The Witch in the Hammer of Witches

Niels Villadsen, Henrik Engholm Jacobsen & Sofie Hennecke Mikkelsen

Student thesis: Project on Graduate Program


This project is comprised of a close reading of certain parts of the Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of the Witches), written by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger around 1486. The purpose of this has been to examine the archetypical witch it portrays in order to examine if and how this can contribute to our historical understanding of the age; based on the following problem statement: What witch-figure is created in the Hammer of Witches, and what kind of society is reflected through the book?
By way of a microhistorically inspired method, several anecdotes and tales have been selected for thick-descriptive analysis, based on mixed criteria of absurdity, relevance and depth of detail. In the analysis, we found a clear characterisation of the witch, either in the shape of an old woman, a young woman, or a man, each with related particular attributes. Having established this characterisation, we go on to discuss its implications in relation to the society in which these ideas abound. The results of the analysis and discussion are, in short, that the Malleus paints a gloomy image of a society full of evil, where practically everyone could be a witch in disguise. Whether this image is rooted in reality or merely in the imagination of the authors is a matter of discussion, but certain elements prevalent in the work definitely seem to broaden the historical view on the era of the witch-craze.

EducationsHistory, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) Graduate
Publication date17 Dec 2016
Number of pages53
SupervisorsMia M√ľnster-Swendsen