Malleus becomes basis for laws

Another cruel aspect of the witch-hunts was that relatives of the accused were charged money for all manner of details involved in the trial of their loved ones. Not only did they pay the salary of the judge/torturer, they also bore the cost of food and lodging for the accused in prison. In addition, relatives were charged for the wood and straw used for kindling the execution fire, and they were billed for the lavish banquets typically held for officials before mass executions. In the case of accused people who had no relatives in the region, personal property was confiscated to pay the bills. The result was that many people lost their land, money, and lives while a few witch-hunters and judges accumulated wealth with every successful trial.

According to the Malleus, "it has never yet been known that an innocent person has been punished on suspicion of

The Pope and the Authors

Historical records from the late 1400s help shed light on the characters responsible for the campaign against witches. Pope Innocent VIII, who issued the Papal Bull condemning witches in 1484, was known for his adamant position against all things relating to fertility and sexuality. For instance, he published edicts describing the few situations in which sexual activity could not be considered the work of the devil, thus setting unrealistic guidelines for the common people. Yet historians have learned that he had a long-term relationship with a woman who bore him two illegitimate children. It is also said that for several months he was kept alive on his deathbed by nursing from the breast of a grown woman, and he received blood transfusions that cost the lives of four young "donors."

Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger, authors of the anti-witch handbook Malleus Maleficarum, also left less than honorable records in the history books. One account says that Kramer once bribed an old woman to climb into a baker's oven and scream that the devil had put her there. She was then forced to accuse several people in the village of working for the devil, and they were all put to death. Kramer was notorious for relishing his power and authority over the lives of accused villagers. Sprenger is known to have forged an official letter of praise from the theological faculty (those teaching

Innocent VIII wanted greater control over the punishment of witches, so he had Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger write Malleus Maleficarum.

Reproduced by permission of Archive Photos, Inc.

Innocent VIII wanted greater control over the punishment of witches, so he had Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger write Malleus Maleficarum.

Reproduced by permission of Archive Photos, Inc.

religion) of the University of Cologne in support of the Malleus Maleficarum. This prestigious board was responsible for censoring and approving all publications throughout Europe, and the forged letter was included in every copy of the book except for editions sold in the city of Cologne itself. This fact remained hidden until 1898, when a German scholar uncovered evidence of Sprenger's trickery. Although it was not generally known at the time, Sprenger had such a poor reputation that his colleagues at the University of Cologne would not permit the traditional mass to be performed at his funeral.

witch-craft and there is no doubt that god would never permit such a thing to happen." The book became the guide for civil and church law for over two centuries, going through twenty-eight editions between 1486 and 1600. It was accepted by Catholics and Protestants alike as the authority on ridding Europe of satanism and witchcraft, which were now considered inseparable. The Malleus was both the catalyst and fuel for the intense panic and hatred that swept through Europe, resulting in what some have called genocide, the planned and systematic extermination of an entire group of people.

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