The Witches Weighthouses Of The 16th Century

Grace Higgins | October 15th, 2019

Oudewater is a famous little town due to it having a surviving Heksenwaag, which means a witches’ scale. This was an official town-building, which became very famous during the 16th century when numerous people were being accused of witchcraft. This building was seen as giving people an honest chance of proving their innocence. That being said it did not matter if the test was fair, in hundreds of cities and countries across the world, any sort of witchcraft test were usually rigged. This resulted in the burning and drowning of thousands of innocent people during the 16th century.

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All over Europe, people were being accused of witchcraft, those who could afford the trip would make their way to Oudewater to avoid being burned at the stake. Once they were weighed they would receive an official certificate that stated they were not a witch. However, no one was ever found to be a witch in Oudewater. The weighings were still, of course, a matter of public spectacle and every record was kept.

Even today you can get a certificate that reads and officially states that your body weight is in proportion to your build. You see the reasoning behind the test was that a witch has no soul and therefore should weigh significantly less than an ordinary person. And witches had to weigh much less because they needed to be capable of flying on a broomstick.

So this meant that during medieval times, the town of Oudewater offered the accused a way of proving his or her innocence. And though it does kind of sound very silly when you look back at it, it has much wider implications than being some sort of witchcraft test. The important thing to note is that no one ever failed this test, which shows, it was the start of the growing power of the third force next to the church and nobility. It shows that the general population, the citizens, were able to defy the rule of the church. Because don’t forget that witch hunts were sanctioned by the church, as a show of power and total domination, to break the power that local herb doctors had over people.

You could say that the people of Oudewater were simply being honest and defying the church.

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