All smart people are wary of spells and curses come late October, but this Halloween the world will have an extra thing to keep an eye out for: witches who steal men's penises and keep them as pets.
The most detailed description of witches causing males' genitals to vanish and keep them as strange little pets (who, incidentally, eat grain) can be found in the Malleus Maleficarum, an incredibly sexist guide to witch hunting by Heinrich Kramer. The book is absolute nonsense from start to finish, but that didn't stop society for using it as a justification for killing countless women, each of them scapegoats for their community's deeper problems. It has been described as "one of the most terrifying and obnoxious books ever written."
Folklorist Moira Smith spoke about the connection between witchcraft and female sexuality in her paper, "Penis Theft in the Malleus Maleficarum":
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.
It makes a sort of sense, knowing the extreme sexism of the middle ages, that one of the most terrifying things a witch could do was cause a man's penis to stop working or, worse, disappear entirely.
Here's how Kramer described what the witches did with the penises after the members were whisked away:
[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.
Kramer even recounted the story of a man who begged a witch for his member back. The witch relented and told him to climb a nearby tree, where he could have his pick of the penises living in a nest within the branches. In the book, which was taken as fact by people of the time and formed the basis of innumerable executions, the man tried to pick a particularly large penis, but was ultimately denied that choice because "it belonged to a parish priest."
It turns out penis trees are a common motif in ancient witchcraft. In fact, some historians believe "the earliest depiction in art of women acting as witches" is a mural from the 13th century that depicts women gathered around a tree filled to the brim with erect penises.
Nowadays, this would be called a "kink," but back then, it was an evil work of magic to be feared.
Kramer summed up his blindingly sexist attitude by explaining:
All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in women is insatiable.
In truth, women were blamed for many things for absolutely no reason (and still are, in many cases). If a man was having trouble becoming erect across town, he could claim a local "witch" (see: woman) cast a spell on him, and horrible consequences could befall her.
After hearing stories like that, it almost seems fair for witches to keep some penis pets for a while. But we want them back by November, alright sorceresses?