The Malleus Maleficarum

The Malleus Maleficarum is a famous theological treatise, written around 1486 and intended to be a kind of handbook for the discovery and destruction of witches in Europe. It was written by two members of the Dominican Order, Johann Springer and Henrich (Institoris) Kraemer.

The Malleus Maleficarum was known in German as Der Hexenhammer and in English as the Witch Hammer or Hammer of the Witches. The English translation was done by the famous Montague Summers, a clergyman intent on the study and eradication of vampires, werewolves and witches.

This treatise served as one of the big sources of the which hysteria the gripped Europe over the centuries. According to some, if it had not been for The Malleus Maleficarum the mass hysteria surrounding witchcraft may not have reached the level it did.

The Malleus Maleficarum was incredibly misogynist in tone, it was very big on bashing women, which resulted in many innocent women being executed for supposed witchcraft. It used as its basis the biblical motto “You shall not permit a sorceress to live” (Ex. 22:18). The work was so respected by experts that it ended up being adopted by both Catholic and Protestant witch-hunters. It was even authorized by Pope Innocent VIII, who had found all of the many tales of witchcraft circulating through Christendom disturbing.

But what does all of this have to do with vampires? Well, the focus of The Malleus Maleficarum was on witches, but it did also mention vampires. It made it clear that vampirism was one of the very worst manifestations of the devil and it even included early tales of vampire activity.

Here is just one mention of a vampire in The Malleus Maleficarum and a bit of insight on just how paranoid these men were:

“It is true that both in the Greek and in the earlier Roman cults, worships often directly derived from secret and sombre sources, ancient gods, or rather demons, had their awful superstitions and their horrid rites, powers whom men dreaded but out of very terror placated; fanes men loathed but within whose shadowed portals they bent and bowed the knee perforce in trembling fear. Such deities were the Thracian Bendis, whose manifestation was heralded by the howling of her fierce black hounds, and Hecate the terrible “Queen of the realm of ghosts,” as Euripides calls her, and the vampire MORMO and the dark SUMMANUS who at midnight hurled loud thunderbolts and launched the deadly levin through the starless sky. Pliny tells us that the worship of this mysterious deity lasted long, and dogs with their puppies were sacrificed to him with atrocious cruelty, but S. Augustine says that in his day “one could scarce find one within a while, that had heard, nay more, that had read so much as the name of Summanus” (De Ciuitate Dei, iv, 23). Nevertheless there is only too much reason to believe that this devil-god had his votaries, although his liturgy was driven underground and his supplicants were obliged to assemble in remote and secret places.”

– Moonlight

By Moonlight

Moonlight (aka Amanda) loves to write about, read about and learn about everything pertaining to vampires. You will most likely find her huddled over a book of vampire folklore with coffee in hand. Touch her coffee and she may bite you (and not in the fun way).


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    1. No offense, but why would you want to? I would understand reading it in in a university history class or something on those lines. But popular reading? This is a sexist and religious text.

      1. I concur…when it comes to medieval times, the occult or supernatural was ot at all fun or romantic…incredible amount of paranoia and bloodshed.

  2. Ah, to live in those days would have been wonderful! Save for the part about getting killed if you were so much “eccentric.” Sadly, I have yet to get a copy of this. I wonder if it’s online? Doubt it will ever become popular reading, though, unless of course it becomes basis for popular fiction (is there anything of the sort?).

  3. James Sprenger was the other author of the book. Not Johann Springer. And Pope Innocent VIII told them to write the work in 1484, it was published two years later. And he, and the rest of Europe, were paranoid about a “witch cult” they believed had sprung up either within their lifetimes or soon beforehand and who were allegedly intent on the destruction of the Catholic Church. And the burning of women for the crime of witchcraft was happening hundreds of years before this was published.

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