I Have Never Read a More Anti-Woman Text Than "The Witch Hammer"

I'm doing some research for a chapter on the witch-hunts for my new anthology, "Christianity is Not Great." A description of it and a link to the chapters can be seen here. The Malleus Maleficarum (literally "The hammer of malefactresses, i.e. wrongdoing women, or witches) is a treatise on the prosecution of witches that was written by Heinrich Kramer (and James Sprenger) in 1486.

The main purpose of it was to argue that witchcraft exists, that witches were more often women than men, and to provide magistrates with guidelines that could help them find and convict them. In the Introduction to this work, published in 1948 by Dover Publications, translator Montague Summers wrote:
It is hardly disputed that in the whole vast literature of witchcraft, the most prominent, the most important, the most authoritative volume is the Malleus Maleficarum (The Witch Hammer) of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger...The Malleus lay on the bench of every magistrate. It was the ultimate, irrefutable, unarguable authority. It was implicitly accepted not only by Catholic but by Protestant legislatures. In fine, it is not too much to say that the Malleus Maleficarum is among the most important, wisest, and weightiest books of the world.
Note the word "wisest"? He was clearly a witch-hunt sympathizer. Nonetheless, given the influence of this witch-hunt manual I find it incredibly dense for Christians to say their faith was the motivator for the emancipation of women. It can't be. Just see for yourselves with selected quotes:

Why Superstition is chiefly found in Women

[In this section the argument is that women in general are more susceptible to superstition.}

John Chrysostom says: "What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colours! Therefore if it be a sin to divorce her when she ought to be kept, it is indeed a necessary torture; for either we commit adultery by divorcing her, or we must endure daily strife." Cicero in his second book of The Rhetorics says: "The many lusts of men lead them into one sin, but the lust of women leads them into all sins; for the root of all woman's vices is avarice. And Seneca says in his Tragedies: A woman either loves or hates; there is no third grade. And the tears of woman are a deception, for they may spring from true grief, or they may be a snare. When a woman thinks alone, she thinks evil."

Others again have propounded other reasons why there are more superstitious women found than men. And the first is, that they are more credulous; and since the chief aim of the devil is to corrupt faith, therefore he rather attacks them. See Ecclesiasticus xix: He that is quick to believe is light-minded, and shall be diminished. The second reason is, that women are naturally more impressionable, and more ready to receive the influence of a disembodied spirit; and that when they use this quality well they are very good, but when they use it ill they are very evil. The third reason is that they have slippery tongues, and are unable to conceal from the fellow-women those things which by evil arts they know; and, since they are weak, they find an easy and secret manner of vindicating themselves by witchcraft.

...we may add to what has already been said the following: that since they are feebler both in mind and body, it is not surprising that they should come more under the spell of witchcraft. For as regards intellect, or the understanding of spiritual things, they seem to be of a different nature from men; a fact which is vouched for by the logic of the authorities, backed by various examples from the Scriptures. Terence says: Women are intellectually like children.

But the natural reason is that she is more carnal than a man, as is clear from her many carnal abominations. And it should be noted that there was a defect in the formation of the first woman, since she was formed from a bent rib, that is, a rib of the breast, which is bent as it were in a contrary direction to a man. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives. For Cato says: When a woman weeps she weaves snares. And again: When a woman weeps, she labours to deceive a man.

There is also a story of a man whose wife was drowned in a river, who, when he was searching for the body to take it out of the water, walked up the stream. And when he was asked why, since heavy bodies do not rise but fall, he was searching against the current of the river, he answered: “When that woman was alive she always, both in word and deed, went contrary to my commands; therefore I am searching in the contrary direction in case even now she is dead she may preserve her contrary disposition.”

And indeed, just as through the first defect in their intelligence that are more prone to abjure the faith; so through their second defect of inordinate affections and passions they search for, brood over, and inflict various vengeances, either by witchcraft, or by some other means. Wherefore it is no wonder that so great a number of witches exist in this sex.

Women also have weak memories; and it is a natural vice in them not to be disciplined, but to follow their own impulses without any sense of what is due; this is her whole study, and all that she keeps in her memory.

If we inquire, we find that nearly all the kingdoms of the world have been overthrown by women...Therefore it is no wonder if the world now suffers through the malice of women.

I have found a woman more bitter than death, who is the hunter's snare, and her heart is a net, and her hands are bands. He that pleaseth God shall escape from her; but he that is a sinner shall be caught by her. More bitter than death, that is, than the devil.

All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable. See Proverbs xxx: There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, a fourth thing which says not, It is enough; that is, the mouth of the womb. Wherefore for the sake of fulfilling their lusts they consort even with devils. More such reasons could be brought forward, but to the understanding it is sufficiently clear that it is no matter for wonder that there are more women than men found infected with the heresy of witchcraft. And in consequence of this, it is better called the heresy of witches than of wizards, since the name is taken from the more powerful party. And blessed be the Highest Who has so far preserved the male sex from so great a crime.

What sort of Women are found to be above all Others Superstitious and Witches.

[In this section the argument is that out of the numbers of women in general, there are even more devious and cunning ones among them].

As to our second inquiry, what sort of women more than others are found to be superstitious and infected with witchcraft; it must be said, as was shown in the preceding inquiry, that three general vices appear to have special dominion over wicked women, namely, infidelity, ambition, and lust. Therefore they are more than others inclined towards witchcraft, who more than others are given to these vices. Again, since of these vices the last chiefly predominates, women being insatiable, etc., it follows that those among ambitious women are more deeply infected who are more hot to satisfy their filthy lusts; and such are adulteresses, fornicatresses, and the concubines of the Great.


To read these quotes and many others in context follow this link. At the bottom of the page click on English Version "Part One" which will take you to a pdf. Then scroll down to Question VI. [There is a break in the text which you will just have to keep scrolling down to read the rest of Question VI.