The Franks Casket

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and a Neolithic burial mound in Oxfordshire, England. What could be the connection?

The connection is the Franks Casket, an Anglo-Saxon whalebone box in the British Museum. The front panel shows two scenes: The legendary Norse figure of Wayland the Smith (left) and the Magi bringing their gifts to the Christ Child (right). The burial mound is known as Wayland’s Smithy.


Wayland is a rather lurid figure from Norse mythology. Born of a king, his extraordinary talent as a smith led to his capture by another King. Wayland got his revenge by murdering that king’s three sons and raping his daughter. Although not a god, he is very much the equivalent of the Greek Smith god Hephaestus. The burial mound has been associated with Wayland for over 1000 years. Legend has it that horses that had lost a shoe were left here over night along with a gift. When the horses were collected in the morning, the shoe had been replaced.

  So what is the connection between Wayland and the Magi?
When Wayland murdered the three sons he made goblets from their skulls, jewels from their eyes, and a brooch from their teeth. He sent the goblets to the king, the jewels to the queen and the brooch to the king's daughter. Three gifts.

  A footnote: not long ago, I heard the story of a biker whose motorbike broke down near Wayland’s Smithy. He walked to the tomb and left a coin. When he returned to his bike, it roared into life.

   Whenever we visit Wayland’s Smithy, we always leave a coin.


Home page - explore the site