The Malleus Maleficarum was written by Dominican friar Heinrich Kramer, and published in Germany in 1487. This particular edition of the text was translated from the original Latin by American historian Christopher S. Mackey, and published in 2009 by the Cambridge University Press. Various English translations of the text can be found online in full, such as here, here, and here. The book has been kept in print since its publication, and various editions are available in libraries and archives around the world. Gender and religion are both prominent themes throughout the text. At the intersection of these themes, I will be using the text to examine the gender anxieties faced by Dominican clergy, and how this anxiety manifested through Kramer’s text as a fiercely negative depiction of women as witches. I chose the following passage as a cheeky nod to the castration anxiety felt by male clerics at the time—an idea that is laughable to us today, but a very real fear for men of the past.
Institorius, Heinrich, and Jacob Sprenger. The Hammer of Witches: A Complete Translation of the Malleus Maleficarum. Translated by Christopher S. Mackay. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
“THE WAY IN WHICH THEY TAKE AWAY MALE MEMBERS
In addition, let us cite a few illustrations to show that they take away male members, not, of course, by stripping human bodies of them in reality | but by concealing them with the art of conjuring, as was explained above by the question previously mentioned,
In the town of Ravensburg a certain young man was attached to a young woman, and when he wished to set her aside, he lost his male member, clearly through the art of conjuring, with the result that he could not see or feel his body as anything but smooth. Being worried, he then went to a certain cellar to buy some wine, and while he was sitting there for a while, another woman showed up and he revealed to her the reason for his sadness, relating the details and showing that he was in so body. Being clever, she asked whether he considered any woman suspect. When he specified her identity, mentioning her name and relating what had happened, the woman said “when benevolence does you no good, it would be best to prevail upon her with violence in order to regain your health.” At dusk, the young man watched the path where the sorceress would regularly pass by. After finding her, he pleaded with her to return to him the health of his body, but she claimed that she | was innocent and knew nothing. He then attacked her and, tying a handkerchief around her throat, he pulled it taut, saying “Unless you restore my health to me, you will die at my hands.” Then, because she could not shout and her swollen face was now turning black, she said, “Release me and I will make you healthy.” When the young man loosened the knot (noose), the sorceress touched him with her hand between the thighs (hips), saying, “You now have what you want.” And, as he would later recount, before he assured himself with sight or touch, the young man noticeably felt that his member had been restored to him, just by the touch of the sorceress.”