The Formicarius, written 1435-1437 by Johannes Nider
Johannes Nider
Johannes Nider was a German theologian,Nider was born in Swabia. He entered the Order of Preachers at Colmar and after profession was sent to Vienna for his philosophical studies, which he finished at Cologne, where he was ordained. He gained a wide reputation in Germany as a preacher and was...

 during the Council of Basel and first printed in 1475, is the second book ever printed to discuss witchcraft
Witchcraft, in historical, anthropological, religious, and mythological contexts, is the alleged use of supernatural or magical powers. A witch is a practitioner of witchcraft...

. Nider dealt specifically with witchcraft in the fifth section of the book. Unlike his successors, he did not emphasize the idea of the witches' Sabbath and was skeptical of the claim that witches could fly by night. The Formicarius is an important work as it demonstrates that by the early fifteenth century trial
A trial is, in the most general sense, a test, usually a test to see whether something does or does not meet a given standard.It may refer to:*Trial , the presentation of information in a formal setting, usually a court...

s and torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 of people alleged to be witches were already taking place.

Nider was one of the first to transform the idea of sorcery to its more modern perception of witchcraft. Prior to the fifteenth century, magic was thought to be performed by educated males who performed intricate rituals. In Nider's Formicarius, the witch is described as uneducated and more commonly female. The idea that any persons could perform acts of magic simply by devoting themselves to the devil scared people of this time and proved to be one of the many factors that led people to begin fearing magic. The idea that the magician was primarily female was also shocking to some. Nider explained that females were capable of such acts by pointing out what he considered their inferior physical, mental, and moral capacity.

The work is further of note for its information regarding notably infamous figures of the time, one of whom was the sorcerer Scavius, who reputedly escaped his enemies on multiple occasions by metamorphosing into a mouse. Prior to his death Scavius was responsible for the tutelage of Stedelen
Stedelen was a man who was accused of being a witch in Switzerland between 1397 and 1406.-Background:After the harvest had failed at his village, Stedelen was accused of using black magic to destroy the crops by allegedly sacrificing a black rooster on the Sabbath at a crossroad and placing a...

in witchcraft.

The title is Latin for "the ant colony", an allusion to Proverbs 6:6. Nider used the ant colony as a metaphor for a harmonious society.
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