There is no consensus regarding the appearance of the statue of the “Golden Fire*Sorni-Nai (Khanty-Mansi language)”.
In his “Rerum Moscoviticarum” (1549), the Austrian ambassador, Sigismund Herberstein related rumors that a stone temple in the Urals contained a golden idol of a pregnant woman, giving off a deafening roar. A Renaissance humanist, Pomponius Laetus assumed that the Golden Lady was a statue of Juno or of Cybele, brought by the Ugric tribes, who took part in the defeat of Rome by Alaric in 410, back to their homeland, to the Arctic Ocean, where they worshipped it as a goddess*The Mansi tend to make souvenirs fit their religious purposes. Danish travelers in the 18th century described a case where the Voguls were so impressed by a clockwork teddy bear, that they offered to buy it from them saying, “If we only had an idol like this, we would drape sable furs all over it”.. It is also being suggested that the Huns, while migrating from the Chinese border, brought to the Ugric tribes a Tibetan statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara or of the Goddess Guanyin.
In ancient times, Vogul soldiers dressed in scarlet robes guarded the sacred place where the idol was hidden. But until today, the path to the shrine is supposedly watched by sentinels of a different kind: a water spirit, a serpent, and an obscure creature that the Mansi prefer not to mention in vain. It comes under an array of names: the Host, the Land Surveyor, Khumpolen, Kompolen, Yalvil, or Kul-no-yer.
THE GOLDEN FIRE