Maleficium (sorcery)

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Maleficium as a Latin term (or malefice in English)[1] means "wrongdoing" or "mischief",[2] and describes malevolent, dangerous, or harmful magic, "evildoing,"[3] or "malevolent sorcery".[4] In general, the term applies to any magical act intended to cause harm or death to people or property.[5] Maleficium can involve the act of poisoning or drugging someone.[citation needed] Practitioners of maleficium are not exclusively females, although, popular culture of witchcraft favors it.[5] Women accused of Maleficium were punished by being imprisoned or even executed.[6] It is usually considered to be performed through the power of the Devil.[citation needed]

In the Byzantine Empire astrologers (Lat. mathematici) were considered magical wrongdoers, and so were heretics.[7]

The term appears in several historically important texts, notably in the Formicarius (printed 1475) and in the Malleus Maleficarum (1487).[citation needed]

The Knights Templar were accused by Philip IV of France of maleficium. The trial of the Knights Templar set a social standard for the popular belief in maleficium and witchcraft that contributed to the great European witch hunt.[8][page needed] In early New England, more men would get accused of such Maleficium that was "non-malefic".[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Definition of Malefice". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2017-11-16. 
  2. ^ "Latin Word Lookup". Retrieved 2017-04-19. 
  3. ^ Stephens, Walter. Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief. Chicago, Illonos: University of Chicago Press. p. 198. ISBN 9780226772615. Retrieved 19 April 2017. 
  4. ^ "Britannica Academic". Retrieved 2017-04-19. (subscription required)
  5. ^ a b Kierner, Cynthia A. (2015). Virginia Women: Their Lives and Times. University of Georgia Press. p. 19. ISBN 0820347418. 
  6. ^ a b Kent, E. J. (2005). "Masculinity and Male Witches in Old and New England, 1593-1680". History Workshop Journal (60): 69–92. Retrieved 25 May 2017. 
  7. ^ Gordon, Richard L.; Simón, Francisco Marco (2010). "Chapter Three. Heretical texts and maleficium in the Codex Theodosianum (CTh. 16.5.34)". Magical Practice in the Latin West: Papers from the International Conference Held at the University of Zaragoza, 30 Sept. – 1st Oct. 2005. Leiden: Brill. pp. 134–135. ISBN 9004179046. Retrieved 19 April 2017. 
  8. ^ Cohn, Norman (2005). Europe's Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians In Medieval Christendom (New ed.). London: Pimlico. ISBN 0712657576.