Throughout the Middle Ages and into the early seventeenth century, witch hunts had reached their height, midwives were often depicted as witches who communed with the devil. While there may be questions regarding the exact nature of prosecution/persecution of midwives between 1500 and 1700, description of the demonic works of the midwife-witch nonetheless abound in lay and learned writings through the early-modern era. Kramer and Sprenger’s influential witchcraft book Malleus Maleficarum, first published in 1486 and reprinted no fewer than thirty times between 1487 and 1669, contains frequent reveries on witch-midwives and their horrific acts toward new mothers and their offspring. This book of witchcraft reports a woman’s allegations that she was punished after she refused to allow a midwife with a “bad reputation”to assist her in her pregnancy. Soon after she went into labor, the rejected midwife went into her room, paralyzed her so that she could not speak, and vowed to avenge herself. The midwife-witch then put thorns, bones, and bits of wood in her entrails so that, six months later, the new mother would be “tortured”with unbearable pain.
From Pregnant Fictions: Childbirth and the Fairy Tale in Early Modern France
(p. 64). Author? yours truly.