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The Hammer of the Witches

“In the year 275 an Iranian Aryan publicly rejected the scriptures and Jesus Christ as being divine. For his outspokenness, he was arrested, crucified, skinned, stuffed, and hung from the city gates as a macabre warning to any would-be skeptics. Of course, all faiths have killed for their gods; the Christians are just another act. One wonders if this is a tragedy, a horror, or a comedy of errors. Whatever it is, one must ask if these deaths benefited the many societies stained with their blood. What good did these murders do?”[1]

 

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The authors of the notorious Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of the Witches) thought such deaths did society an enormous good, and they followed up their words with stake after flaming stake. The Malleus, a fifteenth century witch hunters’ manual, was the go-to text in many a witchcraft trial, it’s pages listing detailed accounts of the nature of witches and witchcraft, arrest, torture, and trial procedures, and of course, a healthy dose of religious justification. Looking to apply for the post of Inquisitor? This is your employee handbook.

 

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And an amazing text it is. Never has a book possessed the ability to simultaneously outrage, disgust, and bore the reader to tears. Written in typical ecclesiastical question and answer style, you’ll be horrified and enraged in between dramatic yawns. Nonetheless, it is an important text for in its pages we learn more than we care to know about the fears and prejudices of medieval religiosity. We do not, however, learn much if anything about genuine witchcraft.

 

Despite its shortcomings, inspiration for the modern artist does drip from its bloodstained parchments. Cradle of Filth and Pestilence[2] are but two bands to write entire albums about the troublesome text. Film owes the book a debt as well, either directly or indirectly, as evinced by the upcoming The Last Witch Hunter, to be released in October (of course!)

 

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“Still, the question remains. Does the execution of the archetypal scapegoat provide any benefit to the sacrificing society? Of course, but the effect is temporary and wholly superficial. Such is a “feel-good” moment, a chance to be proactive when one’s god is so glaringly passive. Nonetheless, the victory is fleeting, for the problems more often than not remain when the kindling is cleared and the ashes are swept clean. C’est la vie, says the mob, and another is sought to shoulder the blame whilst the witch hunter and his ilk are only too happy to oblige; they are often paid, you see, per stake.” [3]

[1] Summers, Rachel. Godless: The Summa Diabolgica. Atlanta, GA: November, 2015.

[2] Cradle of Filth’s Hammer of the Witches was released just a few months ago, in July of 2015. Pestilence’s album Malleus Maleficarum was released in September of 1988 as their debut.

[3] Summers, Rachel. Godless: The Summa Diabolgica. Atlanta, GA: November, 2015.

Written By

A Ph.D. shelved in lieu of research inverted and traditional values abandoned, the work of Rachel Summers is what some have called a journey into antinomian mysteriosophy where socially sanctioned morality is turned on its head in order to shake out just a few drops of enlightenment. Summers holds degrees in History, Comparative religions, English Literature, and Philosophy, all centered on the late medieval era. Her first novel, CondAmnation, is a retelling of that era’s favored heroine Joan of Arc. Summers’ Joan, however, is not a holy virgin, not a Christian, and certainly nobody’s good girl. Neither, for that matter, is Summers.

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