During the time of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, it was believed that the Devil placed upon his human brides, the witches, a special mark that was insensitive to pain. Because it was supposed that such a mark might be well hidden somewhere on the witch’s body, one of the first of the many degrading and painful ordeals of the Inquisition began when the accused woman was turned over to the torturers to have her body shaved in search of the “Devil’s Mark.”
The Spanish Inquisition was ordered to rid Europe of heretics. By 1257, the Church officially sanctioned torture as a means of forcing witches, sorcerers, and shape shifters to confess their alliance with Satan.
Once the alleged spot—which could well have been a mole or a birthmark—was found, the torturers would insert long, sharp pins into the victim’s flesh or sear the mark with red-hot branding irons in order to test its resistance to pain. The fact that the suspected area gave no indication of being immune to pain did nothing to absolve the woman accused of witchcraft from later being burned at the stake.
In 1486, two devout priests, Jakob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer, published Malleus Maleficarum (A Hammer for Witches), the book that became the handbook of the professional witch hunters. Charles Williams, writing in his Witchcraft, believes that Sprenger and Kramer proceeded with great care to examine the nature of witchcraft and to analyze the best methods of operating against its menace. They perceived the witches as making use of their unholy alliance with Satan to corrupt the generative powers of humankind. In addition, they believed that witches sought to depopulate Christendom by demanding the sacrifice of children and babies. Read the rest of this entry »