Witchcraft and Literature

HideShow resource information

Literature - the dissemination of belief

Although reports of witchcraft varied from place to palce and form one period to the next, they still shared a number of common features. These similarities suggest strongly that learned notion abouts witchcraft were transmitted from one area to another and from one generation to the next. 

Judges and inquisitors often acquired knowledge of witchcraft through their education and reading before actually prosecuting witches. As the stereotype of witchcraft became fairly well established, literature became the main vehicle for transmitting knowledge about the crime. The importance of literature also increased with the introductions of the printing press. This innovation made it possible for learned belifs to spread more broadly and more rapidly.

Malleus Maeficarum was first published in 1486 and reprinted thirteen times before 1520.

Written Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger. Kramer was an elderly thologian who was probably the soul author.

Kramer conducted prosecutions in the town of Ravensburg.  When they encountered resistance from local ecclesiastial and secual authorities who resented their exercise of papal authority. Kramer succeeded in obtaining a Bull, Summin Desideranted, from Pope Innocent VIII authorizing the two men to proceed without obstruction.  Using the Bull Kramer conducted a brutal witch-hunt in the doicese of Brien.  

One year later, citing as examples many of the cases he had adjudicated, Kramer published the Malleus, to which he attached the papal Bull as a preface. 

The Malleus was essentially a manual for inquisitors. It took the form of scholastic disputation, in which a series of questions were asked and answered. It drew on a broad range of theological and legal writers in a rather eclectic fashion and it incorporated many of the popular beliefs regarding witchcraft that were current in Southern Germany at the time. 

The Malleus became a statement of the cumulative concept of witchcraft although it said very little about the components (nothing about the Sabbath). The only contribution that the book made to learned beliefs was Kramer's emphasis on the sexual nature and foundation of the crime. He claimed that the most powerful class of witches 'practice carnal copulation with devils' and the root of witchcraft was carnal lust. The book was conisdered extremely misogynistic as Kramer was deeply contemtous of the intellectual and moral weakness of women, they were


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Early Modern resources »