Alice Kyteler

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Dame Alice Kyteler (1280 – later than 1325), was a Hiberno-Norman noblewoman who was the earliest person accused and condemned for witchcraft in Ireland.[1][2] She fled the country, but her servant Petronella de Meath was flogged and burnt on 3 November 1324.


Kyteler was born in Kyteler's House, County Kilkenny, Ireland, the only child of an established Hiberno-Norman family.[3]

She was married four times, to William Outlaw, Adam le Blund, Richard de Valle and lastly to Sir John le Poer.[4] In 1302 she and her second husband were briefly accused of killing her first husband. Kyteler also incurred local resentment because of her involvement in moneylending. When her fourth husband John le Poer became sick in 1324, he expressed the suspicion that he was being poisoned. After his death, the children of le Poer and of her previous three husbands accused her of using poison and sorcery against their fathers and of favouring her first-born son William Outlaw. In addition, she and her followers were accused of denying the faith, sacrificing animals to demons and blasphemy.[citation needed]


The case was brought in 1324 before the then Bishop of Ossory, Richard de Ledrede, an English Franciscan friar. The bishop wrote to the Chancellor of Ireland, Roger Utlagh (Outlaw), to have her arrested but this rebounded on him, the Chancellor being her first brother-in-law. In fact de Ledrede himself was jailed by Sir Arnold le Poer, the Seneschal of Kilkenny, her fourth brother-in-law. John Darcy, the Lord Chief Justice travelled to Kilkenny to investigate the events and vindicated the Bishop, who again attempted to have Dame Alice arrested.

After some months of stalemate, one of her servants, Petronella de Meath, was tortured, and confessed to witchcraft, implicating Kyteler. After this, Kyteler was condemned. She fled the country, presumably to the Kingdom of England. She appears no further in contemporary records. The Bishop continued to pursue her lower-class followers, bringing charges of witchcraft against them. Petronella de Meath was flogged and burned at the stake on 3 November 1324. Petronilla's daughter, Basilia, fled with Kyteler to England. Kyteler's son, William Outlaw, was also accused inter alia, of heresy, usury, perjury, adultery, and clericide. After "recanting", William escaped relatively lightly, being ordered to hear three masses a day for a year and to feed the poor. This was one of the first European witchcraft cases and followed closely on the election of Pope John XXII (1316–1334), to the papacy. In 1320, he added witchcraft to the list of heresies.[citation needed]


This case appears to contain the first recorded claim of a witch lying with her incubus. Annales Hiberniae state that Ricardus Ledered, episcopus Ossoriensis, citavit Aliciam Ketil, ut se purgaret de heretica pravitate; quae magiae convicta est, nam certo comprobatum est, quendam demonem incubum (nomine Robin Artisson) concubuisse cum ea ... i.e. that Kyteler had intercourse with the demon named Robin Artisson.

Literary references[edit]

"Lady Kyteler" figures in William Butler Yeats' poem "Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen".[citation needed]

The Stone, a novel about the times of Alice Kyteler was published in 2008, written by a Kilkenny woman named Claire Nolan. A musical version of The Stone, based on Nolan's book, with music and lyrics by Jason Paul Ryan and Tom Bolger, premiered in Kilkenny in 2011.

Robin Morgan wrote a novel, The Burning Time (Melville House, 2006; ISBN 978-1-933633-00-8) about Alice Kyteler.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Davidson, Sharon, and John O. Ward, trans. The Sorcery Trial of Alice Kyteler: A Contemporary Account (1324). Asheville, N.C.: Pegasus Press, 2004.
  2. ^ Wright, Thomas, ed. A Contemporary Narrative of the Proceedings Against Dame Alice Kyteler, Prosecuted for Sorcery in 1324, by Richard de Ledrede, Bishop of Ossory. London: The Camden Society, 1843.
  3. ^ Chapter 2: "Dame Alice Kyteler, the Sorceress of Kilkenny.", Irish Witchcraft and Demonology, by St. John D. Seymour, B.D. (1913)
  4. ^ Curran, Bob. A Bewitched Land: Ireland’s Witches. Dublin: O'Brien, 2005.

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