“The belief that there are such things as witches is so essential a part of the faith that obstinately to maintain the opposite opinion manifestly savors of heresy.”
So begins Malleus Maleficarum , a witch hunters manual published in 1486 that launched a new paradigm for all those concerned with the identification and extirpation of witches. Used as a judicial case-book the Malleus set forth definitions of witchcraft, rules of evidence, and the canonical procedures by which suspected witches were tortured and put to death. Written by Inquisitors for Inquisitors, the Malleus construct came to be regarded as irrefutable truth and contributed to the identification and execution of as many as 60,000 “witches”, predominantly women. The 29th and last edition was published in 1669.
Although there was a general belief in witches at the time the Malleus was published they were not regarded as evil or life threatening. Society…
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