A Woman to Know: Petronilla de Meath

... and indeed in all the realm of the King of England there was none more skilled or equal to her in this art. — Richard Ledrede

(image credit: Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall)

Poor Petronilla.

She was the Irish maid of Dame Alice Kyteller, a wealthy noblewoman who was accused of sorcery during the early European witchcraft trials. Alice and her household staff were accused of devil worship, dark arts, murder, bestiality and more. Alice was committed to house arrest for these supposed atrocities, but it Petronilla who was forced to publicly confess to several fake crimes that now make up typical witchy legend. She testified that Dame Alice taught her to how to make potions, talk to demons, tame black cats — and even how to fly on broomsticks.

While Dame Alice used her society connections to flee to safety, Petronilla was declared a heretic and burned at the stake in 1324. She was the first "witch" officially tried and executed for heresy in Europe — the first of many women who would face the same fate throughout the Middle Ages.

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