For the Supernatural episode, see Malleus Maleficarum (Supernatural).
Both purported writers of the work were Dominican clergy, and the work came about as "the result of a peculiarly Dominican encounter between learned and folk traditions, an encounter determined in part by the demands of inquisitorial office, and in part by the requirements of effective preaching and pastoral care." the Malleus Maleficarum, although it was later used by royal courts during the Renaissance, and contributed to the increasingly brutal prosecution of witchcraft during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Kramer wrote the Malleus shortly after being expelled from Innsbruck by the local bishop after a failed attempt to conduct his own witchcraft prosecution.
Kramer's purpose in writing the book was to explain his own views on witchcraft, systematically refute arguments claiming that witchcraft does not exist, discredit those who expressed skepticism about its reality, claim that those who practised witchcraft were more often women than men, and to convince magistrates to use Kramer's recommended procedures for finding and convicting witches.
Magic, sorcery, and witchcraft had long been condemned by the Church, whose attitude towards witchcraft was explained in the canon Episcopi written in about 900 AD.
The preface also includes an approbation from the University of Cologne's Faculty of Theology.
The authenticity of the Cologne endorsement was first questioned by Joseph Hansen but has not been universally questioned; Christopher S.
Mackay rejects Hansen's theory as a misunderstanding.
Nevertheless, it is well established by sources outside the "Malleus" that the university's theology faculty as a whole condemned the book for unethical procedures and for contradicting Catholic theology on a number of important points.
It stated that witchcraft and magic did not really exist, and that those who believed in such things "had been seduced by the Devil in dreams and visions into old pagan errors".
and by the 15th century belief in witches was widely accepted in European society.
Those convicted of witchcraft typically suffered penalties no more harsh than public penances such as a day in the stocks, In 1484 Heinrich Kramer had made one of the first attempts at prosecuting alleged witches in the Tyrol region.