Malleus In Culture

Witch Hunter’s Bible

PagesNational Geographic

For the first time ever, an international investigation team joins forces to unravel the mysteries of the Malleus Maleficarum, or Hammer of Witches. Written in 1486, this infamous medieval manual changed the way the Western world saw evil. With detailed instructions on how to find, prosecute and punish witches, the Malleus inspired centuries of accusation and bloodshed on both sides of the Atlantic.

SUN MAY 9, 2010 – 10P


One of the most controversial and infamous texts of all time, The Hammer of the Witches put many innocent people to death. But who wrote this book? What did it say? And how did it convince so many people of the dangers of witchcraft?


  • The witch hunter’s bible was referred to in Latin as the Malleus Maleficarum, which translates to mean The Hammer of the Witches.
  • This text was written in 1486, published in 1487, and consisted of 256 pages of facts proving that witches were real and must be killed.
  • Between the 16th and 17th centuries, researchers speculate that over 30,000 copies were in circulation throughout Europe, during which an estimated 60,000 “witches” were put to death.
  • The text contains three separate sections: the first is a philosophical explanation of witches’ existence, the second is a clergy guide to recognize a witch, and the third is a legal manual for the accusation, persecution, and death penalty for witchcraft.


  • A man named Heinrich Kramer, one of the most infamous witch hunters in history, eventually became the author of The Hammer of the Witches. His initial motivation for writing the text was to prove his theory to many of his critics because he had, thus far, failed as a witch hunter.
  • The most powerful endorsement the Hammer ever saw was the Papal Bull, a document signed by the Pope himself stating an official church opinion, making it the only book on witchcraft to receive this approval.
  • It is said that in order to persuade the Pope to condone the Hammer of the Witches, Kramer brought him a sum of money.
  • Kramer’s favorite punishment for witchcraft is called the “strappado,” which is a device that attaches to the wrists and pulls upward, hanging its victims by their arms until they dislocate.
  • In Kramer’s first successful trial, he implements this type of torture until two women confess to committing acts of demonic sorcery; for this, they were burned alive.


  • The text’s two objectives are to warn the general public against the danger of witches and to give Kramer official authority to hunt them.
  • The Hammer of the Witches put fear into the general public by warning them that witches were accomplices of the devil.
  • The text also convinced its readers that witches were a sign of the apocalypse.
  • The book attempted to persuade its audience that female sexual seduction is another sign of witchcraft.
  • Often women were blamed for conjuring a hailstorm with the intention of destroying the area’s crops.
  • According to the Hammer, the weak are the most dangerous; it condemned women who were poverty-stricken, mentally ill, and even those who simply practiced herbal medicine.


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