The NY Times considers a feminist mythology (that the church executed millions of 'witches', including midwives) and finds that the truth is rather different.
In a search for historical roots and moral legitimacy, some feminists and many adherents of neopagan or goddess-centered religious movements like Wicca have elaborated a founding mythology in which witches and witch hunts have a central role. Witches, they claim, were folk healers, spiritual guides and the underground survivors of a pre-Christian matriarchal cult. By the hundreds of thousands, even the millions, they were the victims of a ruthless campaign that church authorities waged throughout the Middle Ages and early modern centuries to stamp out this rival, pagan religion.
Professor Behringer traced the estimate of nine million victims back to wild projections made by an 18th-century anticlerical from 20 files of witch trials. The figure worked its way into 19th-century texts, was taken up by Protestant polemicists during the anti-Catholic Kulturkampf in Germany, then adopted by the early 20th-century German neopagan movement and, eventually, by anti-Christian Nazi propagandists. In the United States, the nine million figure appeared in the 1978 book "Gyn/Ecology" by the influential feminist theoretician Mary Daly, who picked it up from a 19th-century American feminist, Matilda Gage.