Sunday, 30 October 2011

Divining a Witch

It is All Hallows Eve; a time for witches, dressing up and apple bobbing.  The Historich Openlucht Museum(open air History Park) is on the outskirts of the Company town of Eindhoven, originally built to house the workers employed in the Phillips Electrical business. 

The park is a medieval time slip. As you enter you approach the Bronte Os (Multicoloured Ox) Inn and nearby a set of human sized wooden scales loom invitingly and hinder your further progress. Beside them a medievally attired matron rolls balls of clay into weights. Her scribe is poised with his quill and ink waiting to record judgement. Could you be guilty of witchcraft? The scales do not lie.

The park contains reconstructed buildings from the iron age and the medieval period.  I visited on Friday and felt as if I had been dropped into a Medieval world.
From Holland, through Europe right into the heart of Britain wichcraft was a real living force feared by some but indulged by others.

Medieval Eindhoven had its share of witches. The History Park has reconstructed buildings in archeological and architectural detail using the same building techniques as were used centuries ago. There are several iron age farms and medieval halls, a smithy, a weaving shed, shops, boats including a great Viking ship, a grave yard, chapel, a kitchen garden and a number of examples of medieval loos. See some below.

I particularly liked the sheep farm from circa 500BC, the Noble farm-house from 950 AD, the weaver's house approximately 1250 AD and the Inn from circa 1560.

In walking the wooded pathways  with their twists and turns, you stumble upon rune stones dangling on twine from the branches of overhanging trees. There is a tangible air of mystery. The spell is obviously taking. Some Dutch witcherey must be afoot.

Beyond the runes on the edge of the wood, a rude tent stitched together from recycled canvas strains to provide protection to the sacred spiral walk carved on the sward below. Friendly helpers  (one is pictured below so you'll recognise them for what they do should you ever bump into one) reassure you that the witches will eventually be hunted out and the inhabitants of Medieval Eindhoven will be safe from their spells. They offer you a soothing decoction to soothe your rising (gulp) fear.

Reassured for the moment that I am protected from any itinerant witches, I enter the Noble House, a tenth century Viking hall. People are gathered around the raised hearth, dipping string into a bubbling cauldron of wax, and over the course of repeated dipping they create their own rudimentary candles. The atmosphere is warm and friendly. There is a fine air of good humour about the huge hall. The woven willow shutters, the hand dyed fabrics and wooden chests would have impressed followers of the Arts and Crafts movement many centuries later. Before I could leave, my new found medieval Dutch friends insisted that I undergo trial by scales. They led me from the hall to the market place.

The Viking Hall and ship

 Enter the Viking Hall

The clothing chest

The Iron Age Farmstead House

Iron Age Grain Store

Inside the Iron Age farmstead

Thus, I sat on the dubious scales. The lady who had earlier been  fashioning weights from clay now began piling them on the opposing scale. Was there now a malicious light in her suddenly beady appearing eyes?My life was hanging in the balance. The ricktety wood frame shuddered, but dear reader the balance lifted not. Apparently my embonpoint, such as it is, was enough to ensure I lacked the necessary airiness to guarantee broomstick liftoff. I signed my certificate of innocence, with the proffered quill and walked away, reluctantly headed back to the real world.


Happy All Hallows Eve to all.


  1. It looks a fascinating place - I must put it on my list of places to visit one day. I love anything to do with witchcraft.

    Super photos.

  2. Looks like a fabulous place to visit. I'll add it to my list. And by the way - you taught me a new word: embonpoint. I love it! :)

  3. What fun. Thank you both for your responses. I loved this place.

  4. I am impressed how well human-reenactors managfed to reenter the lost world. Buildings are fun but they really come alive when the inhabitants are there and acting the part.
    Great pictures.

  5. I loved this history museum. Pleased that the pics are my own too. Next up will be Compostella and look out for it as you may even feature in a pic.

  6. Hello Carol,
    I'm so pleased to find your blog and to know that you're still so immersed in your subject. I'm particularly interestd in witchcraft at the moment since it features in my planned next novel so I'll visit again. I seem to have dropped off the radar as far as the Historical Novelists Association goes - I haven't heard anything from them for ages, much less received the magazine and Solander. I'll have to chase them up. Keep up the good work!
    Mari Griffith
    PS Loved the pix by the way.

  7. Marie, there will be another HNS conference at the end of Sept 2012. It will be in London. I am on the committee and am the moderator for the short story competition. Scroll back through to post on Edith Swanneck here and pick up the link to the HNS competitions page or look at the HNS web site. It will be a huge conference held over two days in London. Very exciting too. Information will be launched after Christmas so keep an eye out.

    Thank you for reading this. I am going to post on my pilgrimage experience next week and more pics are promised.

  8. To who asked for blog advice, I put it up but forget where. Your comment is not showing up. But keep it simple, plan the entry and use pics that are either free or your own.