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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Hexenhammer

Today’s spot of witchery offers no witches, but merely the rumor of them.

I first heard of the Malleus Malleficarum, “The Witches’ Hammer,” during my semester abroad in Florence. My friends were taking a medieval and Renaissance lit course, and I remember being in the cafeteria and laughing at the idea of runaway penises. There is plenty of cause for snickering when taken out of context, and I refer to it with no small degree of sarcasm in Petty Magic.

But the Malleus Maleficarum belongs at the top of a list of books that should never have been written, because its publication in 1487 led to the persecution and murder of thousands of accused “witches” all over Europe. Written by “holy men”? Now there’s a big fat W-T-F!

Anyway, the book popped up again in Muriel McCarthy’s history of Marsh’s Library in Dublin, and this brief passage made me shiver.

Malleus maleficarum is a terrifying and cruel book. When it was first published it bore on the title-page the dreadful warning: ‘Haeresis est maxima opera maleficarum non credere’ (To disbelieve in witches is the greatest of heresies). The Dominican inquisitors amongst other quaint beliefs suggested that witchcraft was more natural to women than men because of the inherent wretchedness of their hearts.

‘Quaint’ isn’t the first word that comes to mind, but you get the gist. If you’d like to learn more about the book and the resulting witch-hunts, here’s a good online resource.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.