next to the Bible, it remained the No. 2 best-seller for almost 200 years after its first publication in 1486.
Meanwhile, the Church turned a blind eye to its popularity and widespread use, making the ban more an ethical and, perhaps, politically correct move than an actual measure.
On the Web:
- http://jp2m.blogspot.com/2006/11/john-paul-ii-revived-inquisition.html (Contains potentially disturbing content not suitable for minors)