Florida Guide > Travelling
Utrecht and the surrounding area :- Part 12
Around the city and nearby:-
There is only one real reason to visit Oudewater in the province' s southwest and that is witchcraft. Until the 17th century the Heksenwaag, which translates to Witches’ Weigh House, in the town centre was thought to have the most accurate scales in the land. Women who were suspected of being witches came from all over the surrounding areas to be weighed here. The house has a modest display of witchcraft history in the loft upstairs. At the end of your visit, you will be invited to step onto the old scale. If you feel you are not as heavy as before it' s because your certificaet van weginghe, which is your weight certificate, makes your weight shrink. Actually, it is because an old Dutch pound is 10% heavier than today' s unit.
During the horrific witch hunts of the 16th century, close to a million women all over Europe were executed. They were burnt, drowned or otherwise tortured to death on the suspicion of being a witch. Weighing was one of the more common methods of determining witchery, as popular belief held that any woman who was too light for the size of her frame was obviously a witch because hags like that have no soul. A woman who weighed the ' proper' amount was too heavy to ride a broom and thus was not a witch. If any of you are fans of the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail you will be familiar with the procedure. Women who passed the weight test were given a certificate, good for life, proclaiming them to be human.
Women under suspicion were also required to walk over burning coals if their feet didn't blister, they were witches. Some were dropped into the lake and if they sank they were human, however, if you floated you were a witch. Needless to say, this was grossly unfair system once you were accused you could not win. If you managed to make it over the coals, your feet would be charred and if you sank, you drowned.
However, the town of Oudewater emerges from this with some honour. No one was ever proved to be a witch here and this is held up as a symbol of the honesty of the locals, as they refused to take bribes to rig the weights. It is also seen as the part of the first rising of the people to turn against the church, which was behind the witch hunts.
So on that more sombre note, I will complete my review of the Utrecht area.
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