Witchcraft in Kilkenny

From the Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 10, September 1, 1832

In our next number we intend giving something of the history of Kilkenny; but at present we will just present a short account of the witch-burning business that took place there about the year 1325. The people of Kilkenny need not be ashamed of it; for scarcely more than a century has gone by since the Scotch had a witch burning business of their own; and even in many parts of England the people, still dread the effects of the evil eye, and the mutterings of an old hag. What we are going to relate occurred in the reign of Edward the Second, about five hundred years ago.

The Lady Alice Kelter was summoned (in or about 1325) before the Bishop to answer to the charge of practising magic, sorcery, and witchcraft. She and her accomplices Petronilla and Basilia, were accused of holding nightly conferences with an imp or evil spirit called Robin Artisson, to whom, in order to make the infernal thing obedient to all their commands, they sacrificed nine red cocks in the middle of the high-way, and offered up the eyes of nine peacocks. The lady Alice, by means of this imp and his associates, caused, every night, the streets of Kilkenny to be swept between the hour of complin prayer and day break. And for what did she do this? To sweeten the town, and make it agreeable? No such thing. Witches are not so benevolently inclined. But it was for the good of her greedy son that she did it, one William Utlaw, a great land pirate, an avarus Agricola, a fellow who monopolized all the town parks, and grasped at great possessions. So the cunning mother had all the filth of the city raked to her son's door, to help him to manure his meadows, and such of the inhabitants as ventured to go out at night, heard unearthly brooms plying over the causeway, and fearful looking scavengers were at their dirty work scouring away to a slow chorus chanted as follows:

"To the house of William my son
"Hie all the wealth of Kilkenny town!"

But this was not all. The Lady Alice beat even Captain Freney the robber and all his Kellymount gang in riding amid the darkness of night. No sooner were the nine peacock's eyes thrown into the fire, than up rose Robin the imp, and presented his potent mistress with a pot of ointment with which she oiled her broomstick; and then mounting as gay as Meg Merrilees the Scotch hag, and having along with her, Petronilla and Basilia, her dear friends, she performed a night's journey in a minute, and used to hold a Sabbat with other enchanters on the Devil's Bit in the county of Tipperary!

This business made a great noise at the time. The Lady Alice Kelter, having powerful friends, escaped to foreign parts; her accomplice, Petronilla, was burned at the cross of Kilkenny. William Utlaw suffered a long imprisonment. On searching the Lady Alice's closet, (as Holingshed relates,) they found a sacramental wafer, having Satan's name stamped thereon, and a pipe of ointment with which she greased her staff, when she would amble and gallop through thick and thin, through fair weather and foul, as she listed!