From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"In the following pages I have endeavoured to show the witch as she really was – an evil liver: a social pest and parasite: the devotee of a loathly and obscene creed: an adept at poisoning, blackmail, and other creeping crimes: a member of a powerful secret organisation inimical to Church and State: a blasphemer in word and deed, swaying the villagers by terror and superstition: a charlatan and a quack sometimes: a bawd: an abortionist: the dark counsellor of lewd court ladies and adulterous gallants: a minister to vice and inconceivable corruption, battening upon the filth and foulest passions of the age."--The History of Witchcraft and Demonology (1926) by Montague Summers
"According to Jules Michelet in Satanism and Witchcraft (1862), medieval witchcraft was an act of popular rebellion against the oppression of feudalism and the Roman Catholic Church. This rebellion took the form of a secret religion inspired by paganism and fairy beliefs, organized by a woman who became its leader. The participants in the secret religion met regularly at the Witches' Sabbath and the Black Mass. Michelet's account is openly sympathetic to the sufferings of peasants and women in the Middle Ages."--Sholem Stein
Witchcraft (from Old English wiccecræft "sorcery, necromancy"), in various historical, anthropological, religious and mythological contexts, is the use of certain kinds of alleged supernatural or magical powers. A witch (from Old English masculine wicca is a practitioner of witchcraft. While mythological witches are often supernatural creatures, historically many people have been accused of witchcraft, or have claimed to be witches. Witchcraft still exists in a number of belief systems, and indeed there are many today who self-identify with the term "witch".
While the term "witchcraft" can have positive or negative connotations depending on cultural context (for instance, in post-Christian European cultures it has historically been associated with evil and the Devil), most contemporary people who self-identify as witches see it as beneficent and morally positive.
The majority of people identified as practitioners of witchcraft in history were women. Likewise, in myth the stereotype is female. The term witch is typically feminine, masculine equivalents include wizard, sorcerer, warlock and magician.