[Dame] Alice Kyteler

Commentary


Life
?1280-1340 [or Kettle]; dg. of José de Keteller, a Flemish banker; several times a widow, having reputedly killed her [four] husbands save the first, a moneylender, who died; accused by Bishop Ledrede of Ossory of holding ‘nightly conference with a spirit called Robert Artisson to whome she sacrificed in the high waie nine read cocks and nine peacocks’; taken to safety in England by some of the nobility;
 
possibly the accusation arose from her wealth and her disputes with the Church; Petronilla her maid - called an accomplice - a native of Co. Meath, so-name by her mistress, was burnt at the stake in 1324; there is an entry in Hollinshed (The Historie of Ireland, 1577); and a material account in Camden (Brittania, 1586); Dame Kyteler’s home was restored as Kyteler’s Inn. DIB

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Criticism
Thomas Wright, ed., A Contemporary Narrative of the Proceedings against Dame Alice Kyteler (Camden Society 1843) [being the Latin MS of the Bishop of Ossory]; St. John Seymour, ‘The Kytler Case’ [Chap. 3], Irish Witchcraft and Demonology (Hodges Figgis 1913, 1989), pp.46-52; Siobhán Mulcahy, Heroes & Villains: Forgotten Irish Stories (Dun Laoghaire: Chomsky 2004) [chap. on Montez].

For literary treatments, see also M. J. Barry, ‘The Witch of Kilkenny’, in The Kishogue Papers (1875) [comic verse narrative]; Emma Donoghue, “Looking for Petronilla” [ story], in The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits (Virago 2002), pp.200-12 [infra]; and Hugh Fitzgerald Ryan, The Devil to Pay (Dublin: Lilliput 2010) - a novel.

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Commentary
T. Crofton Croker, Researches in the South of Ireland [... &c.] (1824), writes in Chap. V: “Fairies and Supernatural Agency”: ‘The most remarkable Irish witch on record is Dame Alice Ketyll (whose history is to be found at length in Camden). Amongst the charges made against her, when examined in 1325, was the sacrificing nine red cocks to her familiar spirit or imp, named Robyn Artysson, “at a stone bridge in a certaine foure crosse high-way. Item, that she swept the streets of Kilkenny with beesomes between Complin and Courefew, and in sweeping the filth towards the house of William Utlaw her sonne, by way of conjuring uttered these words:“Unto the house of William, my sonne, / Hie all the wealth of Kilkenny town.” And, amongst “the goods and implements of the said Alice, there was a certain holy wafer cake found, aving the name of the divell imprinted upon it; there was found also a boxe, and within it an ointment, wherewith she used to besmear or grease a certain piece of wood called coultree, which, being thus anointed, the said Alice, with her complices, could ride and gallop upon the said coultree whithersoever they would, all the orld over, through thick and thin, without either hurt or hindrance.” These things, we are told, were notorious, and dame Ketyll, to avoid punishment, escaped to England; but one of her accomplices, Pernill or Parnell, as burned at Kilkenny, who avouched that Alice’s son William “deserved death as well as herself, affirming that he, for a year and a day, wore the divell’s girdle upon his bare bodie.” Kilkenny seems to have been peculiarly fatal to witches.’ (p.93.)

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References
Belfast Public Library holds Narrative of the proceedings against Dame Alice Kyteler, prosecuted for sorcery in 1324 by Richard de Leorede ([Camden Society] 1843).

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Notes
Emma Donoghue, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits (Virago 2002), contains a story, “Looking for Petronilla”, concerning Kyteler and her maid. Gives the death of Petronilla as 1324.

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