Halloween Open House: German rare books and works on witches and "witch-hunts"

October 24, 2018
Kathleen M Smith
Image of a "grimoire" or magical text from Southern Germany/Austria, 1790

(Image caption: Grimoire or magic scroll containing prayers, incantations, invocations, symbols, seals, and instructions for rituals. Southern Germany/Austria, 1790. Stanford Libraries Department of Special Collections.)

Please join me in the Barchas Room of Special Collections in Green Library from 2:00-4:00PM on October 31st for a special Halloween Open House! On display will be selected works on witches and "witch-hunts" in Germany, where the persecution of (overwhelmingly female) witches was widespread in the 16th and 17th centuries.

One newly-acquired work, the Malleus maleficarum, popularly known as the Hexenhammer or Hammer of Witches and originally published in 1487, advocated an aggressive approach to countering what the author viewed as the inherently evil, feminine, and demonically-inspired powers of witches. Our copy was published in 1520, testifying to the popularity of this influential text, and it retains its original binding. 

Other works on display include books exploring the debates around witchcraft and its depictions, Enlightenment works criticizing the persecutions and questioning belief in witches, and also several manuscript fragments containing prayers and spells believed to invoke or counteract the forces of witchcraft. 

Some of the issues addressed by these works include whether witches exist; and if so, how to identify them;  how to counteract their presumably evil influence; whether redemption/repentance is possible; legal processes and procedures for witch trials; and the depiction of witches in popular literature, visual media, and performance.

A link to the Stanford Events Calendar listing can be found here.