Comparing Malleus Maleficarum And Baldung's Witches Sabbath

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Malleus Maleficarum and Baldung’s Witches’ Sabbath

Hans Baldung’s Witches’ Sabbath offers a vivid and startling view of a gathering of witches. Depicted as wild, evil women, the woodcut aligns strongly with the views expressed in Malleus Maleficarum, which identifies the many dark characteristics and satanic practices of the vastly female population of witches. Responsible for everything from crop failure to impotence, they are a force to be feared and persecuted. They are a group of women who reject male governance, oftentimes being older unmarried women (therefore having failed in the pursuit of marriage and children), and thus must be demons. Witches’ Sabbath is a nightmarish scene. The composition is flooded with numerous figures, animals and objects. It creates a busy, overwhelming, and almost claustrophobic feeling for the viewer. Its intention is clearly to spark a feeling of anxiety. Though the details of the background are limited, the heavy use of black lends a dark and mysterious tone. Billowing clouds of smoke, a collection of bones and pitchforks, and strange pots in the foreground add to the sense of chaos. The orange and black coloring of the print provides an other-worldly and sinister feel that is absent in the black and white print. It is as if the viewer has entered into a supernatural sort of nightmare.
The setting of Balung’s work Witches’
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The goat is regarded largely as an evil animal and a symbol of the devil, so it is only natural that the witches would associate with such a creature. Malleus Maleficarum references the satyr as being Pans in Greek and says of them: “For they often lust lecherously after women, and copulate with them” (Kramer, pg 10). The goat also has a sexual level of interpretation as it is spiriting away a naked woman. For witches to engage in bestiality with an animal manifestation of evil itself adds another layer of moral degradation to the

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