Suppressed Histories: by Max Dashu
I would like to offer an alternative to the locked-in polarity between some of the more uninformed Wiccan takes on history and the denial by many academic historians that repression of social and cultural groups played any role in the witch hunts. Of course, the story is more complex than the Church stamping out paganism, but that suppression is part of the story and can not be disregarded. The history of witch persecution begins with repression by feudal rulers, with a strong patriarchal impetus already visible. It may have very old Indo-European roots. But it’s also clear that priestly advisors urged on kings like Charles the Bald and Alfred the Great. Bishops carried out a less severe but determined repression of the old religions for over a thousand years.
No, a majority of those burned during the mass hunts were not healers and diviners, but yes, these groups were targeted, in significant numbers in places like Italy, the western Alps, and Scotland. Pagan themes do surface in trial testimony, amd turn into diabolist narratives under torture. They also figure in popular images of the witch, though in an increasingly distorted way as diabolism penetrated into popular culture.