The day I got a certificate from the WItches WEighhouse in oudewater to proof that I am not a witch
Between The Hague and Utrecht is a small village called Oudewater, its most famous for its old weighhouse. Unlike in other cities people could not only bring their goods and livestock to be weighed before it was sold, in this weighhouse the scales were used to weigh people, mainly women, who were accused of practicing withcrafts. It is called the Heksenwaag (Witches Weighhouse).
BEING ACCUSED OF WITCHCRAFT LEFT WOMEN WITH LITTLE HOPE BACK IN THE DAYS
The old wooden scales used in this weighhouse date back to 1482 and have played a pivotal role in sparing many innocent women accused of witchcraft from being sentenced to death. It was fairly easy to be accused of placing spells on innocent people and being someone who was practicing witchcraft BUT to clear your name was often impossible Impossible tasks and tests were imposed on the accused and tested were rigged leading to innocent women being burned or drowned.
The Witches Weighhouse in Oudewater was the only hope for many people from all over Europe, and they trekked to Oudewater to get the certificate proving their innocence. As the witches weighhouse in Oudewater was run by honest citizens who refused to participate in the witchhunt trend of the time. All of the “witches”, who successfully made their way to Oudewater, were cleared of the accusation and received a certificate to proof their weight and innocence.
Our guide explained that the citizens of Oudewater believed in science more then witchcraft, they actually were very foward thinking for their time. They realised that the church had unofficially sanctioned the witchhunts to get ride of powerful local healers, often the healers were women with an in-depth knowledge of local herbs. Therefore defying the believe in witchcraft essentially was defying the church and believing in the power of citizens.
ARE YOU A WITCH?
The museum is housed in the original witches weighhouse building. Downstairs you find a little museum shop, can listen to an introduction movie about the witches’ scales (various languages) and can stand on the actual original scales to be weight yourself. Like the witches back in the day you have to stand on the scale infront of all the other visitors and once the weighing is complete they will call out your weight to confirm that you are not a witch (If you don’t want your weight to be announced publicly, do mention it before!)
If you pass the test, you will get a certificate that certifies that “your body weight is in proportion to your build.” why is the weight so crucial? Back in the days it was believed that a witch has no soul and therefore weighs significantly less than a normal person, hence a witch can fly on a broomstick and a normal person cannot. My son and I were both brave enough to step on the scales and both received the certificate confirming that we are no witches, my husband refuses to be weight. Suspicious right?!?
It’s a very child friendly small museum
We visited the museum, which has plenty of information and videos available in English, on a quiet day and we stayed about 40 minutes. Upstairs you can find a small children’s play area and the museum regularly hosts child friendly events. Strollers cannot be taken upstairs and need to be parked in the small cloakroom. They offer a small witch treasure hunt in the museum, and organize witch themed birthday parties on request.
The area around the museum is lovely. Oudewater is a quintessential Dutch village. we found a small playground next to the church and just walked around town, then got some snacks at the local bakery, which is also at the main square (on the same side as the museum) before heading home.
USEFUL TO KNOW
# Oudewater is close to the A12 highway between THe Hague and Utrecht and can also be reached by public transport from Utrecht. We parked our car within walking distance to the witches weighhouse in a side street, which had free parking available.
# 1 Apr. – 1 Nov. the museum is open daily expect Mondays 1100am – 5.00 pm and from 1 Nov. – 1 Apr. it is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the same opening times.
#On the square infront of the museum you find some lovely little cafes where you can stop for lunch or some coffee and cake.
Have you ever visited Oudewater ? What were your highlights ?
Want to read more of our travel stories, visit our ‘where we have been’ page to see all of the travel adventures we blogged about.
Linked up with: