Monday, 19 August 2013

weighing witches against the bible...

An account of this activity can be found in 'The Gentleman's Magazine; 1759, it states that in August in the year 1759 one Susannah Haynokes, an elderly woman of Wingrave near Aylesbury, Bucks, was accused by her neighbour for bewitching her spinning wheel so that she could not make it go round and offered to take Oath before the Magistrate. On which Susannah's husband in order to justify his wife insisted on her being tried by the church Bible and that the accuser be present. Accordingly she was conducted to the church, where she was stripped of all her clothes to her shift and under coat and weighed against the Bible; when to the no small mortification of her accuser, she outweighed it and was honourably acquitted of the charge.

 In the Low Countries there is actually a weigh house that was endorsed by emperor Charles V, for weighing witches:  Every city and town that was involved in trade had their own and often the weights would differ from each other. In this buildings  they also weighed witches, and it was not unusual to doctor the weights to get a conviction, for a small fee, of course. It is said that emperor Charles V was present at such a witch trail, and he did not believe the verdict. So he let the witch be reweighed at Oudewater, and they found that she was around 100 pounds, which was consistent with her body build. As a sign of his confidence in the weights (and weigh-master) at the Weigh-house in Oudewater,  Charles V appointed it as the official Witches Weigh-house, to ensure a fair trail for anybody that was accused of being a witch (and being a witch you were supposed to weightless and thus be able to fly). If you had a “normal” weight, then you got an official certificate to confirm that you weren't a witch!, which seems to have been a live saver for a lot of people. At Oudewater they never found a witch. 

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