The Church and the legal power have used witchcraft as the main charge against other religious or political groups that were following a different course.
The Albigensians (1209-1324) of the south of France were considered heretics and were drowned in their own blood by the Pope Innocent III. The Waldensians, the Cathari, the Patarenes were inspired by the Bogomiles and had the same tincture of Manichaean ideas. They were also accused and executed.
When King Philip le Bel of France sought to own the vast Knights Templar wealth and dispose of too powerful allies, he along with his puppet Pope Clement had the Templars captured and tortured.
During these tortures they made many confessions, among these, the disclosure that they had worshipped an idol named Baphomet, which is said to have taken the form of a goat or sometimes a Black Cat. Jacques de Molay, who had earlier confessed his and the Templars guilt slowly burned at the stake insisting the order was innocent of all but one offence, that of allowing torture to cause them to lie and confess untruths
The story of Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, is a clear example of what motivated many accusations of witchcraft over the centuries.
Joan of Arc (or Jeanne d’Arc), the national hero of France who was later canonized a Catholic saint in 1920, had visions from God and led the army of the French against the English and their allies in the 15th century, successfully capturing the city of Orleans. However, she was eventually wounded in battle, captured by traitors, and turned over to the enemy.
The English enemy, fearing her popularity with the French peasantry, tried Joan of Arc as a heretic and a witch after first brutalizing her in jail. All this was done under the power of an ecclesiastical court with the authority of the Church.
Like thousands of other victims to come, she was burned at the stake for witchcraft in 1431. She died in Rouen as a sorceress and a heretic, but twenty-five years after her execution, Joan of Arc was pronounced innocent of the charges. Gilles de Rais, her compagnon d’armes and a rich perverted nobleman was sentenced to death in 1440.
Joan of Arc had become a political threat to the established hierarchy of power. And because she was a woman, the easiest way to get rid of her was to burn her as a witch. But the killing would come only after she was discredited in a circus-like trial.