Von Penisraub und Fehlgeburt

Unfruchtbarkeit und Impotenz-Zauber im ‚Malleus maleficarum‘ des Heinrich Kramer (Institoris) und in Johannes Hartliebs ‚Secreta mulierum‘

  • Tina Terrahe (Autor/in)


When medicine fails, magic or the supernatural suggests itself as an explanatory model, especially when it comes to existential problems, such as complications in human reproduction. Both late medieval authors Hein­rich Kramer (Institoris) and Johannes Hartlieb analyze phenomena of male and female sterility. In his ‘Malleus Maleficarum’, Kramer developed an unprecedented pro­gram with which he discredited women and accused them of penis robbery, infanticide and cannibalism in addition to the spell of magical impotence (impotentia ex maleficio). Johannes Hartlieb’s gynecological specialist literature ‘Secreta mulierum’, on the other hand, is characterized by an enlightened worldview. Even if medically insufficient from today’s perspective, his work is distinguished by a remarkable tolerance.

With their writings, both authors have their fingers on the pulse of the times and receive the knowledge available to them, which they present embedded in contemporary discourses with reference to profound authorities, while focusing on very different aspects. Kramer’s ominous concept of demoniacal magic with its theological and juridical implications, which has produced untold suffering and death, is countered by Hartlieb’s rational appeal with regard to women, which ultimately serves to safeguard unborn life and simultaneously encourages fertility.

Keywords Medicine; Impotence; Magic; Witch Hunt