Damage spell

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Black magic , even black magic , Latin maleficium , nasty work ', called magical practices that someone another human damage will inflict. The person who wields damage spells ( witch ) should have secret knowledge and extraordinary powers, which are made effective and directed towards a specific goal.

A frequently used method is based on the imaginary relationship between an image and its depicted. In this case, a symbolic act on something else takes place on behalf of the person to be harmed, for example on a doll made for the purpose that takes on the role of a doppelganger or shadow of the distant addressee and “suffers” in the ritual on behalf of him.

Black magic in different cultures

Often one speaks of “black magic” as opposed to “white magic”, which is defined as always serving for the good and general benefit. The belief in the possibility of magical damage spell is widespread in different cultures around the world.

An effect desired by the magician should e.g. B. be brought about by fetishism , which is used in the context of culture-specific religious practices in which ceremonies and rituals for one's own benefit or to the detriment of other inanimate objects are given supernatural powers.

In black magic rituals and acts

  • Used objects to achieve magic effects associated with a person (e.g. to injure an enemy by stabbing arrows in a picture of him);
  • Magic spells recited, with the hoped-for effect being brought about by mere uttering specific damage requests;
  • practiced all sorts of other forms of witchcraft and sorcery.

In literature, harmful magic is mostly documented by people who believe they have been victims of magic. Books that are easily accessible to the public and which have magic as their content from the perspective of the user usually only show “magic” with a positive effect (protective, love, potency magic). Within the world of ideas of magic which was to combat damage spell Counterspell used.

From a legal point of view , Schadenzauber is now considered an unsuitable attempt in Germany within the meaning of Section 22 StGB. As a " superstitious attempt", the attempt to "hex" people, animals or objects is unpunished. De iure is considered to be any behavior in which the perpetrator “trusts in the effectiveness of magical powers which do not exist or which, according to the state of scientific knowledge, cannot be proven” (e.g. devil worship, bewitching, praying to death, etc.). According to the logic of authoritative lawyers, the superstitious attempt is not punished because "even if the success aimed at by the perpetrator actually occurred, according to current knowledge there would be a lack of causality".

The Protestant Church evaluates harmful magic (like any form of magic) as an attempt to “[…] make the divine technically available” and as a violation of the first commandment . "Magic then becomes an illegitimate interference with the absolute freedom of God."

European Middle Ages

Throughout most of the European Middle Ages, the maleficium was the only form of magic that was criminalized. It has been assimilated to other forms of crime. For example, the Sali law of the 6th century prescribed the same fine as reparation to the relatives of the victim for a murder with the help of magical means as for a murder by the sword or with poison.

King Aethelstan of England (r. 925–940) decreed that a murder with the help of a Maleficium should be punished by execution if the perpetrator confessed guilt. The Maleficium the suspicious person is not known, so she had a wergild pay and was released when one of the family members of the suspected person as reputation made for them the oath that the accused person will behave well in the future.

The maleficium was more problematic in the eyes of the church theologians , since in their eyes a maleficium was perpetrated through the complicity of demons . Since the demons were identified with the pagan gods , all kinds of magical-pagan practice were Maleficia in the eyes of church theorists.

At the beginning of the 14th century, this view had hardened, so that now any form of magic was considered demon worship or maleficium, and thus heresy , which Pope John XXII. prompted them to turn the prosecution of magic over to the Inquisition .

Damage magic in the early modern witch hunt

In Europe, in the witch hunts of the early modern period (approx. 1450–1782), the accusation of magic spells was an integral part of the charges against alleged witches. The basis for the persecution of witches was the imperial court order of Charles V of 1532 ( Constitutio Criminalis Carolina ). The criminal prosecution of wizards and witches was based on the offense of harmful, successfully carried out sorcery.

The damaging sorcery caused by instructions and with the help of the devil , also called "witchcraft" at the time, was considered to be one according to the witch doctrine among other things according to the witch bull Pope Innocent VIII from 1484 and the witch's hammer of the Dominican Heinrich Kramer (Latin Henricus Institoris) from 1487 Ability of supposed witches or warlocks . The pact with the devil enabled maleficium (Latin: malus “bad” and facere “to do” in the sense of “magic damage”), and that was a crimen exceptum (“special crime ”).

The magic spell was a constituent part of the concept of witchcraft. With certain magic means such as herbs, parts of animal or human bodies, by spells and curse , but also by mere touch or even just by looking ( evil eye ) witches could supposedly damage or kill people and animals and influence nature. These allegations are drastically illustrated in pictures by contemporary artists (e.g. Witches' Sabbath - copperplate engraving by Michael Herr around 1650).

The accusation of the magical damage served people to interpret accidents in everyday life such as illness or death. Examples include ideas that magic ( toverij ) could trigger storms or diseases in cattle and people (e.g. so-called lumbago, impotence).

It was clear to the people of the early modern period that witches could be tricked into harming others by the devil, and that if they did harm they would face a death sentence .

Confessions in the witch trials

Accordingly, the judges in the witch trials demanded statements on the following interlinked charges, which stereotypically kept cropping up:

These charges together made up the so-called cumulative offense "witchcraft". In each trial, the defendants were questioned about these facts during interrogation and tortured and forced to make appropriate confessions.

In the witch trials, judges and witnesses repeatedly associate the magic of damage with the weather and crop yields. Weather disasters during the so-called Little Ice Age (approx. 1500–1800) worsened livelihoods and created fear and panic among people. In many interrogations there is talk of crop damage or damage to vital farm animals through alleged effects of witchcraft: thunderstorms (lightning, hail, storms), causing crop damage and famine ( milk toverij "milk magic ").

Damage spells in witch trial files (examples)

Earlier examples from witch trial files

  • The Hanoverian "witch" Hert was doomed in 1605 for having caused damage to their cattle to many people "by the devil's drive". It is true that she did not receive the black powder used for the magic of harm directly from the devil, but made it herself by digging out a child buried in the St. Nicolai churchyard and burning it into powder. But so she u. a. Tönjes Nobben Kuh ... brought an evil spirit on the body, who broke her neck at night because she was still healthy the day before; In addition, the two other cows would become completely ineffective, which would not be possible without magic.
  • In 1604 Margarete Möller dug up a dead child from the churchyard in Lindhorst (near Stadthagen ) and, with her mother, "fried it in a pot by the fire and turned it into powder". With the same and different powder, “if the devil brought them”, she “forgave (poisoned) people, even let several people die with cows and horses”.

Examples from witch trial files from the times of need of the Thirty Years War (1618–1648) illustrate the above allegations of magic damage in times of need:

  • In the trial against Kündtgen Meurer from Siegburg in 1636, Christian Lindlar and Mayor Wilhelm Kortenbach claimed to have been infected with an illness from her.
  • Trine, the Schefersche von Böinkhausen from Menden / Westphalia, testified in an embarrassing interrogation in 1631: She learned the art of magic when she had no bread for her children. They had advised how they wanted to spoil the mast (by snails) and put poison in the trees.
  • Peter Biffermann in Menden confessed under torture in 1631: three years ago he had hit the hail, blown the wind and blew black paint on the trees to spoil the mast (food for the animals).
  • Gertrud Semer from Menden confessed in 1631 that she had damaged masts and cattle. The masts helped spoil them with caterpillars, which they blown en masse on the trees. And it has spoiled rye.
  • Hans Gunterman von Nidersorpe (now part of the town of Schmallenberg in Westphalia) known in 1630: “I would have poisoned a black dog 7 years ago, the neighbor Spikerman a pig a year ago, the top miller a black cow 2 years ago. Last night (!) He killed a colony on the Schelhorn in the werewolf form of Trins Joste. "

See also


  • Heinrich Kramer (Institoris): The witch hammer. Malleus maleficarum. 3rd edition, dtv, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-423-30780-3 . (Commented new translation by Günter Jerouschek and Wolfgang Behringer)
  • John Michael Greer: Encyclopedia of Secret Doctrines. Edited and supplemented by Frater VD Ansata Verlag, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-7787-7270-8 .
  • Maximilian Becker: Absurd contracts. Mohr-Siebeck, Tübingen 2013, ISBN 978-3-16-152314-4 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. e-akademi.org
  2. Bernd Heinrich: Lecture on criminal law. "Attempt - Overview" ( Memento from December 29, 2013 in the Internet Archive ). Humboldt University Berlin, October 1, 2011.
  3. Evangelical Central Office for Weltanschauung questions: Magic
  4. Joachim Lehrmann : '' Witch persecution in Hannover-Calenberg (and Calenberg-Göttingen) '', Lehrte 2005, ISBN 978-3-9803642-5-6 , p. 26f. u. 136-139.
  5. R [ichard] Hartmann: History of the residence city of Hanover from the earliest times to the present. Published by Ernst Kniep, Hannover 1886, p. 197.
  6. siegburg.de ( Memento of 28 January 2006 at the Internet Archive )
  7. ^ Gisbert Kranz : Menden law and court. u. a. Witches' trials 1592–1631, self-published in 1929, printed by Georg Pfeiffer, Menden (Mendener Tageblatt and Anzeiger), p. 68.
  8. ^ Gisbert Kranz: Menden law and court. u. a. Witches' trials 1592–1631, self-published in 1929, printed by Georg Pfeiffer, Menden (Mendener Tageblatt and Anzeiger), p. 67.
  9. ^ Gisbert Kranz: Menden law and court. u. a. Witches' trials 1592–1631, self-published in 1929, printed by Georg Pfeiffer, Menden (Mendener Tageblatt and Anzeiger), p. 64.
  10. ^ Alfred Bruns: Witches - Jurisdiction in the Sauerland region of Cologne . Documentation for the exhibition in the Schmallenberg-Holthausen Slate Mining Local History Museum from July 21–4. August 1984, p. 62.