“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
The Hammer of Witches
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-
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
; 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: