The word "witchcraft" conjures up many ideas and thoughts in one's mind. Magic, spells, brews, and riding brooms through the night sky - a few of the thoughts common to many. In reality, the idea of witchcraft goes back to ancient times and documentation exists as to the tumultuous time it plays in history. Witch hunts, fear, terror and torture all played a part in history and reflect man's knowledge and beliefs about evil and superstition. Witchcraft occurred in many parts of Europe over several centuries causing fear and death in the wake of primitive beliefs. Inquisitors rallied to the cause following the publication of The Malleus Maleficarum. The question of weather or not witch craft really existed sets up some interesting inquiry. "Since most of our information about witchcraft comes from confessions that were made under torture, we cannot be sure how reliable it is" (Bishop 146). Today, in the twenty-first century, many of the activities and situations labeled as witchcraft in medieval times lend themselves to scientific explanation. During the Middle Ages, convictions of witchcraft required little validity; inquisitors carried out convictions according to The Malleus Maleficarum and therefore millions of people, predominantly women, died in executions.
Supposition alone often gave inquisitors the right to try a person as a witch. "It must be noted that during the inquisition, few, if any, real verifiable witches were ever discovered or tried" (Lovelace 1). Accusation also gave inquisitors the right to try an individual and often accuse and condemn them to burn at the stake without any other viable proof. Additionally, people who questioned Catholic beliefs put themselves in grave danger of the accusation of "witch" as Lovelace states, "the charge of heresy carried along with it the suspicions of witchcraft" (2). Any illness or the manifestation of any unusual behavior or activity beat itself to the same accusation and the unfortunate outcome of condemnation and death.