Stumbled on an essay by Jon Crabb. He starts his essay Woodcuts and Witches in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when England was witnessing a publishing revolution in the form of pamphlets, ballads and woodcuts. It was also a time of witch hunts (around three thousand so-called sorcerers were executed in England alone) that had papal endorsement. Today witch hunts still exist in places like Papua New Guinea but around five hundred years ago this was a punishable offense in the western world.
One of the earliest and most notorious British witchcraft pamphlets was published in 1579: A Rehearsall both Straung and True, of Hainous and Horrible Actes Committed by Elizabeth Stile, alias Rockingham, Mother Dutten, Mother Deuell, Mother Margaret, Fower Notorious Witches. Stile was a 65-year-old widow and beggar accused of bewitching an innkeeper. The pamphlet describes her association with three other old women known as Mother Margaret, Mother Dutten and Mother Devell, as well as a man named Father Rosimunde, who could transform himself “into the shape and likenesse of any beaste whatsoever he will”. Woodcuts show these old women and several animal familiars, which they reportedly fed on their own blood.
A witch was usually an old woman who lived on her own and owned a cat. A woodcut chronicling the Damnable Life of Doctor Fian, a Notable Sorcerer, who was Burned at Edenbrough in Januarie Last, 1591, had a stock image of witches with devils swimming around a cauldron. These images that were part of popular culture back then have stayed. Witches still have pointed hats, stir bubbling cauldrons and travel on broomsticks, though now they play Quidditch on broomsticks. Muse on that.