Helena Scheuberin

Helena Scheuberin (fl. 1485)[1][2] was an Austrian woman who stood trial accused of witchcraft in 1485. Her trial and acquittal led to the Malleus Maleficarum, which was published two years later.

On trial at Innsbruck, Scheuberin was accused of having used magic to murder the noble knight Jörg Spiess. (The knight had been afflicted by illness, and had been warned by his Italian doctor not to keep visiting Helena Scheuberin to avoid getting killed.) During the trial, six other women were implicated and accused of sorcery. Several witnesses gave testimonies that revealed them to be prejudiced by personal animosity toward the accused women. Furthermore, the authorities at this point still in general regarded sorcery as a minor offense and did not necessarily associate it with Satan. In the end, Helena Scheuberin and the other six women were all either freed or received mild sentences in the form of penance.

Historical SignificanceEdit

The trials were overseen in part by inquisitor Heinrich Kramer, who traveled to Germany to investigate witches. The local diocese refused to honor his jurisdiction, leading Kramer to seek and receive the papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus (1484) which reaffirmed his jurisdiction and authority as an inquisitor.

Kramer was dissatisfied with the outcome of the trials and stayed in Innsbruck to continue his investigations. Exchanged letters show an Italian bishop, Karl Golser, commanding Kramer to leave Innsbruck. He eventually left after the then Bishop of Innsbruck expelled Kramer for insanity and his obsession towards Helena. He returned to Cologne and wrote a treatise on witchcraft that became the Malleus Maleficarum (first published 1487), an instruction guide for identifying witches. Writing the book was Kramer's act of self-justification and revenge. [3]



  1. ^ Brauner, Sigrid (2001). Fearless Wives and Frightened Shrews: The Construction of the Witch in Early Modern Germany. Univ of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 1558492976.
  2. ^ Kessler, Matthias (2012-12-21). Das Schicksal der Hexe Helena: Ein MysteryKrimi basierend auf wahren Begebenheiten (in German). Allpart Media. ISBN 9783862145119.
  3. ^ Broedel, Hans Peter (2003). The Malleus Maleficarum and the Construction of Witchcraft. Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719064418.