Dutch term – Heks

A heks is a witch. Witch trials were held in the Middle Ages and lasted until the 17th century. In modern Dutch, a heks is typically female, but in the past, the word was used for men as well.

If you were accused of witchcraft, one defense would be that you were too heavy to fly on a broom. Since 1545, people could go to the heksenwaag (witches’ scales) in Oudewater to be weighed and receive an official certificate if they were of normal weight. People from all over Western Europe came to Oudewater to obtain the certificate that would set them free. Although the witch trials ended in the 17th century, the scales are there today and you can still be weighed.

Witches' scales at Oudewater

Witches’ scales at Oudewater. Credits: Onderwijsgek at Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA)

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She has been doing genealogy for almost 25 years. Her expertise is helping people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Vikki Belling says

    Today I woke up and logged in to read my emails. Finding the story of the Heks and the weighing machine made my day! My birthday falls on 31 October (Halloween) and I was born at midnight, so I have been called a ‘witch’ (jokingly) all of my life. I wonder how heavy you had to be to be labeled as a heks? Thanks for all your stories Yvette. This one was hilarious!

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