Malleus Maleficarum Part 2
Of the Way how in Particular they Afflict Men with Other Like Infirmities.
But who can reckon the number of infirmities which they have inflicted upon
men, such as blindness, the sharpest pains, and contortions of the body?
Yet we shall set down a few examples which we have seen with our eyes, or
have been related to one of us Inquisitors.
When an inquisition was being held on some witches in the town of Innsbruck,
the following case, among others, was brought to light. A certain honest
woman who had been legally married to one of the household of the Archduke
formally deposed the following. In the time of her maidenhood she had been
in the service of one of the citizens, whose wife became afflicted with
grievous pains in the head; and a woman came who said she could cure her,
and so began certain incantations and rites which she said would assuage the
pains. And I carefully watched (said this woman) what she did, and saw that,
against the nature of water poured into a vase, she caused water to rise in
its vessel, together with other ceremonies which there is no need to mention.
And considering that the pains in my mistress' head were not assuaged by
these means, I addressed the witch in some indignation with these words:
I do not know what you are doing, but whatever it is, it is witchcraft,
and you are doing it for your own profit. Then the witch at once
replied: You will know in three days whether I am a witch or not.
And so it proved; for on the third day when I sat down and took up a spindle,
I suddenly felt a terrible pain in my body. First it was inside me, so that
it seemed that there was no part of my body in which I did not feel horrible
shooting pains; then it seemed to me just as if burning coals were being
continually heaped upon my head; thirdly, from the crown of my head to the
soles of my feet there was no place large enough for a pinprick that was not
covered with a rash of white pustules; and so I remained in these pains,
crying out and wishing only for death, until the fourth day. At last my
mistress' husband told me to go to a certain tavern; and with great
difficulty I went, whilst he walked before, until we were in front of the
tavern. See! he said to me; there is a loaf of white
bread over the tavern door. I see, said I. Then he said:
Take it down, if you possibly can, for it may do you good. And
I, holding on to the door with one hand as much as I could, got hold of the
loaf with the other. Open it (said my master) and look
carefully at what is inside. Then, when I had broken open the loaf,
I found many things inside it, especially some white grains very like the
pustules on my body; and I saw also some seeds and herbs such as I could not
eat or even look at, with the bones of serpents and other animals. In my
astonishment I asked my master what was to be done; and he told me to throw
it all into the fire. I did so; and behold! suddenly, not in an hour or even
a few minutes, but at the moment when that matter was thrown into the fire,
I regained all my former health.
And much more was deposed against the wife of the citizen in whose service
this woman had been, by reason of which she was not lightly but very
strongly suspected, and especially because she had used great familiarity
with known witches. It is presumed that, having knowledge of the spell of
witchcraft hidden in the loaf, she had told it to her husband; and then, in
the way described, the maid-servant recovered her health.
To bring so great a crime into detestation, it is well that we should tell
how another person, also a woman, was bewitched in the same town. An honest
married woman deposed the following an oath.
Behind my house (she said) I have a greenhouse, and my neighbour's garden
borders on it. One day I noticed that a passage had been made from my
neighbour's garden to my greenhouse, not without some damage being cause;
and as I was standing in the door of my greenhouse reckoning to myself and
bemoaning both the passage and the damage, my neighbour suddenly came up and
asked if I suspected her. But I was frightened because of her bad reputation,
and only answered, The footprints on the grass are proof of the
damage. Then she was indignant because I had not, as she hoped,
accused her with the actionable words, and went away murmuring; and though
I could hear her words, I could not understand them. After a few days I
became very ill with pains in the stomach, and the sharpest twinges shooting
from my left side to my right, and conversely, as if two swords or knives
were thrust through my breast; whence day and night I disturbed all the
neighbours with my cries. And when they came from all sides to console me,
it happened that a certain clay-worker, who was engaged in an adulterous
intrigue with the witch, my neighbour, coming to visit me, took pity on my
illness, and after a few words of comfort went away. But the next day he
returned in a hurry, and, after consoling me, added: I am going to
test whether your illness is due to witchcraft, and if I find that it is, I
shall restore your health. So he took some molten lead and, while I
was lying in bed, poured it into a bowl of water which he placed on my body.
And when the lead solidified into a certain image and various shapes, he
said: See! your illness has been caused by witchcraft; and one of the
instruments of that witchcraft is hidden under the threshold of your house
door. Let us go, then, and remove it, and you will feel better. So my
husband and he went to remove the charm; and the clay-worker, taking up the
threshold, told my husband to put his hand into the hold which then appeared,
and take out whatever he found; and he did so. And first he brought out a
waxen image about a palm long, perforated all over, and pierced through the
sides with two needles, just in the same way that I felt the stabbing pains
from side to side; and then little bags containing all sorts of things, such
as grains and seeds and bones. And when all these things were burned, I
became better, but not entirely well. For although the shootings and twinges
stopped, and I quite regained my appetite for food, yet even now I am by no
means fully restored to health. And when we asked her why it was
that she had not been completely restored, she answered: There are some
other instruments of witchcraft hidden away which I cannot find. And when I
asked the man how he knew where the first instruments were hidden, he
answered: I knew this through the love which prompts a friend to tell
things to a friend; for your neighbour revealed this to me when she was
coaxing me to commit adultery with her. This is the story of the
But if I were to tell all the instances that were found in that one town I
should need to make a book of them. For countless men and women who were
blind, or lame, or withered, or plagued with various infirmities, severally
took their oath that they had strong suspicions that their illnesses, both
in general and in particular, were caused by witches, and that they were
bound to endure those ills either for a period or right up to their deaths.
And all that they said and testified was true, either as regards a specified
illness or as regards a specified illness or as regards the death of others.
For that country abounds in henchmen and knights who have leisure for vice,
and seduce women, and then wish to cast them off when they desire to marry
an honest woman. But they can rarely do this without incurring the
vengeance of some witchcraft upon themselves or their wives. For when those
women see themselves despised, they persist in tormenting not so much the
husband as the wife, in the fond hope that, if the wife should die, the
husband would return to his former mistress.
For when a cook of the Archduke had married an honest girl from a foreign
country, a witch, who had been his mistress, met them in the public road and,
in the hearing of other honest people, foretold the bewitching and death of
the girl, stretching out her hand and saying: Not for long will you
rejoice in your husband. And at once, on the following day, she took
to her bed, and after a few days paid the debt of all flesh, exclaiming just
as she expired: Lo! thus I die, because that woman, with God's permission,
has killed me by her witchcraft; yet verily I go to another and better
marriage with God.
In the same way, according to the evidence of public report, a certain
soldier was slain by witchcraft, and many others whom I omit to mention.
But among them there was a well-known gentleman, whom his mistress wished
to come to her on one occasion to pass the night; but he sent his servant
to tell her that he could not visit her that night because he was busy. She
promptly flew into a rage, and said to the servant: Go and tell your master
that he will not trouble me for long. On the very next day he was taken ill,
and he was buried within a week.
And there are witches who can bewitch their judges by a mere look or glance
from their eyes, and publicly boast that they cannot be punished; and when
malefactors have been imprisoned for their crimes, and exposed to the
severest torture to make them tell the truth, these witches can endow them
with such an obstinacy of preserving silence that they are unable to lay
bare their crimes.
And there are some who, in order to accomplish their evil charms and spells,
beat and stab the Crucifix, and utter the filthiest words against the Purity
of the Most Glorious Virgin MARY, casting the foulest aspersions on the
Nativity of Our Saviour from Her inviolate womb. It is not expedient to
repeat those vile words, nor yet to describe their detestable crimes, as the
narrative would give too great offence to the ears of the pious; but they
are all kept and preserved in writing, detailing the manner in which a
certain baptized Jewess had instructed other young girls. And one of them,
named Walpurgis, being in the same year at the point of death, and being
urged by those who stood round her to confess her sins, exclaimed: I have
given myself body and soul to the devil; there is no hope of forgiveness for
me; and so died.
These particulars have not been written to the shame, but rather to the
praise and glory of the most illustrious Archduke. For he was truly a
Catholic Prince, and laboured very zealously with the Church at Brixen to
exterminate witches. But they are written rather in hate and loathing of so
great a crime, and that men may not cease to avenge their wrongs, and the
insults and offences these wretches offer to the Creator and our Holy Faith,
to say nothing of the temporal losses which they cause. For this is their
greatest and gravest crime, namely, that they abjure the Faith.
Next: Chapter XIII
How Witch Midwives commit most Horrid Crimes when they either Kill Children or Offer them to Devils in most Accursed Wise.