At the time this book was published in 1487, the Christian church had considered witchcraft a dangerous affront to the faith for many centuries. Executions of suspected witches were intermittent, and various explanations of behaviors deemed suspect were thought to be caused by possession, either by the devil or demon such as an incubus or succubus.
Kramer wrote this book after he had tried and failed to have a woman executed for witchcraft. Unhappy at the verdict of the court, he authored the Malleus Maleficarum as a manual for other witch seekers to refer to. For centuries the text was used by Christians as a reference source on matters of demonology, although it was not used directly by the Inquisition who became notorious for their tortures and murders.
Contrary to popular supposition, Kramer's work does not exclusively recommend death by burning as a punishment for witches. It also describes various methods of exorcism, whereby the demonic force may be banished from the body of the suffering witch. However the book openly advocates discrimination against women, albeit while acknowledging that a minority of witchcraft practitioners are male.
A theory on why the vast majority of witches are female is posited, rooted in the presence of woman in the Biblical canon; as with Eve, the wife of Adam, and Mary; the mother of Jesus Christ. By the end of the book, it is agreed that witches are created from a pact made with the Devil himself, with whom they engage in sexual liaisons. The witch is then summoned by flight to an evil assembly headed by the Devil, encouraged to practice illicit forms of sex, and then granted the powers of maleficent magic.
Decades after the initial publication, the name of James Sprenger was credited. Scholars disagree on whether he was a meaningful contributor who expanded the core text. Whatever the case may be, for its thoroughness the Malleus Maleficarum is the single most complete source on Christian attitudes to witchcraft and demons in existence.
This translation to English by Montague Summers underwent revision and refinement over the years. This edition contains the original introductions, wherein the translator explains the process by which he strove for the greatest accuracy possible.
Paperback, 194 pages.