The First Two Witches in Ireland

Dame Alice Kyteler was a very powerful woman in Kilkenny, Ireland, but that power came at a hefty price. She had many friends, but she also had many bitter enemies. She disappeared around this time in 1324, after being on the wrong end of the first witch trial in Ireland.

Dame Alice was born into a wealthy Norman family and she continued to add to her wealth with each of her four marriages. She outlived all of the many men in her life, and rumors surfaced that she did so with more than a little help. She and her second husband were briefly suspected of killing her first, but nothing ever came from the investigation. However, after he and two more  husbands also died, their families began to grumble. The children of her last husband accused the powerful woman of sorcery and murder by poison. In reality, they were probably just worried about the family wealth being taken away from them, so they tried to destroy Dame Alice’s reputation with rumors of murder and witchcraft, in order to keep that from happening. The plan worked and soon family members from her previous marriages joined in as well. This time they made sure the suspicion wouldn’t fade away.

They brought their case to the Bishop of Ossory in 1324. Dame Alice was the first woman to be put on trial for witchcraft in all of Ireland, and the charges included having a demon lover, using potions and charms to bewitch and murder, defiling churches in the middle of the night by conducting black magic in them, and other devious crimes. The bishop was not a fan of the wealthy and powerful woman either, and the probable outcome  was clear, but before he could convict her, the Dame’s loyal friends kidnapped him. They held him for sixteen days while they tried to convince him that she was innocent. Perhaps it would have been better to find another way to do this, because his captivity only made him direct his anger at the Dame even more. In a vengeful fit, he convicted Alice and her servant girl, Petronella, of all charges and sentenced them both to execution. This judgment made Alice Kyteler the first convicted witch in all of Ireland – and the Bishop wanted to make a terrifying example of her and her servant.

This was great news for the stepchildren who brought the charges against her. Her other enemies were thrilled too, but the night before her execution she escaped and was spirited away by loyal friends. Unfortunately, they only rescued her, and her longtime, faithful servant spent the next few days being publicly tortured by an irate and sadistic  bishop. He succeeded in getting the servant girl to confess to anything and everything he asked, but the angry man was not satisfied with her public punishment. and he had her burned at the stake on November 3rd in 1324. This was the first time anyone had been executed by fire in the region and it was an instant hit. Witch trials  became a regular occurrence and the use of torture and fire was utilized in many for the next few hundred years.

It was a fate that the Dame was lucky to escape. It believed that Ms. Kyteler fled to England, but no proof of her being there or anywhere else exists. She vanished into thin air. All that is certain is that she never returned to Kilkenny, and she was never heard from again.

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