The fearefull aboundinge at this time in this countrie, of these detestable slaues of the Deuill, the Witches or enchaunters, hath moved me (beloued reader) to dispatch in post, this following treatise of mine, not in any wise (as I protest) to serue for a shew of my learning & ingine, but onely (mooued of conscience) to preasse thereby, so farre as I can, to resolue the doubting harts of many; both that such assaultes of Sathan are most certainly practized, & that the instrumentes thereof, merits most severly to be punished: against the damnable opinions of two principally in our age, wherof the one called SCOT an Englishman, is not ashamed in publike print to deny, that ther can be such a thing as Witch-craft: and so mainteines the old error of the Sadducees, in denying of spirits. The other called VVIERVS, a German Phisition, sets out a publick apologie for al these craftes-folkes, whereby, procuring for their impunitie, he plainely bewrayes himselfe to haue bene one of that profession. And for to make this treatise the more pleasaunt and facill, I haue put it in forme of a Dialogue, which I haue diuided into three bookes: The first speaking of Magie in general, and Necromancie in special. The second of Sorcerie and Witch-craft: and the thirde, conteines a discourse of all these kindes of spirits, & Spectres that appeares & trobles persones: together with a conclusion of the whol work. My intention in this labour, is only to proue two things, as I haue alreadie said: the one, that such diuelish artes haue bene and are. The other, what exact trial and seuere punishment they merite: & therefore reason I, what kinde of things are possible to be performed in these arts, & by what naturall causes they may be, not that I touch every particular thing of the Deuils power, for that were infinite: but onelie, to speak scholasticklie, (since this can not bee spoken in our language) I reason vpon genus leauing species, and differentia to be comprehended therein. - Taken from Demonology by King James I
For nearly three centuries Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches' Hammer) was the professional manual for witch hunters. This work by two of the most famous Inquisitors of the age is still a document of the forces of that era's beliefs. Under a Bull of Pope Innocent VIII, Kramer and Sprenger exposed the heresy of those who did not believe in witches and set forth the proper order of the world with devils, witches, and the will of God. Even if you do not believe in witchcraft, the world of 1484 did.
Contemporary cases illustrate methods by which witches attempt to control and subvert the world: How and why women roast their first-born male child; the confession of how to raise a tempest by a washwoman suspended "hardly clear of the ground" by her thumbs; methods of making a formal pact with the Devil; how witches deprive men of their vital member; and many others. Methods of destroying and curing witchcraft, such as remedies against incubus and succubus devils, are exemplified and weighed by the authors.
Formal rules for initiating a process of justice are set down: how it should be conducted and the method of pronouncing sentence; when to use the trial by the red-hot-iron; how the prosecutor should protect himself; how the body is to be shaved and searched for tokens and amulets, including those sewn under the skin. As Summers says, it was the casebook on every magistrate's desk.
Montague Summers has given a very sympathetic translation. His two introductions are filled with examples of witchcraft and the historical importance of Malleus Maleficarum. This famous document should interest the historian, the student of witchcraft and the occult, and the psychologist who is interested in the medieval mind as it was confronted with various forces which could be explained only by witchcraft.