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“There is no tongue that moves”


achieved by the licensing mechanisms of the College of

Physicians or the church was more than compensated for by

the growth in the general popularity of magic, astrology and

alchemy” (Pelling & Webster, 1979: 235).

Among women healers, the midwives were most often

attacked as being allied with witchcraft, yet ironically these

witch-healers were often the only medical practitioners helping

the peasants, who, while afflicted with poverty and disease,

were inaccessible to physicians. However, midwives’ practices

also appeared as evil and unpardonable in the eyes of the witch

hunters, among whom we find the Catholic Friars Krämer and

Sprenger (the “beloved sons” of Pope Innocent VIII), authors


The Malleus Maleficarum

, or

The Hammer of Witches

, first

published in 1486.


Krämer and Sprenger said, “No one does

more harm to the Catholic Faith than midwives” (1928: 66).

According to Catholic doctrine, midwives were believed to be

sacrificing unbaptized infants to “those midwives and wise

women who are witches are in the habit of offering to Satan

the little children which they deliver, and then of killing them,

before they have been baptized, by thrusting a large pin into

their brains” (Boguet, 1971: 137).

The midwives were considered evil due to their use of

magic charms, and thus a direct threat to the Church. It was


“A long, rambling, and difficult work,” according to Merry E. Wiesner-

Hanks, “the


draws on the writings of many earlier authors as it lays

out Krämer’s theories about the nature and danger of witchcraft and

provides advice about how to identify and prosecute witches” (2008: 262).

Wiesner-Hanks also remarks that, in 1484, Pope Innocent VIII “authorized

Krämer and Sprenger to hunt witches in several areas of southern Germany.

Krämer oversaw the trial and execution of several groups

all of them


but local authorities objected to his use of torture and his extreme

views on the power of witches and banished him. While in exile, he wrote a

justification of his ideas and methods, the

Malleus Maleficarum

; the treatise

also cited Sprenger as an author, but recent research has determined that his

name was simply added . . . and that Krämer was its sole author” (2008: