Medieval Archery-Enhancing Witchcraft


Most of the spells and witchcraft rituals mentioned in the 15th-century witch-hunting manual, The Malleus Maleficarum, consisted of damaging curses and ceremonies to augment weather. Yet, the book also claimed there were types of witchcraft that could be utilized by warriors in battle. In particular, magic-wielding archers apparently had access to a demonic ritual that could make every arrow meet its mark.

The ritual supposedly used by these diabolical archers can be found in part 2, question 2, chapter 16 of The Malleus Maleficarum. It was quite a simple procedure—the archer only needed to do some simple target practice. Yet, instead of shooting at normal archery targets, the ritual called for a crucifix to be set up at the end of the range. With the cross in place, the skilled wizard-archer needed only to successfully hit the crucifix with an arrow to produce a supernatural projectile.

After hitting the crucifix with a number of arrows, and possibly reciting some sacrilegious statement, the archer could finish the ritual by simply pulling the arrows out of the crucifix and sticking them back into his quiver. If the arrows still happened to not be magical at this point, there were apparently other criteria that less powerful wizards needed to meet, such as doing the ritual on Good Friday or giving not only their soul, but also their body, to the Devil before attempting the spell. According to the theory proposed by The Malleus Maleficarum, the odd ritual performed by the archer caused every arrow that had struck the crucifix to be connected with a guardian demon. This basically turned the arrows into medieval heat-seeking missiles. If the witch-archer launched a diabolical arrow from his bow, a guardian demon would ensure that the projectile dealt a killing blow to the intended target.

There were, however, a few limits that restrained the power of the witch-archers. For one, the demon-arrows were supposedly only effective against targets that were within eye-range of the archer. Additionally, there may have been a cap to the amount of evil arrows that the archers could produce in their ritual. The Malleus Maleficarum hinted that possibly only three or four cursed arrows could be made on any given day. Similarly, the demonic arrows could not be stockpiled to any effect, because after a wizard-archer shot three or four magical arrows, the spell would abruptly end and no other demonic arrows would work for the remainder of the day.

Read about an accused witch-archer named Puncker, HERE.

Written by C. Keith Hansley.

Picture Attribution: (Archer’s arm guard (Bracer); Archery Equipment, c. 1752, in the MET museum, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).


  • The Malleus Maleficarum (part II, question 2, chapter 16) by Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, translated by Montague Summers (Dover Publications, 1971).

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