Witches Used To Steal Penises And Keep Them As Pets In The Middle Ages
Witches used to steal penises and keep them as pets in the middle ages, according to a 15th century guide to detecting and eliminating witchcraft. Based on the ideas mentioned in the guide, witches could make one’s penis vanish into thin air. Other witches preferred to keep the stolen penises in a nest and feed them oats.
Malleus Maleficarum is a book written by Heinrich Kramer in the 15th century, and used to serve as a witch-hunting guide for the men of the time. Most historians consider Kramer’s work as a misogynistic text that had no real substance to it. However, this book is responsible for countless murders of women accused of witchcraft with no proof whatsoever. In ‘The Salem Witch Trials Reader’, Frances Hill describes the Malleus Maleficarum as “one of the most terrifying and obnoxious books ever written.”
Many of the crimes (maleficia) attributed to witches concerned sexuality: copulation with incubus devils, procuring abortions, causing sterility and stillbirth, and impeding sexual relations between husbands and wives. (Folklorist Moira Smith notes in her paper, ‘Penis Theft in the Malleus Maleficarum’)
Moira Smith writes that the Malleus Maleficarum enumerates 3 case studies in which witches used black magic to make penises disappear forever. The first two cases are about the use of magical illusions that made men think they have lost their penises. Witches “can take away the male organ,” Heinrich Kramer writes, “not indeed by despoiling the human body of it, but by concealing it with some glamour.”
The other documented situation about penis-stealing witches mentions that disembodied penises were kept as pets and fed oats and other nutritious types of grain:
[W]hat shall we think about those witches who somehow take members in large numbers—twenty or thirty—and shut them up together in a birds’ nest or some box, where they move about like living members, eating oats or other feed? This has been seen by many and is a matter of common talk. It is said that it is all done by devil’s work and illusion, for the senses of those who see [the penises] are deluded in the way we have said.
Heinrich Kramer also describes the process one man went through in order to get back his penis. One penis-less man “approached a certain witch” who gave him instructions to “climb a particular tree where there was a nest containing many members, and allowed to take any one he liked.” Unfortunately for the penis-seeking man, the one he chose didn’t ‘stick’ with him because it was a larger size and “it belonged to a parish priest.”
“Between the end of the 13th century and the early 16th century, the phallus tree was quite a phenomenon.” Penis trees flourished throughout Europe, according to his research: A 14th century French manuscript contains two images of nuns harvesting penises from trees and tucking them into their robes; a wood carving from the early 15th century currently kept at a museum in Germany depicts a woman casually plucking penises while her lover peruses a vulva tree; and a decorative badge found in the Netherlands “shows a couple making love under a phallus tree, possibly being watched by a voyeur,” states historian Johan J. Mattelaer in a 2010 article published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine
During the Middle Ages, painting of genitalia were very common. In 2000, archaeologists even managed to uncover a massive penis tree mural dating back to 13th century Tuscany, Italy. “It is indeed a phallus tree!” Mattelaer notes jovially, while adding that the genitals were “disproportionately large and… clearly in an aroused state.”
The mural shows eight women, out of which two appear to be fighting over penises, while one is trying to knock one out of the tree using a stick. Another woman, as Mattelaer writes, “has one of the fruits of the tree protruding from her bottom.” George Ferzoco, the director of the Center for Tuscan studies, says that this 13th century mural could be “the earliest depiction in art of women acting as witches,” citing ancient Tuscan folklore regarding the fact that witches used to keep penises captive in nests.
According to Heinrich Kramer:
“All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in women is insatiable.” (Malleus Maleficarum)