In his account of the natives of north-western Siberia, the Ugrian Ostyak, Vogul, and Samoyed, Gondatti, in speaking of their religion, pays most attention to the Vogul mythology. He says that the gods of the Vogul are divided into two classes, viz. of good and bad gods. The chief of the beneficent deities is Yanykli-Torilin (called also Numi-Toruni or Voykan-Toruin)..
The principal evil deity is Khul. Yanykh-Torum. is, however, not the highest of the gods; there is another, higher than he, Kors-Torum. (The Creator), the progenitor of all the gods. Kors-Torum has never revealed himself to man, and the Vogul say that they cannot picture to themselves what he is like, that whatever they know of him is only known through the lesser gods. He never descends to earth, but sometimes sends thither his eldest son, Yanykh-Torum. Yanykh-Torum has the form of a man, but from the splendour of his raiment he shines like gold. Like his father he never carries any weapon. About once a week he descends to earth to see how men's affairs are going on. If they pray to him to send rain or fair weather he gives commands to his younger brother, Sakhil-Torum, who dwells in the dark clouds, to do what is required. Sakhil-Torum, like his brother, has the form of a man, and drives reindeer, which have tusks like a mammoth, in the clouds. His reindeer are laden with casks of water. When they are sluggish he whips them up, and as they plunge under his strokes the water in the casks is spilled and falls on the earth as rain.
The following tale is told about the sons of Yanykh-Torum: When they were grown up their father sent them down to earth. On their arrival, they began to fight with the heroes who lived on earth in those days. To bring about peace, Yanykh summoned his sells and said to them, 'He among you who can first tie his bridle to-morrow to the silver post which stands before my house, shall be made elder and ruler over his brothers and over men.' The next day the first to appear was the youngest son, Mir-Susne-Khum. Since that time he has been the ruler of his brothers and of men, whom they try to keep in peace.
The Samoyed chief god Nini, or Ileumbarte (literally, 'giver of life'), although he is ruler both of earth and heaven, never descends to the unclean earth lest he might soil himself upon it, but communicates with man only through the tadebtsy (spirits), who for this purpose choose tadibey (shamans) from among men. Lepekhi says that the tadebtsy of the Samoyed are not divided into bad and good spirits, but that they can harm or help men according to eircumstances. These tadebtsy are so numerous that there is no place on earth where they are not found.
Yanykh-Torum has seven sons, but neither he nor Kors-Torum has any daughters. Besides Yanykh and Kors-Torum and their sons there are many other gods. These latter are of secondary rank, and are specially connected with individuals, the family, or the clan.
Kul-Odyr, or Kul, is the chief of the spirits of darkness, and the secondary dark spirits are known as menkva. These resemble the Koryak kelet in having the power of changing their forms. They are represented as being very tall, with heads of a conical shape. They sometimes kill and devour human beings. Other malicious spirits, called uchchi, inhabit the forest. They have the paws and teeth of a dog. In the forest, too, lives Mis-Khuni. He has many daughters, who try to entice men to live with them as their husbands. If they succeed, this brings good fortune to the fathers of the men thus captured.
In the water lives the good god Vit-Khon, as well as a dark spirit, Vit-Kul. The first was sent by Numi to have charge of the fishes.
The mythology of the Finnic tribes is very rich in tales about heroes, called in Vogul pokatur or odyr. These heroes were continually quarrelling and fighting among themselves, especially about women, therefore Numi punished them by sending a deluge upon the earth.
Representations of gods and fetishes are made of wood, metal, or bone. They are usually very rude in form, and now that these people can obtain children's dolls very cheaply from Russian traders they are ceasing to make their own fetishes.
A man, according to the belief of the Finnic tribes, is composed of three parts: body, shadow (isi), and soul (lili khelmkholas). LiIi khelmkholas passes, after the death of a man, to an infant of the same clan, or, if the clan has become extinct, to one of another clan, but never to an animal. The shadow goes to a cold underworld, situated in the icy seas beyond the mouth of the Obi, and ruled over by Kul Odyr. Here it lives for as long as the term of the dead man's former life on earth, and follows the same pursuits-reindeer-breeding, fishing, &c. Then the shadow begins to grow smaller and smaller, until it is no larger than a blackbeetle, ker-khomlakh (according to some, it actually does turn into a blackbeetle), and finally disappears altogether.