The Wizard Earl

The Wizard Earl of Kildare
J.K.A.S. Vol. VI Pg. 407-409 J.F.M. French

The Wizard Earl Of Kildare lived in Kilkea Castle in the 16th Century. His wife was always asking him to show her proof of his magical powers, because she had heard so much about them. He told her that if her did, and she showed any fear, she would never see him again. She said she would not show fear and so he decided to test her. Firstly, he made the stream rise up as far as her mouth, she showed no fear, then he made a man who had died years before hand walk through the door and shake her hand, she was not afraid, then he conjured up a snake which wrapped its way around her body and still she was not afraid, even when it hissed in her face. So she had passed the test. He then told her to shut her eyes and not to open them until she heard him stamp his foot on the ground three times, she did this. When he stamped the floor she opened her eyes, the earl was not to be seen and a small bird was sitting on her shoulder singing a beautiful tune. A large black cat jumped from under the chair and made for the bird. She fainted with fear and the earl was never seen again. Legend has it that every 7 years the Earl appears in a haunted room in the castle and that it is wise not to look at his spirit.


The Fitzgeralds inherited Kilkea through marriage and it was their home for 700 years. The best known occupant of Kilkea castle was Gerald, 11th Earl of Kildare (1525-85), popularly known as the Wizard Earl. When his father, Silken Thomas, was executed Gerald was sent to Italy to be educated. Following the restoration of his estates in 1552 he returned home where his interest in medicine, astronomy and metallurgy aroused the curiosity of his neighbours. Traditionally he is said to have had magical powers, which enabled him to transform him into a blackbird. On one such occasion however, a cat appeared in front of him, and his wife let out a scream. This weakness on her part caused the Earl to vanish. He is now believed to live under the moat of Mullaghmast, from where he appears on a silver-shod white horse every 7 years. It is said that he also gallops across the Curragh, and that one day, when the time has come, he will come back to life and save Ireland

J.K.A.S VOL.II 1896/98

If gentle life and high degree
And beauty could avail
To shield from ill, it were not mine
To tell so sad a tale.

If knightly valour, noble birth,
Misfortune could repel,
Or wisdom save, it were not mine
So sad a tale to tell.

Ten mighty Earls from sire to son
Of Gerald's noble name
Maintained their own, or fought for more,
Or merely fought for fame.

But he the next contended hard,
With fierce resolve and stern,
To wrest from Powers below their power
And all their wisdom learn.

Till so for ways of witchery,
And arts of darkness famed
In all the land, that he at last
'The Wizard Earl' was named.

And oft and oft was he besought
By his lady good and true,
To show her all his powers, and be
Transformed within her view.

But ever he forewarned her
That if her gentle heart
Gave any sign of fear, he must
From her forever part;

Till overpressed by loving words
He set her trials to three,
That if she gave no sign of fear
He would transformed be.

At first the river Greese, that near
Where KilkeaCastle stood
Ran gently by, now quickly rose
In wild and sweeping flood.

And whirled through the Castle wall
And through the doorway flowed;
But soon again it fell away,
For she no terror showed.

And then, when out of the waters went,
A fish-like creature wound
Its body through, in serpent form,
And wriggled on the ground.

And 'twined about the lady's feet,
But soon to disappear
It slunk away, for bravely still
She showed not any fear.

But third and last, a shadow form
Moved silent through the room,
The form of one long tears ago
Low laid within the tomb;

And now it flitted further off
And now it flitted near,
But still the lady, gazing, gave
Not any sign of fear.

Then he who never bent to man,
Or failed in deadly strife,
By soft entreaty was o'ercome,
And yielded to his wife.

Though great in arms, and greatly skilled
In each intricate art,
The Earl was lost, not knowing well
To try a woman's heart;

For, changed into a small black bird
And on her shoulder lit,
The lady scarce had raised her hand
To stroke and cherish it

When, crouching from beneath a chest
Upsprang a cruel cat,
The evil one, with ill design
To seize it where it sat.

Then she who feared not for herself,
Outstretched her lifted arm
In terror lest her well-beloved
Should suffer any harm.

But Powers Dark no pity know,
For, when her swoon was o'er,
The Earl and all his knights were gone,
She saw them nevermore.

Enchanted now, 'tis said they sleep,
Until the spell is past,
Full-armoured by their steeds, within
The Rath of Mullaghmast,

And every seven years, to where
The Curragh's plain lies wide,
They start, upon their charges all,
And round its borders ride,

And then to Kilkea Castle,
Unto the haunted room,
And back again to Mullaghmast,-
For so it is their doom;

But, though at dead of night they ride,
The Earl you well may know,
When sounds of horse and armour pass -
By his charger white as snow;

That charger, too, is silver shod,
And when those shoes are worn,
The spell out-spent, the Earl again
Will gloriously return;

And when he comes, oh, then let all
True men and women pray,
That his good wife may meet him at
The castle of Kilkea.

There is an ancient prophecy
That when this Earl shall come,
Victoriously, as I have said,
Unto his castle home,

He will there reign till seven years
Are seven times told o'er,
And yet will do a greater deed
Than e'er he did before;

Even the ancient enemies
Of Erin to withstand,
And north and south, and east and west,
To drive them from the land.

Then Heaven send those silver shoes
May wear away full fast,
If so thereby our native land
May rest in peace at last.


The Wizard Earl was supposed to appear on the 7th of the month every 7th year. He was supposed to be a magician who could turn himself into a bird or a fish. He was supposed to be in the form of a bird, when a cat sprung at him and his wife shouted - that was what caused the spell. This happened in KilkeaCastle in the haunted room.

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