"Weighing witches and "wild" waters" Top 5 Page for this destination Oudewater by Pavlik_NL

Oudewater Travel Guide: 28 reviews and 49 photos

Oudewater, a historic town within the green heart

Within the green heart that forms the centre of the Randstad Holland (the circle of towns and cities within the West of the Netherlands that form the densest populated area in the world) lays the peaceful little town Oudewater. It's name means translated "Old Water" and (maybe) refers to the old little peat river "Linschoten" that mouths here into the equally old "Hollandsche IJssel". Both rivers brought prosperity to the town as means of transport (especially for the local production of ropes), as well as floading danger when the tides were high. Therefore one of the most famous epic about floading in the Netherlands plays in this environment: Herman de Man's "Het Wassende Water" (The rising water).

Town of the witches or ... actually not !

Most famous however was Oudewater since an event that happened in the early medieval times under the good emperor "Karel V" (Charles the Fifth). This Habsburgian ruler over large parts of Europe was very fond of the Lowlands and often present there. It was also the time in which people were quite superstitious and people that did something out of the ordinary, were often told to be witches. To determine whether this was true, usually there were three types of process.
1. the fire test: actually setting fire to the person and if they would burn the person was not a witch (but dead anyway).
2. the water test: throw the witch in the water with her thumb attached to her leg and if she drowns she is not a which (but dead anyway) ... and
3. the weighing test: weigh the person and if found to light, she must be a witch (as they could fly around on broomsticks). Often 50 kg was the limit, so finally a good reason to stop dieting (-:
And now the story ...

A witches story of honesty

Karel V was a wise man that actually didn't believe in witch craft but had to live in a dark period. He was present during a weighing test in a nearby town (it's 1545) and the woman was found guilty (too light) because the weighing-master was bribed with money. Karel didn't trust the result and he went to Oudewater for a contra-expertise. Here the honest weighingmaster found the woman to be heavy enough and so she was not a witch. The weighing house (now called the "Heksenwaag") was rewarded as being certified truth worthy and as a result women (and men) from all over Europe came here to get a "Certificaet van Weghinge" (a weighing certificate) that pleaded them unguilty from possible charges as being a witch. Up to the day of today the "Heksenwaag" is operating as such and yes ... you too can get a certificat !

  • Intro Updated Jun 19, 2005
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