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The Malleus Maleficarum and the construction of witchcraft$
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Heinrich Institoris

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780719064401

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719064401.001.0001

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Introduction: contested categories

Introduction: contested categories

(p.1) 1 Introduction: contested categories
The Malleus Maleficarum and the construction of witchcraft

Hans Peter Broedel

Manchester University Press

This chapter reveals the extent to which the category ‘witch’ was contested in late fifteenth-century Germany. In Helena Scheuberin's trial, all the learned men believed in witchcraft. Up to a point, Bishop Golser and his representatives had supported the inquisitor with no real enthusiasm; they certainly had not interfered with his investigation. Nor did they object to prosecuting those who caused injuries through magic. They and the inquisitor simply disagreed about how a witch should be recognised, and, on a more fundamental level, about what a witch actually was. This was not simply an isolated confrontation between inquisitorial and local authorities, but rather a reflection of a much more widespread debate within the learned, ecclesiastical community over these same issues. Therefore, the problem of the construction of witchcraft in fifteenth-century Europe is examined, with particular reference to the text, the ‘Hammer of Witches’ or the ‘Malleus Maleficarum’, one of the best-known, most quoted and, indeed, most infamous of all medieval texts brought into existence because of the insults of an otherwise obscure woman, Helena Scheuberin.

Keywords:   Germany, Scheuberin's trial, witchcraft, Malleus Maleficarum, Helena Scheuberin

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