Hazards of the Dark Arts : Advice for Medieval Princes on Witchcraft and Magic


This volume comprises English translations of two fundamentally important texts on magic and witchcraft in the fifteenth century: Johannes Hartlieb's Book of All Forbidden Arts and Ulrich Molitoris's On Witches and Pythonesses. Written by laymen and aimed at secular authorities, these works advocated that town leaders and royalty alike should vigorously uproot and prosecute practitioners of witchcraft and magic.

Though inquisitors and theologians promulgated the witch trials of late medieval times, lay rulers saw the prosecutions through. But local officials, princes, and kings could be unreliable; some were skeptical about the reality and danger of witchcraft, while others dabbled in the occult themselves. Borrowing from theological and secular sources, Hartlieb and Molitoris agitated against this order in favor of zealously persecuting occultists. Organized as a survey of the seven occult arts, Hartlieb's text is a systematic treatise on the dangers of superstition and magic. Molitoris's text presents a dialogue on the activities of witches, including vengeful sorcery, the transformation of humans into animals, and fornication with the devil. Taken together, these tracts show that laymen exerted significant influence on ridding society of their imagined threat.

Precisely translated by Richard Kieckhefer, Hazards of the Dark Arts includes an insightful introduction that discusses the authors, their sources and historical environments, the writings themselves, and the influence they had in the development of ideas about witchcraft.