I'm reading "Encounters with Witchcraft and Witches" by Alan Macfarlane. Now, this was only one of the many witchcraft history books. And I cannot say I noticed what I'm about to say thanks to these books. I only had the same thoughts before but never asked anyone about this before.
Doesn't it look like magick was so much more powerful in the past?
There were countless of witches accused and some sentenced to death. I know most of these people might have been falsely accused but still, people were accusing people of being witches because it was so much more obvious. Maybe in the past, there were more people who are magick talented born. Maybe because people didn't have so much to spend time with, they were focusing on magick. Yeah, but why was it so powerful for them? I might have so many wrong thoughts, in fact, while writing all these i gave my own answers to myself. But still, i always had the thought that magick was so much more common and powerful in the past when there was no technology or high level science.
I highly doubt the convictions of "witches" had anything to do with how powerful or easy magick was for people in the past.
From historical records it has more to do with the mindset of the general public and the legal systems than anything else.
In most cases of witch trials and people being convicted of witches, it was hysteria and fear that brought on the trial, often choosing to point blame for a seemingly normal event on a person they considered to be outside of the "normal", such as elderly, unmarried or sickly women who lived alone.
Those who were accused of witchcraft were often taken to a court where, no matter what they said in their defense, the court knew they were guilty the moment they walked in and would often force guilty confessions out of anyone claiming to be otherwise. In Salem for instance, three girls sealed the fate of all those tried and killed for witchcraft. In Pendle, England, it was one child who took the stand at court accusing those individuals of witchcraft, with no real proof, and yet the court found them guilty based on this girls singular accusation.
Of course, there is no way to know for sure, but the majority of Witch trials that have occurred, and do still occur in some countries, are brought on by fear and by a lack of justice more than any underlying magick, and most, if not all of those accused of witchcraft, were merely at the wrong place at the wrong time.
It's also important to consider that many texts discussing magick in historical times were written from a biased perspective. Often they weren't written by those who actually practiced it, they were written by the religious or fearful folk who could adapt the truth however they felt would best get their point across. Often the only people who could read and write were either, found in positions of power or were people of religious work and so the writings of witchcraft in medieval times and even later, is often solely written by those fearful of the practice and so, you often find very over-the-top and extravagant depictions of what these "witches" were doing. Allowing imps to feed on them, or throwing herbs into cauldrons where they began to scream.
In reality, many of these depictions were completely false and probably have no actual physical backing; the person being written about likely, also isn't real and if they were, they were likely undertaking a local healing, or some other normal task that was necessary at the time.
Magic was much more powerful in the past because of the spiritual density in rural areas. Back then there weren't big cities and lots of human contact as there is today, so magic and spirituality manifested themselves more because of that.
As HearthWitch stated conviction of witches won't impact how powerful the magic was in the past. Infact magic was powerful then and is powerful now. It is mostly based upon how people use and their knowledge in magic. If you practice something long enough and study it thoroughly you'll eventually get good at it and that in return meaning you're powerful or in this case the magic is powerful.
You could compare it to the witch trials taking place today in Africa. Honestly I think it all boils down to beleif, since back then death was most likely just around the corner, for the many ailments we consider as minor inconveniences they were more aware than a majority of today's population. For instance in the present day it's somewhat frowned upon to believe in spiritual power with out linking it to a a certain religious beliefs, or children as dissuaded from strengthen their abilities, with a "that's not possible", or "it's just your imagination"