MALEBRANCHE, NICOLAS (1638-1715). A French philosopher born in Paris, Malebranche studied theology at the university there. In 1660, he entered the Catholic religious order of the Oratorians, intending to pursue his studies of the early church father Augustine of Hippo, until he encountered the highly rationalist philosophy of René Descartes. In his major work, De la recherche de la vérité (The Search after Truth), published in 1674, Malebranche espoused a near-complete skepticism about witchcraft. The devil, he argued, had very little real power in the world, and so most of the alleged crimes of witchcraft could not be real. When not based on completely false accusations, they arose from delirium, mental instability, and an inability to distinguish delusion from reality on the part of those who confessed to such crimes.

MALEFICIUM. In the broadest terms, the crime of witchcraft as it was conceived in late-medieval and early-modern Europe may be said to consist of two elements, the practice of harmful sorcery, most often known in Latin as maleficium, and the practice of demon-worship, idolatry, apostasy, and other related heretical elements, usually described collectively as diabolism. While diabolism was unique to witchcraft in the Christian West, the practice of harmful sorcery is the defining characteristic of witchcraft, understood in a broader sense, in most cultures around the world.

In the historical European context, maleficium could involve any number of harmful acts or crimes performed through sorcery. Typical aspects of maleficium included causing disease or death, impeding sexual activity and reproduction in either human beings or livestock, impeding the fertility of crops, bringing pestilence or famine to a region, causing destructive storms or hail (or in coastal regions causing storms at sea), committing theft through sorcery, performing love magic to arouse either affection or enmity between people, causing pregnant women to miscarry, and killing small children. Accusations of maleficium most often arose when some otherwise unexplainable misfortune struck an individual, a family, or in some cases an entire community. The misfortune was blamed on the enmity of one or more sorcerers or witches, and by punishing these people, relief could be gained, or at least the assurance that such misfortune would not occur again in the future. Surviving trial records from the period of the great witch-hunts show that, in almost all cases, the initial accusation or accusations that sparked a hunt dealt solely with maleficium. Most often only in the course of a trial or hunt were elements of diabolism imposed by authorities, either ecclesiastical or secular.

As a crime that supposedly caused real harm, albeit by magical means, maleficium fell under the jurisdiction of secular authorities throughout the Middle Ages and early-modern period. When ecclesiastical authorities sought to prosecute a case of witchcraft, they had to bring charges of heresy related to elements of diabolism, although this was not typically difficult to do since most authorities held that much, if not all, harmful sorcery was performed by invoking demons and offering them sacrifices or worship. During the period of the most intense witch-hunting in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, many secular authorities, as well as ecclesiastical ones, were prima-


rily concerned with the diabolical aspects of witchcraft, not so much with the mere practice of maleficium. It is notable that in the British Isles and other regions of Europe where witch-hunting was noticeably less severe, elements of diabolism were never fully integrated into the stereotype of witchcraft, and many trials continued to focus exclusively or mainly on maleficium. Although still seen as a serious crime and a real threat, harmful sorcery alone could not usually generate the level of panic or fear of widespread diabolical conspiracies needed to launch a full witch-hunt.

MALLEUS MALEFICARUM. Certainly the most famous treatise on witchcraft and witch-hunting ever written, the Malleus malefi-carum (Hammer of Witches) was authored by the Dominican inquisitor Heinrich Kramer probably in 1486 and was first printed no later than 1487. Since its first publication, the work has generally been attributed to two men, Kramer and his fellow Dominican inquisitor Jakob Sprenger. It has long been clear, however, that Kramer was by far the principal author. Strong evidence now exists the Sprenger contributed very little or even nothing to the work aside from his name, which was used to lend authority to the treatise (Sprenger being a theologian educated at the university at Cologne and a prominent figure in the Dominican order). A letter, only discovered in 1972, written by Sprenger's successor in the office of prior of the Dominicans in Cologne, a man who knew Sprenger well, explicitly stated that he had nothing to do with the composition of the Malleus maleficarum.

The Malleus is written like a scholastic theological treatise. In its contents, however, it reveals itself to be a practical handbook rather than a theoretical work. Much of the material it contains was intended not to convince educated scholars but for use in sermons to inform the public of the dangers of witchcraft and as a guide for those who would be responsible for uncovering and prosecuting this crime. The treatise is composed in three sections. The first part focuses on the nature of witchcraft, describing it as a form of heresy that arises because of the evil will of the devil and the complicity of human witches. In particular, the Malleus argues that women, being weak of will and lesser in faith, are far more susceptible to the seductions of the devil than are men, and thus are far more likely to become witches. The author stresses, how ever (as do all medieval and early-modern religious authorities), that witchcraft is only possible through the tacit permission of God, who allows the devil to tempt and humans to exercise free will. The second section focuses on the activities of witches. Here less attention is given to ideas of pacts with demons and other elements of diabolism inherent in witchcraft, and more focus is laid on the actual harmful sorcery, or maleficium, that witches perform—killing or causing disease in humans or animals, raising storms or hail, afflicting fertility, causing impotence, murdering babies, and so forth—as well as to potential remedies that can be used against such bewitchment. The third section then discusses legal procedures to be used in cases of witchcraft, including a variety of questions to be asked during interrogations of accused witches and directions for the application of torture.

The Malleus maleficarum has long enjoyed the reputation of being the preeminent piece of literature on witchcraft produced in medieval and early-modern Europe. There is no doubt that the book was very influential, going through numerous printings during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. However, very little research has been done to verify exactly how, where, and when it was regularly employed. Throughout the period of the witch-hunts, the Malleus was in no way a definitive source on all aspects of witchcraft, even in Roman Catholic countries and for officials of the church. Later authors did not necessarily agree with the Malleus on all points, and later treatises on witchcraft, such as those by the French demonologist Jean Bodin and the Jesuit Martin Del Rio, enjoyed even greater success and influence. Particularly in the severity of its misogyny and its stress on the essentially female nature of witchcraft the Malleus appears to have been unique.

MANDRAKE. A poisonous herb native to the Mediterranean region, mandrake has long been thought to possess magical powers and has been used in a wide variety of spells and potions. The ancient Greeks associated the plant with the semi-divine sorceress Circe. The power of the mandrake was attributed to its root, which appears to be a small, human-shaped figure. Supposedly, the mandrake will shriek loudly when uprooted and will kill whoever digs it up. A special procedure for collecting mandrake was therefore developed. A sorcerer or witch would dig up most of the plant but not fully remove it from the ground. A dog was then tied to the plant with a rope, and the human

would leave. The dog, trying to follow its master, would pull the mandrake from the ground, whereupon the animal would be struck dead and the human could return to collect the root. Witches were said to pick the root from beneath gallows trees, where it supposedly grew from the blood of hanged criminals. Aside from supposed magical qualities the mandrake is highly toxic. It has therefore frequently been used in a variety of poisons and also, in lesser quantities, as an anesthetic for medical purposes.

MAP, WALTER (ca. 1140-1208/10). An English cleric who served as a royal justice under King Henry II, from about 1182, Map recorded various stories, anecdotes, and observations in a work entitled De nugis curialium (On the Folly of Courtiers). Here, he included accounts of diabolical pacts, demonic activity, sorcery, and heresy. He described a heretical sect known as Publicans or Patarines, the members of which gathered secretly to feast, celebrate, and worship a demon, who appeared in the form of a large black cat. Although Map did not describe them in any way as witches, his account of their activities, and the stereotypes of heretics upon which it drew, would obviously influence the later image of the witches' sabbath.

MATHER, COTTON (1663-1728). The son of the important Puritan minister Increase Mather, Cotton himself became a leading minister in the Massachusetts colony and was more closely involved in matters of witchcraft than was his father. He firmly believed in the reality of witches and the dangerous satanic threat that they supposedly represented. He, therefore, supported witch trials and witch-hunting in his sermons and writings. In 1689, he published Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcraft and Possessions, recounting the dangers of witchcraft. The book helped to set the stage for the major outbreak of witch-hunting at Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. Once these trials began, Mather met with other Boston ministers to discuss the matter. Although he was concerned about the difficultly in determining a true case of witchcraft, especially when only spectral evidence was available, nevertheless Mather, along with the other ministers, encouraged local authorities to seek out and prosecute witches vigorously. In 1693, he wrote The Wonders of the Invisible World, justifying his support for the trials in Salem.

Shortly after the trials in Salem, a backlash began to occur against rampant witch-hunting in the New England colonies, and so public opinion began to turn against Mather, who remained firm in his convictions regarding the dangerous threat that witches posed. His reputation suffered, and, among other consequences, this contributed to his being passed over several times for the presidency of Harvard College. In reaction to this perceived insult, Mather began to take an interest in the Connecticut College School, and in 1718 he wrote an impassioned letter to Elihu Yale, urging him to endow this institution, which would thereafter bear his name. The founding of Yale University is surely among the most admirable consequences to be associated, however distantly (it seems Elihu Yale was moved by other pleas for support far more than by Mathers'), with the Salem witch-hunts.

MATHER, INCREASE (1639-1723). A prominent Puritan minister and one of the most important men in colonial Massachusetts in his day, Increase Mather was educated at Harvard and Trinity College, Dublin. He served as a minister in the Church of England until 1661, when he returned to Massachusetts. Alarmed at what he perceived to be a growing religious laxness, and especially by reports of witchcraft, in 1684 he published An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences. In this work, which did not deal solely with witchcraft, Mather recorded a variety of supernatural occurrences, including demonic activity and demonic possession. The book became very popular in the New England colonies. A few years later, in 1692, a series of witch trials took place at Salem, Massachusetts. In the wake of these trials, the most severe case of witch-hunting seen in Colonial America, Mather published a work entitled Cases of Conscience in 1693. Here he argued the need for greater caution in prosecuting witchcraft, especially if only spectral evidence was available. He concluded, however, in support of all the convictions at Salem. Increase's son Cotton Mather was more directly and significantly involved in matters of witchcraft than was his father.

MEDEA. One of the great female sorceresses of classical mythology, Medea was the daughter of the king of Colchis, and a priestess of Hecate, the ancient Greek goddess of magic and witchcraft. She was also sometimes depicted as related to the other great classical sorceress,

Circe. When the hero Jason came to Colchis in search of the Golden Fleece, Medea fell in love with him and aided him with her magic, which was often dark and murderous. When Jason attained the fleece and fled Colchis, to delay pursuit, Medea performed a spell that involved killing her own brother and dismembering his body. In Greece, she used magic to kill Pelias, the usurper of Jason's kingdom. Later, when Jason fell in love with another princess, Medea gave her a robe as a gift that caused her to burst into flame when she put it on. Medea then killed her own children by Jason and fled in a dragon-drawn chariot. In the medieval and early-modern periods, she became a literary archetype of the witch, especially of the notion that witches were motivated by carnal passions.

METAMORPHOSIS. Among the powers that witches were commonly believed to possess was that of metamorphosis, the ability to alter their own shape, usually into that of some kind of animal. In particular, witches were often thought to be able to turn themselves into werewolves, and there is a strong historical connection between witchcraft and lycanthropy. Authorities in medieval and early-modern Europe differed as to the reality of such transformations, however. For example, Jean Bodin accepted its reality, while the Malleus maleficarum, following the arguments of Thomas Aquinas on the nature and extent of demonic power, held that such changes were just illusions created by demons and not real alterations of substance.

MIDWIVES. A great deal of modern scholarship on witchcraft maintains that midwives were especially vulnerable to accusations of this crime, and figured prominently in many trials. As healers, they were widely believed to have access to spells for magical healing and other occult remedies, and they could easily become suspect of wrongdoing if a birth did not go well. Much feminist scholarship in particular has focused on the idea of the supposed midwife-witch. Observing that midwives occupied one of only a few positions of public power and authority open to women in premodern Europe, these scholars have argued that the tarring of midwives with accusations of witchcraft was an attempt by male authorities to reduce or eliminate powerful, independent roles for women in society. Recently, however, the entire premise

of such arguments has been called into serious question. Careful study of trial records reveals that very few midwives were ever actually accused of witchcraft. Rather than vulnerable and marginal members of society, they had to be respectable and trusted in order to succeed in their profession. It now seems clear that many historians have been led astray by a few spectacular cases, by the extended reference to midwife-witches in the infamous witch-hunting manual Malleus malefi-carum (noted for a level of misogyny that is not, in fact, present in many other major treatises on witchcraft or demonology), and by a tradition of association that originated in the now-discredited work of Margaret Murray.


MOLITOR, ULRICH (ca. 1442-1507/08). An early author on witchcraft, Molitor was born in the southern German city of Constance. He was educated there and at the university at Pavia, where he received his degree in canon law. He served as an official in the episcopal court in Constance and then in the court of Duke Siegmund of Tirol. It was while in the service of the duke that he composed his treatise De lamiis and phitonicis mulieribus (Concerning Witches and Women Fortunetellers), completed in 1489. Molitor wrote this work in the form of a dialogue between those who accepted the idea of witchcraft and those who did not, and thereby revealed how this concept was still taking shape and gaining credence in the late 15 th century. He concluded, for example, following the tradition of the canon Episcopi, that witches did not really fly through the night to a sabbath, but argued that the nature of their heresy remained the same, even if their actions at the sabbath (devil-worship, rejection of the Christian faith, and so forth) were only illusory. Many of his ideas about witchcraft were influenced by the inquisitor Heinrich Kramer, who had conducted several witch trials in Tirol, and whose own great treatise on witch-hunting, Malleus maleficarum, had been published only a few years earlier in 1487.

MONTAIGNE, MICHEL DE (1533-1595). One of the most important French philosophers of the early-modern period, Montaigne exhibited a powerful skepticism and uncertainty about the basis of human knowledge in almost every area. His guiding motto was que sais-je?

(what do I know?). He did not deny the reality of witchcraft outright, but rather argued that, given human nature, it was likely that human deceit or error were involved in most cases of supposed witchcraft. Given this uncertainty, it was generally unwise, he maintained, for authorities to prosecute people as witches.

MORA WITCHES. One of the most severe witch-hunts in Scandinavia occurred in 1669 in Mora, Sweden. Like the later trials at Salem, Massachusetts, which they influenced, the trials at Mora were instigated mainly by the accusations of children. In July 1668, a 15-year-old boy accused an 18-year-old girl of stealing children for the devil. The next year, a royal commission was appointed to investigate the matter. This investigation, which relied heavily on the testimony of children, uncovered a major supposed diabolic conspiracy. Witches would kidnap children in the night and spirit them away to a sabbath held in a mythic location known as Blakulla. Several hundred children came forward with similar testimony about being kidnapped. Although the case certainly represents a major hunt by Scandinavian standards, the figures in the Mora trials have often been exaggerated. In all, some 60 suspects were interrogated, and 23 people were sentenced to death. These executions also helped to inspire other trials in a panic that spread throughout Sweden, eventually reaching the capital at Stockholm and even into Swedish possessions in Finland.

MORGAN LE FEY. One of the major characters in the legends and literature surrounding the mythic King Arthur of Britain, Morgan le Fey (i.e., Morgan the fairy) is depicted as a powerful sorceress. Although she is either Arthur's sister or half-sister, and although the 15th-century author Thomas Mallory described her as learning her magic in a nunnery, there are elements of pre-Christian supernaturalism about her. Although far removed from the typical image of the witch in late-medieval and early-modern Europe, nevertheless Morgan provided a literary archetype for powerful and threatening female magic.

MURRAY, MARGARET (1863-1963). A British Egyptologist, arche-ologist, and anthropologist, early in the 20th century, Murray developed the theory that historical witchcraft was in fact the remnant of

an ancient pagan fertility religion. Her ideas were viewed with skepticism in the academic community, but in the 1950s Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern witchcraft, or Wicca, was inspired by them.

Murray, born to British parents in Calcutta, studied Egyptology at the University of London and became a professional academic Egyptologist. She was also interested in anthropology, however, and especially in the history of witchcraft. In 1921, she published her first book on this subject, The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, in which she argued that witches really had existed in medieval and early-modern Europe, not as Christian heretics or devil-worshipers, but as clandestine practitioners of a pre-Christian fertility religion. She was inspired by the anthropologist James Frazer's theories about fertility cults in his famous book The Golden Bough (1890). In her second book on witchcraft, The God of the Witches (1931), she traced the history of the Horned God, a male pagan fertility deity. She claimed that this horned deity was the basis for the idea of the devil presiding over a witches' sabbath. Her most radical book, however, was her last, The Divine King of England (1954). Here she maintained that every English king from William the Conqueror in the 11th century to James I in the 17th was secretly a practitioner of the ancient fertility religion of witchcraft and that the deaths of many important figures in English history could be explained as ritual murders committed by this fertility cult.

Murray never advanced any strong evidence to support her theories, her arguments were based mostly on conjecture and coincidence (and in her final book, at least, on outright conspiracy theories), and her ideas were always controversial in the academic community. Since the publication of her final book in the 1950s, her ideas have been almost completely discredited. However, her theories were an important inspiration for modern witchcraft. In his book Witchcraft Today, for which Murray wrote the introduction, Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern witchcraft, maintained that he had discovered a surviving coven of traditional, hereditary witches. He claimed that he had been initiated into their ancient religion, which he intended to reintroduce to the modern world. For a time, the idea that witchcraft was a direct survival of an ancient pagan religion was an essential part of Wiccan belief. By the 1990s, however, in the face of mounting historical evidence to the contrary, most Wiccans had abandoned Murray's theory.

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