Before medicine became a university degree, peope who made herbal remedies and helped the sick used chants, magic poems etc that they thought would help, and other rituals.
If you read about American Indian “medicine men” or Chinese herbalists today you’ll get the idea.
Mixed up with their mumbo jumbo there was a wealth of valuable knowledge about the use of medicinal plants.
In Medieval Europe the Church tried to stamp this out as it was subversive to people’s faith in Christianity. The beliefs were tied up inextricably with the old pagan religion. They taught people that these beliefs were wrong, any success they achieved was through power derived directly from the devil, and they encouraged people to be afraid of, and to ostracise herbalists.
Despite this they had enormous difficulty stamping this “witchcraft” out and it did survive right up till the 17th or 18 century, when genuine scientific discovery at last began to help people with medical complaints.
There’s the occasional case of someone at least threatening to curse neighbors, usually when she’s already under suspicion. Might as well benefit from the gossip, eh? Certainly there’s no evidence of a conspiracy of witches as people came to believe.
As a note, most witch trials happened during the late Renaissance, not the Middle Ages. For a long time the Church didn’t even acknowledge that witchcraft existed: they stated such clames came from delusions. Also, the hysteria of the witch-trials was widespread, not consentrated within the Church. Both Catholics and Protestants, lay people and clergy, accepted the reality of witches.
Also note that, contrary to some of the other answers here, herbalism and beneficial folk magic was NOT witchcraft during the time of the witch trials. Quite the opposite, local magical healers were often called in to testify as expert witnesses against witches. Who better to identify a magic worker than another magic worker? “Witchcraft” was malevolent magic.
Yes there is plenty of evidence to support practitioners of witchcraft in the middle ages, the church burnt many witches at the stake because they helped sick people to get better, using natural herbs, the church did not like this idea because the witches did make people better, this was the against the church because they believed only their could do this.
there was never any legitimate evidence saying witchcraft was real, it was a lot of delusional people and epileptics and moldy bread and stuff that started everything. im not saying nobody ever practiced witcraft but its not the kind that they thought it was
Well…you have to understand that what They deemed “Witches” and what fiction deemed “Witches” were fairly different things. The church felt anyone who use holistic medicines, had broad knowledge of herb crafts, generally lived alone, and somewhat outcast from the typical ways of the time (and generally didn’t attend church), were generally viewed as Witches.
Fiction (and perhaps some unfounded rumors) stated that Witches has some sort of supernatural powers to cast mystical spells that changed people into toads, and that Witches hovered over bubbling, boiling cauldrons which contained disgusting, foul ingredients. None of this was true. The power of imagination is a strong thing, it can make people believe all kinds of things, including hysteria and the supernatural.
No one was ever able to fly on a broom, make people turn into toads nor shot any type of electricity from their hands. THAT was the product of wild imagination.
Witchcraft never actually died out. It just went underground (metaphorically speaking) to avoid persecution and death from the Church. Now that we live in an age of reason, it’s come out of hiding.
Of course there were *some* and some may have even gotten caught and tortured. But the majority of the victims of the Inquisitions were not practicing the Craft as any modern Witch would recognize it, they were simply powerful (mostly) women who were in the way of some church politicians progress.
There was some truth on occasion. Here is one such example though it was in the 17th century:
EDIT – Historically speaking Night Wind below is correct in his assessment. History was compulsory in my school days a generation ago and his points are correct. Seems that there are 3 people here who missed the boat in that subject.