In today's world, we think of witches, wizards, alchemists, and everything in between as mystical, fascinating characters from our favorite movie or book. So, how did societies' view of these magical beings change so drastically from Devil worshippers to Hermoine Granger?
Let's go back a few hundred years to 1617... imagine you're living in a small village or town somewhere in Europe, your child gets sick, so you go to the Cunningfolk for herbal remedies. If your child is cured from all sickness the next week, the witch who healed them is someone that you'd find valuable to you and your community. On the other hand, if and when the child were to die, there would be nothing and no else to blame except the witch who spelled and hexed the child. The town Cunningfolk were constantly seem as either everyone's worst enemy or closest friend - with no inbetween.
In the beginnings of witchcraft, it was not seen as evil or work of the Devil. In fact, it wasn't even seen as inconsistent with Christianity. As centuries passed and the Church grew, the need for control over communities grew, as well. For a while, some witchcraft was justified as being "high" or "white" magic that was used to help and heal people. On the other hand, there was "black" and "low" magic that was only used to harm and deceive. It was typically believed that "high magic" was practiced predominately by elite and educated men, whereas "low magic" was used by women since it was more easily learned. Because there's no way a woman could learn the intricacies of witchcraft, right? As religion was becoming more concrete as a cultural influence; paganism and any type of witchcraft was something that the Church was desperately trying to rid people of. It didn't take long for witchcraft to go from a usual aspect of communities to demonic association with heresy.
It's important to keep in mind that during this time in history, almost everyone was uneducated and therefore very impressionable. As published works about witchcraft and its demonic association spread to the elite members in communities, so did the paranoia and prosecuting. People believed that it was possible for anyone to practice witchcraft, which made anyone a possible suspect. It's not shocking that most of the accused were middle-aged women who were typically outspoken and disliked already in their communities. Anyone who stood out was more likely to be accused. By the mid 1300s, witchcraft was punishable by death.
During these 16th and 17th centuries, the Church was desperately seeking control and obedience from everyone in the community, with no questions asked. I personally think that if it hadn't been witchcraft they prosecuted so heavily, it would have been anything else that contradicted their establishment. If the Church claimed that anyone was capable of doing magic, then what is the real harm? If we all can, why is something to kill masses of people for? They claimed that witchcraft was just pure illusions and fantasies, but if that's what they truly thought, then why believe in the power behind it? There is no sense in their logic or the actions they pursued, but out of fear, most of society went right along with it. Finding it totally acceptable to drown, burn, and torture people accused of practicing any kind of magic.
So, now it's up to you to decide whether you believe that hundreds of men and women (but mostly women, of course) were having Satanic rituals and killing children for their to use in spells all throughout Europe, or if religious establishments felt threatened by people believing in anything besides them.