The wide woman: a neglected epithet in the Malleus Maleficarum

Ostling, Michael (2013) The wide woman: a neglected epithet in the Malleus Maleficarum. Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft, 8 2: 162-170. doi:10.1353/mrw.2013.0020

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Author Ostling, Michael
Title The wide woman: a neglected epithet in the Malleus Maleficarum
Formatted title
The wide woman: a neglected epithet in the Malleus Maleficarum
Journal name Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1556-8547
Publication date 2013
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1353/mrw.2013.0020
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 8
Issue 2
Start page 162
End page 170
Total pages 9
Place of publication Philadelphia, United States
Publisher University of Pennsylvania Press
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Formatted abstract
According to the Malleus maleficarum, devils refer to the Virgin Mary as extensa mulier or “the distended woman.” Although this peculiar phrase finds no echo in western demonology or western witch-trial testimony before or after the Malleus, a very similar epithet is widely attested in Polish sources from the 16th-18th centuries, where both accused witches and the demon-possessed report that devils call Mary Szeroka or “the Wide Woman.” The present article explores two possibilities: that Polish folk demonology got its “Wide Woman” from the Malleus, or that the Malleus got ‘extensa mulier’ from Slavic folk demonology. It argues for the second option, suggesting thereby that the collective concept of the diabolical witch drew more widely from European folklores than is usually supposed.
Keyword Collective concept
Diabolical idiolect
Extensa mulier
Heinrich Kramer
Malleus maleficarum
Virgin Mary
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations used for purposes of scholarly citation, none of this work may be reproduced in any form by any means without written permission from the publisher. For information address the University of Pennsylvania Press, 3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-4112

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2014 Collection
Centre for the History of European Discourses Publications
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Created: Thu, 03 Oct 2013, 15:59:14 EST by Michael Ostling on behalf of Centre for History of European Discourses