Sunday, October 18, 2009

I’ve blogged before about the passage in the Malleus Maleficarum (the witch hunting bible written by medieval German friars) in which witches gather up men’s stolen penises and store them in a bird’s nest. But recently another nuance to this story occurred to me. Bird’s nests usually contain eggs, right? Once again, witchcraft circles around the concepts of fertility and growth.

Here’s the actual quote:

Witches…sometimes collect male organs in great numbers, as many as 20 or 30 members together, and put them in a bird’s nest, or shut them up in a box, where they move themselves like living members, and eat oats and corn, as has been seen by many, and is a matter of common report.

A subsequent anecdote talks about a man who was a victim of penis theft. He approached a “known witch” for advice on what to do. She suggested he climb a certain tree and “take which he liked out a nest in which there were several members.” He (can we blame him?) tried to take a big one, and she said he couldn’t take that one since it belonged to the parish priest.

It’d be nice to insert here a platitude about how lucky we are not to live in the Middle Ages…except that “penis theft” is still happening, and people are still being killed for this absurd crime.
Google “penis theft” (or enter the term in the search box above to scan my archives) and blow your mind.

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