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What Is The Malleus Maleficarum? - A Brief Review

March 2023 | Steve Travels

If you're reading this blog post, the chances are you are somewhat familiar with the Malleus Maleficarum 1486 - widely considered the most infamous book on witchcraft in history. Also known as The Hammer of Witches, it's Latin book written in 1486 and 1487, by two German Dominican monks, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger. The Malleus Maleficarum is one of the most influential Witch-Hunting manuals of all times, it's a duplicitous text with a terrible past.

Malleus Maleficarum


The book has three parts: Part I claims that witches are real and describes the depravity of witches. and any disbelief in witchcraft is condemned as heresy.

In Part II, there are stories about witches doing supernatural things like having sex with devils and flying at night.

Part III is about how to legally deal with witches, including the use of torture to get confessions.

Part III discusses the 'legal' procedures of witch trials, which permit the use of torture to extract confessions. Lay and secular authorities are called upon to help the inquisitors eradicate those who have allegedly aligned with Satan.

Not Original Material

Initially, the Malleus did not have much influence as most Church and Inquisitorial courts disregarded it due to the Faculty's condemnation. However, civil courts gave it more importance because they were tricked by the forged recommendation and the out-of-context bull. It's alleged the book is not even all that original, a lot of material coming from Johannes Nider’s Formicarius 1435 and Nicolau Aymerich’s Directorium Inquisitorum 1376.

Endorsed By The Pope

The book is heavily influenced by Kramer's sexual anxieties. He devotes seven chapters to describing the various ways witches can harm male genitalia, and he believed it was a common occurrence for men to wake up without their "virile member." Additionally, the book's misogyny is highly pronounced.

Though Kramer did not completely exclude men as witches, the book primarily targeted women, it would appear the author was just attacking women instead of witches. The Malleus Maleficarum clearly reflects Kramer's deeply misogynistic attitude towards women.

Hammer of the Witches Demon Sex?

Heinrich Kramer had a deep fixation on the sexual behavior of those accused of witchcraft, he portrayed women as having an insatiable carnal lust, and “know no moderation in goodness or vice”.

According to Kramer, women were inherently evil and inferior to men, with only the Virgin Mary being considered wholly good. The book accuses women of having sex with male demons (incubi) and claims demons can transfer semen from one human to another, He even goes into the fact that witches can put a spell on a man that makes him think his manhood has vanished.


The Malleus Maleficarum served as an inspiration for various texts and led to the outbreak of numerous witch-hunts that persisted for the following two centuries. The Malleus established the fundamental perception of witchcraft that endured for the next two centuries in Europe. The book is an important part of history, that is all. It's to be read only to understand all that came after it.

If you'd like to read The Malleus Maleficarum for yourself, we have included it in our Bestselling Collection:

The Witchcraft and Magic Collection - 54 Titles

witch and wizard