Malleus Maleficarum Part 2
Of those against whom the Power of Witches availeth not at all.
The second main part of this work deals with the method of procedure
adopted by witches for the performance of their witchcraft; and these are
distinguished under eighteen heads, proceeding from two chief difficulties.
The first of these two, dealt with in the beginning, concerns protective
remedies, by which a man is rendered immune from witchcraft: the second,
dealt with at the end, concerns curative remedies, by which those who
are bewitched can be cured. For, as Aristotle says (Physics, IV),
prevention and cure are related to one another, and are, accidentally,
matters of causation. In this way the whole foundation of this horrible
heresy may be made clear.
In the above two divisions, the following points will be principally
emphasized. First, the initiation of witches, and their profession of
sacrilege. Second, the progress of their method of working, and of their
horrible observances. Third, the preventive protections against their
witchcrafts. And because we are now dealing with matters relating to morals
and behaviour, and there is no need for a variety of arguments and
disquisitions, since those matters which now follow under their headings
are sufficiently discussed in the foregoing Questions; therefore we pray
God that the reader will not look for proofs in every case, since it is
enough to adduce examples that have been personally seen or heard, or are
accepted at the word of credible witnesses.
In the first of the points mentioned, two matters will be chiefly examined:
first, the various methods of enticement adopted by the devil himself;
second, the various ways in which witches profess their heresy. And in the
second of the main points, six matters will be examined in order, relating
to the procedure of witchcraft, and its cure. First, the practices of witches
with regard to themselves and their own bodies. Second, their practices with
regard to other men. Third, those relating to beasts. Fourth, the mischief
they do to the fruits of the earth. Fifth, those kinds of witchcraft which
are practised by men only and not by women. Sixth, the question of removing
witchcraft, and how those who are bewitched may be cured. The First Question,
therefore, is divided into eighteen heads, since in so many ways are their
observances varied and multiplied.
It is asked whether a man can be so blessed by the good Angels that he
cannot be bewitched by witches in any of the ways that follow. And it seems
that he cannot, for it has already been proved that even the blameless and
innocent and the just are often afflicted by devils, as was Job; and many
innocent children, as well as countless other just men, are seen to be
bewitched, although not to the same extent as sinners; for they are not
afflicted in the perdition of their souls, but only in their worldly goods
and their bodies. But the contrary is indicated by the confessions of
witches, namely, that they cannot injure everybody, but only those whom they
learn, through the information of devils, to be destitute of Divine help.
Answer. There are three classes of men blessed by God, whom that
detestable race cannot injure with their witchcraft. And the first are those
who administer public justice against them, or prosecute them in any public
official capacity. The second are those who, according to the traditional
and holy rites of the Church, make lawful use of the power and virtue which
the Church by her exorcisms furnishes in the aspersion of Holy Water, the
taking of consecrated salt, the carrying of blessed candles on the Day of
the Purification of Our Lady, of palm leaves upon Palm Sunday, and men who
thus fortify themselves are acting so that the powers of devils are
diminished; and of these we shall speak later. The third class are those who,
in various and infinite ways, are blessed by the Holy Angels.
The reason for this in the first class will be given and proved by various
examples. For since, as S. Paul says, all power if from God, and a sword
for the avenging of the wicked and the retribution of the good, it is no
wonder that devils are kept at bay when justice is being done to avenge
that horrible crime.
To the same effect the Doctors note that there are five ways in which the
devil's power is hindered, either wholly or in part. First, by a limit fixed
by God to his power, as is seen in Job i and ii. Another example is
the case of the man we read of in the Formicarius of Nider, who had
confessed to a judge that he had invoked the devil in order that he might
kill an enemy of his, or do him bodily harm, or strike him dead with
lightning. And he said: When I had invoked the devil that I might
commit such a deed with his help, he answered me that he was unable to do
any of those things, because the man had good faith and diligently defended
himself with the sign of the cross; and that therefore he could not harm him
in his body, but the most he could do was to destroy an eleventh part of the
fruit of his lands.
Secondly, it is hindered by the application of some exterior force, as in
the case of Balaam's ass, Numbers xxii. Thirdly, by some externally
performed miracle of power. And there are some who are blessed with an
unique privilege, as will be shown later in the case of the third class of
men who cannot be bewitched. Fourthly, by the good providence of God, Who
disposes each thing severally, and causes a good Angel to stand in the
devil's way, as when Asmodeus killed the seven husbands of the virgin Sara,
but did not kill Tobias.
Fifthly, it is sometimes due to the caution of the devil himself, for at
times he does not wish to do hurt, in order that worse may follow from it.
As, for example, when he could molest the excommunicated but does not do
so, as in the case of the excommunicated Corinthian (I. Corinthians
v), in order that he may weaken the faith of the Church in the power of such
banishment. Therefore we may similarly say that, even if the administrators
of public justice were not protected by Divine power, yet the devils often
of their own accord withdraw their support and guardianship from witches,
either because they fear their conversion, or because they desire and hasten
This fact is proved also by actual experience. For the aforesaid Doctor
affirms that witches have borne witness that it is a fact of their own
experience that, merely because they have been taken by officials of public
justice, they have immediately lost all their power of witchcraft. For
example, a judge named Peter, whom we have mentioned before, wished his
officials to arrest a certain witch called
Stadlin; but their hands were seized with
so great a trembling, and such a nauseous stench came into their nostrils,
that they gave up hope of daring to touch the witch. And the judge commanded
them, saying: You may safely arrest the wretch, for when he is
touched by the hand of public justice, he will lose all the power of his
iniquity. And so the event proved; for he was taken and burned for
many witchcrafts perpetrated by him, which are mentioned here and there in
this work in their appropriate places.
And many more such experiences have happened to us Inquisitors in the
exercise of our inquisitorial office, which would turn the mind of the
reader to wonder if it were expedient to relate them. But since self-praise
is sordid and mean, it is better to pass them over in silence than to incur
the stigma of boastfulness and conceit. But we must except those which have
become so well known that they cannot be concealed.
Not long ago in the town of Ratisbon the magistrates had condemned a witch
to be burned, and were asked why it was that we Inquisitors were not
afflicted like other men with witchcraft. They answered that witches had
often tried to injure them, but could not. And, being asked the reason for
this, they answered that they did not know, unless it was because the devils
had warned them against doing so. For, they said, it would be impossible to
tell how many times they have pestered us by day and by night, now in the
form of apes, not of dogs or goats, disturbing us with their cries and
insults; fetching us from our beds at their blasphemous prayers, so that we
have stood outside the window of their prison, which was so high that no one
could reach it without the longest of ladders; and then they have seemed to
stick the pins with which their head-cloth was fastened violently into their
heads. But praise be to Almighty God, Who in His pity, and for no merit of
our own, has preserved us as unworthy public servants of the justice of the
The reason in the case of the second class of men is self-evident. For the
exorcisms of the Church are for this very purpose, and are entirely
efficacious remedies for preserving oneself from the injuries of witches.
But if it is asked in what manner a man ought to use such protections, we
must speak first of those that are used without the uttering of sacred words,
and then of the actual sacred invocations. For in the first place it is
lawful in any decent habitation of men or beasts to sprinkle Holy Water for
the safety and securing of men and beasts, with the invocation of the Most
Holy Trinity and a Paternoster. For it is said in the Office of Exorcism,
that wherever it is sprinkled, all uncleanness is purified, all harm is
repelled, and no pestilent spirit can abide there, etc. For the Lord saves
both man and beast, according to the Prophet, each in his degree.
Secondly, just as the first must necessarily be sprinkled, so in the case of
a Blessed Candle, although it is more appropriate to light it, the wax of it
may with advantage be sprinkled about dwelling-houses. And thirdly, it is
expedient to place or to burn consecrated herbs in those rooms where they
can best be consumed in some convenient place.
Now it happened in the city of Spires, in the same year that this book was
begun, that a certain devout woman held conversation with a suspected witch,
and, after the manner of women, they used abusive words to each other. But
in the night she wished to put her little suckling child in its cradle, and
remembered her encounter that day with the suspected witch. So, fearing some
danger to the child, she placed consecrated herbs under it, sprinkled it
with Holy Water, put a little Blessed Salt to its lips, signed it with the
Sign of the Cross, and diligently secured the cradle. About the middle of
the night she heard the child crying, and, as women do, wished to embrace
the child, and life the cradle on to her bed. She lifted the candle, indeed,
but could not embrace the child, because he was not there. The poor woman,
in terror, and bitterly weeping for the loss of her child, lit a light, and
found the child in a corner under a chair, crying but unhurt.
In this it may be seen what virtue there is in the exorcisms of the Church
against the snares of the devil. It is manifest that Almighty God, in His
mercy and wisdom which extend from end to end, watches over the deeds of
those wicked men; and that he gently directs the witchcraft of devils, so
that when they try to diminish and weaken the Faith, they on the contrary
strengthen it and make it more firmly rooted in the hearts of many. For the
faithful may derive much profit from these evils; when, by reason of devils'
works, the faith is made strong, God's mercy is seen, and His power
manifested, and men are led into His keeping and to the reverence of Christ's
Passion, and are enlightened by the ceremonies of the Church.
There lived in a town of Wiesenthal a certain Mayor who was bewitched with
the most terrible pains and bodily contortions; and he discovered, not by
means of other witches, but from his own experience, how that witchcraft
had been practised on him. For he said he was in the habit of fortifying
himself every Sunday with Blessed Salt and Holy Water, but that he had
neglected to do so on one occasion owing to the celebration of somebody's
marriage; and on that same day he was bewitched.
In Ratisbon a man was being tempted by the devil in the form of a woman to
copulate, and became greatly disturbed when the devil would not desist. But
it came into the poor man's mind that he ought to defend himself by taking
Blessed Salt, as he had heard in a sermon. So, he took some Blessed Salt on
entering the bath-room; and the woman looked fiercely at him, and, cursing
whatever devil had taught him to do this, suddenly disappeared. For the
devil can, with God's permission, present himself either in the form of a
witch, or by possessing the body of an actual witch.
There were also three companions walking along a road, and two of them were
struck by lightning. The third was terrified, when he heard voices speaking
in the air, Let us strike him too. But another voice answered,
We cannot, for to-day he has heard the words The Word was
made Flesh. And he understood that he had been saved because
he had that day heard Mass, and, at the end of the Mass, the Gospel of S.
John: In the beginning was the Word, etc.
Also sacred words bound to the body are marvellously protective, if seven
conditions for their use are observed. But these will be mentioned in the
last Question of this Second Part, where we speak of curative, as here we
speak of preventive measures. And those sacred words help not only to
protect, but also to cure those who are bewitched.
But the surest protection for places, men, or animals are the words of the
triumphal title of our Saviour, if they be written in four places in the
form of a cross: IESUS NAZARENUS REX IUDAEORUM .
There may also be added the name of MARY and of the Evangelists, or the
words of S. John: The Word was made Flesh.
But the third class of men which cannot be hurt by witches is the most
remarkable; for they are protected by a special Angelic guardianship, both
within and without. Within, by the inpouring of grace; without, by the
virtue of the stars, that is, by the protection of the Powers which move
the stars. And this class is divided into two sections of the Elect: for
some are protected against all sorts of witchcrafts, so that they can be
hurt in no way; and others are particularly rendered chaste by the good
Angels with regard to the generative functions, just as evil spirits by
their witchcrafts inflame the lusts of certain wicked men towards one woman,
while they make them cold towards another.
And their interior and exterior protection, by grace and by the influence
of the stars, is explained as follows. For though it is God Himself Who
pours grace into our souls, and no other creature has so great power as to
do this (as it is said: The Lord will give grace and glory); yet, when God
wished to bestow some especial grace, He does so in a dispositive way
through the agency of a good Angel, as S. Thomas teaches us in a certain
place in the Third Book of Sentences.
Next: Chapter I
Of the several Methods by which Devils through Witches Entice and Allure the Innocent to the Increase of that Horrid Craft and Company.