WITCHES OF IRELAND PART 1 – ALICE KYTELER, THE BLACK WIDOW OF KILKENNY

alice

Long before the publication of Malleus Maleficarum, attention was brought to bear on the small medieval town of Kilkenny in the Kingdom of Ossory.  One of the earliest ever recorded witch trials took place in the early 14th century against a local businesswoman and serial bride by the name of Alice Kyteler – and what a sensational trial it was.

So who was the local entrepreneur and femme fatale who caused uproar in the Irish legal system and brought the Ecclesiastical authorities of Ireland to their knees?

THE BLACK WIDOW

Alice Kyteler’s family were Flemish brokers and they had settled in Kilkenny sometime towards the end of the 13th century with just one child, a daughter.  Alice learned the ropes of the family business and grew up to be very shrewd, so it came as no surprise that her first husband was an affluent local businessman and financier by the name of William Outlaw.

Believed to have married in 1280 when Alice would have been only sixteen or so, they went on to have a son, also called William.  The banker’s wife groomed her son for great things and by an early age he had gained positions of authority within the local community.  By 1302 William’s father was dead and Alice was already onto her second marriage.  Husband number two was another moneylender by the name of Adam le Blund, from the market town of Callan on the Kilkenny/Tipperary county borders.

Both parties were already wealthy before the union, however marriage brought them a new level of power and prosperity.   The couple’s wealth and status had left feelings of acrimony running high in the parish and rumours had already began to circulate that Alice’s first husband had not died from natural causes.  The locals were convinced that Alice and Adam had in fact, committed murder.

The fire of fear and distrust aimed at Alice Kyteler was beginning to take hold, however it would appear that Alice and the events surrounding her insisted on adding fuel to the growing flames.  In 1307, Adam le Blund relinquished all legal entitlement to his own wealth and gave what was effectively full Power of Attorney to his stepson William, together with the complete nullification of William’s debts agreements.  This incident was deemed all the more suspicious as Adam had offspring of his own from a prior marriage and was in seemingly good mental and physical health.  Two years later he was dead.

1309 saw Alice wed for the third time.  Richard de Valle was an affluent landowner from the neighbouring county of Tipperary and once again the marital union was short lived.  A seemingly fit and well Richard died mysteriously, leaving all his wealth to Alice.  The son of the unfortunate deceased, also called Richard, kept hold of the assets and was the subject of legal proceedings, as the widow demanded her rightful wealth.

By the time Alice Kyteler married yet another wealthy landlord, Sir John le Poer, the local rumour mill was in overdrive and the whispering of foul play continued.  In frighteningly similar circumstances to her first three husbands, John’s health began to decline, in spite of his relatively young age.   John’s finger nails and toe nails were discolouring and falling out, he was rapidly going bald, and the little hair he had left was devoid of pigmentation.  As his ailments increased and his already poor health took a decided turn for the worse, two game changing events took place.  First of all, with no regard for his own blood kin, John made a will bequeathing all his money and assets to Alice and her son William.  The second, fearing for his life, John turned to the church for help. By 1324 he was dead and the whispers had turned to shouts of witchcraft.

KYTELER’S INN

kytelers-inn

Despite marrying prosperous landowners, Alice insisted that she remain in her birthplace on St. Kieran’s Street in Kilkenny.

As a rich wife and ultimately an incredibly wealthy serial widow, Alice did not need to work, however her focus was on building and maintaining a thriving business.  She continued with her practice of moneylending, made easier by having the perfect location to conduct her affairs.

Kyteler’s Inn wasn’t just any old hostelry. It was a meeting place for local businessmen who all vied for the attention of the bewitching Alice, showering her with gifts and money.   It should therefore come as no surprise that this was the very place Alice set eyes on her ill-fated husbands to be.

Whilst the attention of so many of the wealthy local male population was scintillating for Alice, she was a canny businesswoman first and foremost.  She hired the most luscious and alluring of young women to work in her premises, enticing men from their wives and responsibilities and spending their money in Kyteler’s Inn, making her establishment the most successful in Kilkenny.

It was also here in the inn that Alice was said to work her sorcery and that her patrons were bewitched by Alice and her alleged coven.

SORCERY, THE CHURCH AND THE LAW

Contrary to popular belief, the Church often turned a blind eye to sorcery, accepting that some forms of Malficium were minor offences and that the medical benefits offered by those who practiced such arts outweighed the ‘crime’.  As such, any issues relating to witchcraft were dealt with by the local authorities and not the Church, except in the case of direct heretical doctrine.

Unfortunately for Alice, this all changed when Pope John XXII came to the Papal Throne in 1316.  He was genuinely terrified of witchcraft and was convinced his life was in jeopardy, leading to the granting of sweeping powers to his Inquisitors.

Pope John XXII published a definitive list of practices that would constitute heresy and subsequent prosecution by the Church, particularly in relation to demon worship and pacts with the devil.

pope-john-xxii

Unfortunately for Alice, this canon law reached Ireland and in particular, Richard Ledrede, the Bishop of Ossory.

ACCUSATIONS, ARRESTS AND ABSCONDING

Whether out of bitterness of being cheated from their respective inheritance or genuine concern that Alice Kyteler was indeed a witch, the children of her last three deceased husbands joined together and called upon the assistance of Richard Ledrede.

Richard was a devout Christian and fanatical with seeking out and punishing heretics.  He was unhappy that respect for the Church and canon law were fading and that the law of the land took precedent.  He had the necessary background to implement Church doctrine and proceed with charges of heresy against Alice and her son William Outlaw, however he was up against resistance from local law enforcement and Alice’s very powerful contacts.

Having heard the allegations from Alice’s stepchildren, Ledrede went ahead and charged Alice, her maid Petronella and her son William with heresy.  The charges included denying the Faith, desecration of the church with black magic rituals, sorcery, demonic animal sacrifice, murder, controlling members of the local community with potions and spells and fornicating with a demon known by many names including Robin Artisson, in exchange for power and prosperity.

Richard’s first attempt at arrest was thwarted by the Chancellor of Ireland, Roger Outlaw, a relative of Alice’s first husband.  He advised Ledrede that there could be no warrant issued for the arrests without the accused having first been excommunicated for at least 40 days and a public hearing.  Meanwhile the well timed intervention of another relation by marriage, Sir Arnold de Poer, senior steward of Kilkenny allowed Alice to flee to Dublin and saw the imprisonment of Richard Ledrede.

While Richard was in prison, the whole of the diocese of Ossory saw an embargo on funerals, baptisms and marriage.  As the majority of the population believed in Hell and eternal damnation, the public outcry was too much and the Bishop of Ossory was released.

Incarceration left Ledrede incensed and he heightened his efforts to prosecute Alice, her son and maid by involving the Justice of Ireland, who insisted upon a full witch trial.

William Outlaw pleaded guilty to the charges of heresy, illegal money lending, adultery and perverting the course of justice.  His punishment was to attend three masses a day, donate to the poor and agree to reroof the cathedral with lead.

WITCH

In the meantime, Alice had absconded and the trial continued in her absence.  The alleged depths of her depravity and heresy began to be revealed to the court.  The witch Kyteler was said to have used a human skull to brew her potions, with ingredients including parts of corpses, the innards of fowl, worms and insects and the clothing of deceased infants.  The concoctions were said to rouse her innocent victims to do her bidding, with acts of love, hatred or murder.

Alice and her coven were said to have conducted black masses in the churches, sacrificed and dissected livestock to bargain with demons at crossroads and Alice herself was accused of continued carnal relations with a powerful demon in order to maintain her position of influence over the local community.

The final accusations were of the murder of each of her four husbands.  Evidence regarding her last husband, John le Poer was put forward.  He had no nails, they were ripped from their beds and left bleeding, all bodily hair had fallen out and he was completed withered away to a skeleton at the time of his death.

While Alice had disappeared, some say to England with the help of her well positioned male acquaintances, her maid was not so fortunate.

Petronella de Meath was tortured repeatedly in Kilkenny Jail until she confessed to being a witch and a member of the coven of Alice Kyteler.  On 3rd November 1324, Petronella was the first woman in Ireland to be burned at the stake as a witch.

burning-at-the-stake

THE LEGACY OF ALICE KYTELER

So what of Alice? Well Alice Kyteler was never heard of again – whether she used witchcraft to cloak her whereabouts or was helped abroad by calling on infatuated men of position we will never know.

What we do know, is that the accusations and the trial were very real indeed.  They remain documented as they have been for centuries and the trial changed the balance of law and power back in favour of the Church.

The most exciting revelation of this account is that the locations remain.  The Jail still stands, bars on windows.  As you stand on the street, peering into the eerie darkness of the cold, cramped cells, a shiver runs up your spine at the realization there could be something ethereal staring back at you, perhaps the tormented blackened soul of Petronella de Meath.

Kyteler’s Inn is still the most famous hostelry in Kilkenny and the spirit of Alice is said to remain, watching over her establishment and the revelers within for eternity.

So was Alice Kyteler indeed a witch, or just the most successful and richest business woman in medieval Ireland? Perhaps if you come across her in Kyteler’s Inn, you can ask her yourself!

alice-sculpture

I shall leave you with Alice, immortalised in the words of W. B Yeats:

"A sudden blast of dusty wind and after
Thunder of feet, tumult of images,
Their purpose in the labyrinth of the wind;
And should some crazy hand dare touch a daughter
All turn with amorous cries, or angry cries,
According to the wind, for all are blind.
But now wind drops, dust settles; thereupon
There lurches past, his great eyes without thought
Under the shadow of stupid straw-pale locks,
That insolent fiend Robert Artisson
To whom the love-lorn Lady Kyteler brought
Bronzed peacock feathers, red combs of her cocks."

 

 

NEVER HOSTAGE TO THE DEVIL OR THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH – WHO WAS FATHER MALACHI MARTIN?

Malachi-Martin

Perhaps one of the most famous names to come out of the Vatican, the former Jesuit priest, best-selling author and professional Exorcist was as well-known as a scholar as he was for his outspoken writings and speeches against certain teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.

A writer of both novels and non-fiction and the subject of many rumours himself, sometimes the lines between fact and fiction were blurred – so just who was Malachi Martin and what role did he play in the Vatican’s battle against evil and satanic influence?

THE FORMATIVE YEARS

Malachi Martin was born into a fairly well to do family in the village of Ballylongford just outside of Listowel in County Kerry, Ireland in 1921. Despite claims in later years that Malachi was of Jewish descent, his parents were in fact English and Irish.  There were four boys in total and all of them went on to join the priesthood.

The young Malachi entered the Jesuit Order at the age of eighteen after completing his senior education in Dublin. Although further travels and studies were preferred, the outbreak of the Second World War put paid to that and Malachi remained in Ireland, obtaining degrees in Semitic Languages and Oriental Studies.

Once it became safe to travel, the scholar continued his education in Europe with post graduate studies in several areas including Intertestamentary Studies and education in Hebrew and Arabic Manuscripts. By 1954 Malachi Martin was a fully ordained Jesuit priest.

Always wanting to learn more, Malachi continued to research in the Middle East, including emphasis on the Dead Sea Scrolls and Semitic Palaeography, a study of the methods and context of ancient Middle Eastern writings and scripts.

It was at this time that the young priest found himself assisting on his very first Exorcism in Egypt in the mid nineteen fifties.

SATANISM IN THE VATICAN

Inside Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome

Inside Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome

Father Martin long believed and had studied and witnessed evidence of the Roman Catholic Church’s involvement on a covert level with satanic worship and was not shy to publish his findings, both in non-fiction and loosely veiled fiction writing.

Of course general knowledge of the dark side of the church goes back to Pope Benedict IX from the 11th century and his notorious papacy – known to have embraced satanic worship and the black arts, this pope committed atrocities that led to his temporary banishment from Rome. It may well be that he was possessed by the very demons that our 20th Century Exorcist feared.

Despite the fact that being a Freemason is forbidden in the Roman Catholic Church, Malachi gave credence to the belief that there were at least two popes involved in the secret sect and that the Illuminati had infiltrated the Vatican. He also believed that nuns were partaking in rituals associated with dark witchcraft.

THE CALL TO ROME

The young man from a small village in Ireland had come to the attention of the Pope and the Vatican with his prolific studies, dedication and involvement in exorcisms. In 1958 he was called to Rome and took up the position of private secretary to Cardinal Bea, a biblical scholar and a mediator for Catholic-Jewish relations – a mantel Malachi would also take on.

With apartments in the Vatican, the scholarly Father Martin also took the position of Professor of Aramaic, Palaeography, Hebrew and Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute.

Malachi’s vast knowledge and diplomacy brought him into contact with many other faiths as an interpreter, from relationships formed with prominent Rabbis to work behind the Iron Curtain with the Russian Orthodox Church.

By 1964 Malachi Martin was on a different path and his traditional approach caused him to be at odds with the outlines laid out by the Second Vatican council. In February of 1965 Father Malachi Martin was released from his vows of poverty and finally released from the Jesuit Order in June of the same year.

Brian Doran released an audio account of the life of Malachi Martin told through second hand accounts by those who knew the man called ‘God’s Messenger’ – according to Doran, Pope Paul VI had “given the priest a general commission for exercising an apostolate in media and communications.”

THE USA AND GUGGENHEIM

hostage

Once Malachi Martin arrived in the United States, he turned his hand to writing and applied for the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967. This was a grant awarded to the successful applicant for “demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.”

Malachi was awarded the grant and this lead to the launch of his first successful book in 1969, ‘The Encounter: Religion in Crisis.’ This was Martin’s views on why Christianity, Judaism and Islam were in crisis and had failed the modern man.

Following this success, Malachi Martin was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for a second time which enabled the priest to write his most famous published work, which went to press in 1975. That book was ‘Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Living Americans.’

Malachi Martin became a U.S Citizen in 1970 and by the end of his life has published some sixty times including thinly veiled insights into the satanic rites of the Vatican with novels such as ‘Windswept House: A Vatican Novel’ and a description of the ‘Enthronement of the Fallen Angel of Lucifer.’ When asked in an interview with ‘The New American’ Martin stated these things had happened but could only be published in a novel.

In 1981 Malachi published ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church’, which was a historical volume that focused on the changes through the years and the shifts between progressive supremacy and spiritualism.

Despite having spent more than a quarter of a century as an ordained priest of the Jesuit Order, in 1987 Martin published ‘Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church.’ This was an inflammatory and extremely critical view of his former brethren and how he believed they destabilised the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church methodically and deliberately.

WHISPERS

Children of Fatima

Children of Fatima

With so much controversy and celebrity status (Martin was a regular on radio shows and published interviews along with his books) the rumour mill surrounding both him and his own opinions was in overdrive.

Malachi Martin had publicly stated that he believed at least two popes of the 20th century, Pope Pius XI and Pope John Paul 1 were murdered.

Several mysteries surrounded Malachi himself, including whether or not he was actually ordained a bishop. He was also accused among other things of being a spy for the Israelis due to his Jewish sympathising and a story was given of him having Jewish heritage which was proved to be false.

He was a staunch advocate of the Three Secrets of Fatima. These were three secrets allegedly revealed to three cousins in Portugal over six visits between May and October of 1917.  The secrets were:

  1. The admission of the existence and description of Hell.
  2. Information regarding the First and Second World Wars.
  3. The attempted assassination of Pope John Paul 11.

These secrets have been disputed for decades and it is believed they were never revealed in full.

Malachi Martin also discredited the religious site of Medjugorje, claiming his previous accreditation was given after being misled.

There were also rumours regarding books he may have written under pseudonyms, with at least one being proven.

In a strange twist the notorious serial killer David Berkowitz, known as the Son of Sam, initially claimed on arrest to have been possessed by a demon, however revealed this to be false during meetings with a court psychiatrist. Later while in prison, the convicted Son of Sam actually made approaches to Malachi Martin to assist in writing his autobiography which Martin declined.

EXORCISM

Exorcism

According to Malachi Martin, he had performed thousands of what he referred to as minor exorcisms and participated in a few hundred major exorcisms in his lifetime. As well as private exorcisms, he had worked with renowned Demonologist, Dave Considine and paranormal researcher, John Zaffis.

Perhaps one of the most forthright and knowledgeable authorities on exorcism, Malachi Martin stated that a person cannot unknowingly be possessed or taken against their will, they must actively allow a possession. He believed it to be a systematic and gradual deception by the entity.

Malachi described the process of exorcism as a confrontation between the wills of the exorcist and the demon. In order to succeed, the exorcist has to be empowered by God, through the Church, and have a cleansed soul by way of confession.  The process would usually involve the Exorcist and an assisting priest, with lay people used for restraining purposes when required.

Father Martin was adamant there were different levels of possession from partial or normal to total where “…a veil is drawn aside, and you realise you don’t know this person. They have a truly evil look.”

He also made it clear that the retelling in film of Exorcisms was not as dramatic but there would be temperature drops, bad odours and occasional manifestations. He revealed to Donna Anderson of the Examiner, the worst part was:

“…at a certain moment, if it’s really in the possession of a threatening spirit, a demon, everyone will know there’s something in the room that wants you dead. It’s a horrible feeling knowing that unless something happens you are going to die now.  It’s like an invisible animal with claws and it want you dead.”

LATER LIFE AND DEATH

Malachi continued to be vocal in his opposition to the Jesuit teachings and aspects of the Vatican as well as insisting that Black Masses and Satanism and sacrifice were happening even within a stone’s throw from his residence in New York.

In July 1999, Martin had an alleged fall at his apartment in Manhattan which led to a cerebral haemorrhage and his death at the age of seventy eight. Even now conspiracy theorists believe his fall was not accidental and he was in fact killed by the Vatican to silence his outspoken opposition.

Indeed when questioned during an interview if he feared for his life, he stated he was however, he was too old to change.

LEGACY

It has been sixteen years since the death of this remarkable man and his books continue to be of major interest among scholars, conspiracy theorists and paranormal researchers to name a few.

His legacy will continue as Marty Stalker, a filmmaker from Northern Ireland has taken Martin Malachi’s most famous book, ‘Hostage to the Devil’ and made it into a film of the same title, which includes the use of archive footage.  With new media attention and continuing paranormal interest, Malachi Martin will continue to be studied and remembered for decades to come.

I shall leave you with a final word from Malachi Martin:

“Anybody who is acquainted with the state of affairs in the Vatican in the last 35 years is well aware that the prince of darkness has had and still has his surrogates in the court of St. Peter in Rome.”

I shall leave you with a final word from Malachi Martin:

“Anybody who is acquainted with the state of affairs in the Vatican in the last 35 years is well aware that the prince of darkness has had and still has his surrogates in the court of St. Peter in Rome.”