Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Malleus Maleficarum - Possibly One of the Most Bloodstained Document in the History of Our World"

Let's take a quick peek at  the RM's Malleus info.  (If you wish to see the original, just search the post title.)

RM writes: "Malleus Maleficarum - Possibly One of the Most Bloodstained Document in the History of Our World 
MALLEUS MALEFICARUM (hammer of the Witches) is possibly, one of the most bloodstained document in the history of our world. This book was originally written in Latin in 1487 by two supposedly learned and highly respected experts on the subject of Witchcraft. The Malleus, co-written by Henry Kramer and James Sperenger, was the "rulebook" for the detention and persecution of Witches."
I have a problem with the hyperbole applied above.

Amongst a certain type (or two) floating amidst the pagan community, it is fashionable to try to generate affinity for 'the persecuted witches of yore' (nevermind that they were almost all avowed Xtians); and the less-ethical will frequently use this fabrication to generate a cultish group-think; an 'us/them' mentality amongst their followers. We heard this all the time in the daft Burning Times* discussions of 20 years ago, in which historical fact and context were abandoned for the sake of establishing an artificial, consistent 'witch history.' Today, thankfully, most of the pagan community is well aware of the error in the above, and are much more aware of historical facts. However, there are those who still spread misinformation (scroll down at link) and seek sensationalism for their own purposes; even using the word Holocaust - as if the religious upheavals of the time had specifically targeted non-Xtians.
Malleus was not written 'by two supposedly learned and highly respected experts on the subject of Witchcraft.'  It was written by  Heinrich (not 'Henry') Kramer. It is in doubt amongst scholars that James (Jakob) Sprenger (not 'Sperenger') had little or anything to do with it's authorship, but was associated with it, by Kramer, to try to lend authenticity to his work.
Kramer, who was an Inquisitor in Germany, was denounced by the Inquisition in 1490 - a mere three years after he published Malleus. Apparently frustrated (and quite possibly a misogynist), he made one of the first attempts at a systematic persecution of witches in the region of Tyrol, Spain in 1484. It failed miserably, with Kramer being thrown out of the territory, and called a senile old man by the area bishop.***
It has been speculated** that writing the Malleus immediately after this event was both his revenge and self-justification. It was certainly an effort at fear-mongering, and the Gutenberg press provided for it's larger distribution. Most importantly, it threw down the gauntlet amongst the wavering Xtian factions as to whether or not witches did indeed exist and/or have evil powers - a point wavered on amongst the Xtian leadership for centuries - and clearly demonized those that would oppose this view.
The Malleus in no way represents any kind of pagan persecution, and to present it as such is ludicrous and uninformed; it was a political machination. It represents the religio-political conflicts of the Reformation (and conflict between Church canon and doctrine) - and one old, angry and likely sadistic man at odds with his religious leadership. 
RM writes:    "As the centuries rolled on, after the publication of the Malleus, punishment for heretics became more violent. When the Court of the Inquisition was founded, a bloody crusade was established."
Misleading and factually wrong. The German theologian, Johannes Nider's treatise, Formicarius, of 1437 clearly establishes that torture and trials involving witchcraft accusations (largely secular) were already in place by the early 15th century; half a century before Malleus. The Malleus had no relationship with the founding of the Inquisitional Court, which was founded in 1231; not to persecute, but to standardize heresy trials by insuring that a qualified Church representative, not a layman, would be assessing ones heresy and salvation potential.
Perhaps RM only looked at the Spanish Inquisition; but that still wouldn't be accurate, as it's primary persecution was the Jewish population.
It may also be useful to note that charges of heresy included coin counterfeiting and adultery, and were primarily handled by secular courts. Men were hanged, women were strangled/hanged and then burned, upon  conviction. Only a few countries burned anyone alive for heretic charges, most notably southwest Germany. (Apparently the practice of burning post-mortem ceased in England after a woman convicted of heresy did not die of the preceding strangulation, and public pressure to cease such a punishment ensued after witnesses observed her hideous death.)
In conclusion, know your history and/or do your own research. Anyone can get a book listed on Amazon these days; do not assume 'authorship' infers authority.

* Burning Times - a phrase made popular by ultra-feminist Mary Daly in her 1978 book, Gyn/Ecology: The Meta-Ethics of Radical Feminism. It was introduced to the pagan world after being appropriated by Starhawk. It's legacy is a perfect example of the Telephone Game (how errors repeat and develop):

In "The Spiral Dance", Starhawk stated that up to nine million people, mostly women, were killed during the Witch Hunts in early modern Europe. The number was based on an article by Mary Daly, who based it on the writings of the 19th century feminist Matilda Joslyn Gage.
Source: Casualty Figures
I have seen people online claim that the phrase was coined by Gerald Gardner, but I haven't seen any documentation of this claim.

**/*** Reformation: Europe's House Divided, Diarmaid MacCulloch, 2004


  1. My personal opinion on the burning times (yes I have used lower case and yes it was deliberate) is that some pagans feel the need to have their own 'period of persecution' in common with other major religions and will make the facts fit the fiction.

    More self evident periods, albeit less bloody and more destruction by absorbtion, like the setteling of ancient Britian by the Romans would be more accurate.

    However, they lack the glamour and the direct link to Chrisitanity that some seem to crave becuase, as we all know, the Christians are the WORST thing to happen to Paganism EVA! *snarf*

    Personally I've more important things to worry about, like where the cat disapeared off to, as opposed to the false history some pagans seem to need to create. I know my history, probably better than them, and thats whats important.

    Violet Tattersticks

  2. "The Burning Times" eh? YAWN! I never ever bought into this US inspired fairy tale... yes ppl were persecuted but mostly were heretics in my understanding. As far as I know, looking through the Parish registers were I live, no witches were burned at the stake or hanged! However I have yet to look at the county rolls, but I doubt I'll find owt there either.

    Modern Witches have trouble realising that those who practised the Arte in the distant (and not so distant) past were of dual faith! Yes they went to church every Sunday, were good God fearing folk and did spells; divined the future; cast horoscopes and used herbs in healings! One only has to look at the Harrys (think I've spelt that correctly) family, active in the last century on the Welsh Marches, and you'll get the idea.

    Too much is made of these so called burning times, imho. I've seen RM whip up a storm on her groups (just for fun apparently) thro' her socks; having got members into a right lather, she's appeared like a shining angel to calm things down! Talk about control freak!

    Keep up the good work Sehnga!

  3. :)

    All to make a few bucks; because she certainly doesn't want a 'following' for any other reason, that's quite obvious.