Lady Alice Kyteler and the first Witchcraft Trial:         

The ritual of the Taigheirm was perhaps the most shocking evidence of the cat being equated with the devil, but not long after the Vox in Rama, as previously discussed, was issued in 1233, accusations of witchcraft involving cats began to rise amongst common people.  Usually these accusations were founded on disputes between neighbors over land or animals or even based on maniacal schemes of stealing a person’s cash wealth.  One of the first accusations of witchcraft was brought against the Lady Alice Kyteler in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1318.  The sinister plot revolved around the fact that she had been married four times, and her step children wanted her fortune.  Luckily for the step children, it was just at this time that the inquisition had arrived in Ireland offering them the opportunity to accuse her of sorcery and witchcraft by claiming that she had cast spells that had aided her in the murder of her previous husbands. They also accused her of communicating with Robin Artisson, a demon that appeared before her as a cat.  Fortunately, due to her being a woman of wealth and social standing, she managed to escape to England and save her life.    

Chronicle of Alice Kyteler's Trial British Library

Chronicle of Alice Kyteler’s Trial
British Library

The above page ends the account of the trial for witchcraft of Lady Alice Kyteler and her son, Lord William Outlaw, in Ireland in 1324, by Richard Ledrede, Bishop of Ossary. At the bottom of the page, a monk of Glastonbury, Brother John Meryenth, wrote his name and identified the manuscript as belonging to the monastery.

In 1323, a group of monks, of the Cistercian order near Paris, sought to recover some money that had been stolen from their monastery.  Desperate to find the culprit, the monks consulted a sorcerer who instructed them to bury a black cat in a box at the middle of four crossroads.  The trapped cat was given an air tube by which to breathe as well as food and water. The monks were told to stand in a circle on a cat skin and summon the demon Bevita, who would tell them who the thieves were (Kieckhefer, 1998). After some time, a hunter with his dogs passed by.  The dogs smelled the cat and began to dig up the box.  Once the cat was discovered, the authorities in the city of Chateau Landon found the maker of the box and one of the monks.  After confessing to witchcraft, both were burned at the stake with one having the cat tied around his neck (Williams, 1967).

An accused witch, Riccola di Puccio, was executed in Pisa in 1347 for using magic to cause a husband and wife to split up. The spell called for her to recite charms over an egg from a black hen summoning Mosectus, Barbectus and Belsabact.  She then cut the egg in half and gave one part to a female cat and the other to a male dog while chanting, “In the name of the aforesaid demons may one love between the two be sundered as this egg is divided between dog and cat, and let there be such affection between them as between this dog and cat.” (Kieckhefer, 1998, p.74)

 In 1427, St. Bernardino of Siena confessed that he had erroneously indicted a woman, whom he had accused of killing a child and thirty others, by applying an emollient to her skin that supposedly turned into the shape of a cat.      

Saint Bernardino of Siena 1424-1470, cats and witchcraft

Saint Bernardino of Siena
Source: Wikipedia




Kieckhefer, Richard. (1998). Forbidden rites: a necromancer’s manual of the 15th century. Penn State Press.

Williams, Jay. (1967). Life in the Middle Ages. Cup Archive.



Want to know more about the cat in literature, art and history? Then Revered and Reviled is the book for  you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. 

Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats

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