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High Priest

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The job always comes with a silly hat.

A character (or several) that leads the religious group that this character would belong to. These characters can be either good or evil, depending on whether the religion in question is a Saintly Church or Religion of Evil, respectively. It can be a bit more iffy in a Corrupt Church, since the character may be a Clueless Boss who does not know of its corruption or may be working to root it out. The High Priest usually resides in a Vatican-style Holy City, especially if the church worships an Abrahamic-analogue God.

A common variation is for the characters to be Priest Kings, who lead their people both spiritually and physically. This is particularly common if they lead a theocracy.

Expect Rank Scales with Asskicking to be in full effect in fantasy fiction, especially if Religion is Magic.

The Pope is the Trope Codifier, hence why many High Priests reside in Vatican-style cities, worship Abrahamic-analogue Gods, and borrow Catholic aesthetics. Compare the God-Emperor, who usually leads and is worshiped by the religion in question. There is a good chance he will carry a Staff or Hat of Authority. If the High Priest is also the leader of the government, you've likely got The Theocracy. For a priest who's another kind of high, see Junkie Prophet.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Father Magin of Adai Village, who founded a Cargo Cult around an abandoned Gunmen. Not evil, but does use his religion to make killing children For the Greater Good more palatable. It is indicated that living conditions in the village have improved considerably since he took charge, and Magin himself finds his deception to be distasteful... but necessary for everyone's survival.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has a couple of late arcs in which we start to learn who exactly our main character is and why he inhabits a puzzle, and it turns out that Seto Kaiba, an early antagonist who edged toward Noble Demon since his second return from Put on a Bus defeat, though he never quite accepted that Defeat Means Friendship, is the reincarnation of the the High Priest who served under the Puzzle Spirit three thousand years agonote , and apparently only betrayed him because of Mind Control from his own dead father, the previous High Priest and the previous Pharaoh's younger twin brother. Who made the magic gold jewelry by burning Bakura's family alive.
  • Knight Carim Gracia of Lyrical Nanoha, current head of the Saint Church.

  • The protagonist Prometheus in The Chronicles of Utopia Volume II becomes the High Priest of Pelor, the major god of Light, and a major priest of Bahamut, Lord of all Metallic Dragons, on the planet of Oerth in Greyhawk where he rules as Emperor.
  • Queen of Shadows: Sanshobo, as General of the Kamikiri tribe, is this for the Shadowkhan and their worship of the Queen as a divine Goddess-Empress. He's The Fundamentalist but played mostly for laughs.
  • Ages of Shadow: After Jade takes over the Shadow Walkers and reorganizes them into a Religion of Evil based on the worship of her "Yade Khan" persona, she grants her appointed leader the title of "Himinion" (clearly a portmanteau of "High Minion"). The two accepted means of gaining this position are direct appointment by Jade herself, or earning it by ritual trial; the Fourth Himinion took the title via covert assassination, which got him killed and replaced almost instantly by Jade.
  • In The Confectionary Chronicles, seven-year-old Hermione Granger dedicates herself to the worship of Loki after he helps her get justice following her older sister's suicide, regularly leaving offerings for her god on a makeshift altar, and once she performs a blood sacrifice (of her own blood), she is automatically elevated to the status of Loki's High Priestess as his truest, most devout modern believer. Although Hermione just thinks of herself as a standard priestess at most, this becomes more than a title when she unintentionally wins Fleur Delacour over to the idea of worshipping Loki, their subsequent joint ritual affirming Hermione as the High Priestess of worship to Loki with Fleur as her first true acolyte.
  • In Ripples, Meridian's official religious body, the Sisterhood Covens, are led by an elite group called the High Coventors, who appear to have a first among equals based on seniority. However, after Phobos' purging of the covens following Allora's failed coup, the faction that pledges loyalty to him instead appoints its leader the title of Grand Abbess.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: The position exists in most of the Dark Gods' priesthoods:
    • Tasbaal: Ex-High Priest of Murdrul the Devourer, since his god got eaten by Azzathra.
    • High Priest Karmalun of Crowned Death's clergy, named in the narration after he died.
    • Unnamed High Priests of Crowned Death, who take the position after their predecessors' deaths.
  • The MLP Loops: Played for laughs. Chrysalis (Hive Queen of a species of Emotion Eaters) politely asks her friend Cadance (local Love Goddess) if she can start a religion for her and be the high priestess. After all, changelings need love to survive and Cadance is all about love. Cadance is a little weirded out but agrees, and everything seems to go smoothly. In later loops Chrysalis occasionally swears by Cadance's name.
  • Chasing Dragons: While the High Septon continues to act as primary head of the Faith of the Seven as per canon, the new versions of the Faith that schism away select their own leaders:
    • After Septon Jonothor's reformist faction properly organizes itself into a new hierarchy in Essos, it chooses him to act as First Septon.
    • The ultra-conservative "Old Faith" faction denounces hierarchy of any kind, with its only official leadership beyond the local level being a general assembly of representatives from each congregation. However, in Essos at least, Septon Deryk has enough authority and influence to act as first among equals in said assembly.
    • The fundamentalist faction that's partly responsible for the Upper Mander Rebellion is led by Septon Ryman, who is unquestionably viewed as their ultimate authority short of the gods themselves. Following his death and subsequent diaspora of his followers, however, they seem to be currently lacking central leadership.
  • Ma'at: Seen in Chapter 2, Ma'at has one, and is called Nebka. She helps guide Dani as she's Trapped in the Past.
  • Harry Potter and the Boiling Isles: The Titan-worshipping religion of the Boiling Isles is headed by five High Priests who report to Emperor Belos, and also seem to have administrative duties in addition to their religious ones, as they're noted to be the ones who appoint the Coven Heads.

  • In the film Avatar, the Na'vi tribe Jake meets is led by a husband-wife pair: the husband is the military chief, and the wife is the high priestess. Their daughter, Neytiri, is to follow in this tradition and be the next high priestess.
  • The Beastmaster: Maax was high priest of Aruk, but began leading their religion into human sacrifices. The king was outraged and banished him for it, but he later returned with allies to seize power.
  • Thulsa Doom from Conan the Barbarian (1982).
  • Sarm the Priest-King in the film version of Gor. The Priest-Kings in the book are nothing like that.
  • Mola Ram from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
  • Imhotep from the black and white The Mummy (1932).
  • Help! has The Beatles, Ringo specifically, pursued by an Eastern death cult, led by high priest Clang, who at one point chats amicably with an Anglican priest about the importance of human sacrifice to focus the congregation.
  • Blood of the Tribades: Grando is the leader of the priests. He's a cruel fanatic who has no compunction with killing or exiling "sinners", nor torturing his priests if any fail him.
  • The Road to El Dorado: Tzekel-Kan, part of the Big Bad Ensemble. He's an Ax-Crazy Sadist who's overly eager to carry out Human Sacrifice in the gods' names and is constantly butting heads with Chief Tannabok over their differing opinions on how to please the gods. Luckily for Tannabok, the protagonists pretending to be gods take his side over Tzekel-Kan.

  • Discworld:
    • Hughnon Ridcully is the High Priest of the Ankh-Morpork clergy, of the sort that regards actual religious-ness as one of those tiresome things that you just have to put up with when what you really want to concentrate on is getting the pews organised.
    • In Small Gods, Deacon Vorbis of the Omnian church plots to take over the Omnian High Priest post (The Cenobiarch) and usher in a new age of religious terror.
      • One of the effects of the Prophet Brutha's revelation on the Omnian church was to abolish the Cenobiarch and ("let there be a thousand voices") start a long train of schisms, meaning Omnians stopped running around ruling an empire of grandeur and oppression and the suppression of science and got busy arguing theology all the time and became harmless and handed out a lot of pamphlets. Which is a tad problematic if you look at some of the awful shit Protestants have pulled in the last four hundred years, but the Disc can be like that.
    • The horribly beweaponed Divine Legions also mutated after the Brutha reforms, to a residual organisation devoted to spreading the Word through the formation of brass bands and community hymn singing, armed with weapons no more formidable than tambourines and aggressively shaken collection boxes.
      • The Omnian in the Ankh-Morpork Watch (we never learn his exact denomination) is actually named Visit-The-Infidel-With-Explanatory-Pamphlets. They call him Visit. Of course, given Brutha achieved his great transformation from stupid youth to politically savvy prophet largely due to absorbing an Expy of the Great Library of Alexandria before it was burnt down, there may be rather sound theological reasons for those pamphlets. Although Visit was invented before Brutha.
    • In Pyramids, the main antagonist is High Priest Dios. Although the previous examples of Discworld high priests aren't evil, according to Pyramids, high priests have a general tendency to be evil. "There is no such thing as a good Grand Vizier. A predilection to cackle and plot must be part of the job spec. High Priests are much the same way. No sooner than they get the funny hat they start giving orders about feeding babies to the sacred crocodiles and throwing virgins into volcanoes." Dios himself, however, is not evil so much as he's Lawful Neutral to the extreme, so utterly focused on tradition and routine that he domineers and overrules every pharaoh and effectively keeps the country quagmired into stasis all by himself.
  • Earth's Children:
    • Creb is downplayed example. The Clan don't have an official religious leader, but Creb is widely regarded as one of the most powerful and respected Mog-ur in his region; as such the other Mog-ur tend to defer to him and he leads their rituals. Even on the other side of Europe there are clans who have heard of Creb's power and hold reverence for him.
    • Zolena is the high priestess of the Zelandonii, bearing the title 'Zelandoni Who is First'. She is considered the most powerful member of the zelandonia (both spiritually and politically-speaking), with all other zelandoni deferring to her when it comes to important decisions affecting the whole tribe. When Jondalar arrives at the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii with Ayla, whom he plans to settle down with, he's anxious over whether Zelandoninote  will accept her, knowing that Zelandoni's influence means she could make it impossible for Ayla to stay.
  • Julian Comstock: Deacon Hollingshead, the head of the Dominion of Jesus Christ.
  • The Tombs of Atuan: Tenar/Arha, the Eaten One, the high priestess of the Powers.
  • Just Ella: Lord Reston by Margaret Peterson Haddix, who is priest to the king (although the king is technically the leader of the church.)
  • Stranger in a Strange Land has Foster, the founder of the Church of the New Revelation, and his successor, Supreme Bishop Digby. Valentine Michael Smith, as the leader of the Church of All Worlds, also fits.
  • Star Wars Legends:
  • The Mists of Avalon: High Priestess Viviane and Archdruid Taliesin.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has a Pope-equivalent called the High Septon. The ones seen in the series have been fairly bad, including a corrupt glutton who was killed by a starving mob; the glutton's substantially (but not totally) better replacement, regarded as a decent man but also a weak-willed pawn, who was killed by political enemies; and most recently, an incorruptible, but fanatical and misogynistic, Knight Templar.
  • In Mistborn Lord Prelan Tevidian is High Priest of the Corrupt Church, one of the chief lieutenants of the Lord Ruler and the father of heroine Vin. There is a faction in his church, led by the Steel Inquisitors, that wants to get rid of him and put the head Inquisitor, Kar, in his place and they succeed, offing Tevidian brutally before he has a chance to really do anything on-page, though Kar himself is then killed before he can enjoy his new position.
  • In John Carter of Mars the title of "Holy Hekkador" basically means "Priest King" among the Therns. During the time of the novels, it's held by Matai Shang, very much a villain.
  • The Green-Sky Trilogy has D'ol Falla, described as high priest of the Vine. Since the Root of the Vine is all that stands between the good people of Green-sky and the revelation of a horrific truth, the high priest of the Vine is the ultimate authority on the planet. She lives in the Vine Palace at the heart of the Temple Grove.
  • In the Heralds of Valdemar series, Karse is always ruled by the High Priest and Son of the Sun, the most recent being Solaris, the first female to ascend the position after the god Vkandis decided to do a little rearranging of the hierarchy with a Bolt of Divine Retribution.
  • A few in Tales of the Branion Realm. The Hierarchpriest of Cannonshire, while possibly an expy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is treated as a secular position and seems to be second in command next to the monarch, although he/she does have some religious duties. A truer high priest is the Archpriest of the Flame, the kingdom's god, and to a lesser extent the Archpriests of the other three Aspects. There's also the Essussiate Pontiff (expy of the Pope) and his various bishops and abbots.
  • In Elantris, Wyrn is the title of the high priest of the Derethi faith, who is also the temporal leader of the Fjordell Empire; the office is currently held by Wyrn Wulfden IV. Directly subordinate to him are approx. twenty lesser high priests called Gyorns (roughly analogous to cardinals); the Gyorn Hrathen is one of the novel's three core POV characters.
  • Acatl in the Obsidian & Blood trilogy is a High Priest of Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec God of the Dead. This doesn't give him as much power or authority as you'd imagine; the God of the Dead is actually a lesser deity in the Aztec pantheon, and in fact Acatl was practically disowned by his family for taking up the priesthood instead of the more "honorable" profession of a warrior.
  • Shirain in The Rogue King is the High Priestess of the God of Lust and responsible for the protagonist's fall.
  • In The Heroes of Olympus, Octavian declares himself 'Pontifex Maximus' in the final book, The Blood Of Olympus. It doesn't work out too well for him, and by the epilogue, Jason is bestowed the title and builds temples all over New Rome for all the gods.
  • In The Elenium series by David Eddings, the main religion of the Eosian continent is run by a whole council of High Priests — some good, some evil — called patriarchs. They are roughly analogous to the cardinals of the Catholic church, with a Popelike leader called the Archprelate.
    • And while the Church of Chyrellos serves as a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Roman Catholic Church, their counterpart in Astel serves as one for the Eastern Orthodox Churches, except they have only one leader called the Archimandrite
    • While it only comes up in the second trilogy, the Younger Gods of the Styrics each have their own High Priest or Priestess, all one thousand of them forming the governing body for all Styrics. Their exact selection criteria are unknown, but in the case of Aphrael she takes a direct hand in their selection. In the first trilogy Otha, King of Zemoch also serves as High Priest of the Azash, one of the Styric Elder Gods. The High Priest of Cyrgon also serves as a minor antagonist in the second trilogy.
  • The Sworn Church from The Shadow Campaigns is actually set up to have three of these, each with specialized emphasis. The Pontifex of the White handles spiritual, theological, and philosophical matters; the Pontifex of the Red handles the church's bureaucracy and politics; the Pontifex of the Black is head of the inquisition. The last post was officially dissolved in an attempt to curb corruption a century before the novels begin but is implied at the end of the first book and confirmed at the end of the second to still operate in secret; the other two Pontifexes are aware of the Black and take his input on matters concerning his sphere, but treat him as their Token Evil Teammate and the Church at large is generally unaware of his activities.
  • One Nation, Under Jupiter: Emperor Piissimus, who serves as both Emperor and Pontifex Maximus. Verus and Falsa Sperus fill this role to a lesser extent as well.
  • The Traitor Son Cycle: Christianity has two high priests — the Patriarch of Rhum and the Patriarch of Liviapolis, with most of the world subscribing to one or another's variety of faith. They are, respectively, a villain and an ally of the heroes.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: Jones describes and lampshades the two types of high priests you are likely to meet in a typical cliched fantasy story. High priests, whether fat and ugly or thin and unpleasant, will always be evil and corrupt. As a general rule, they do not actually believe in their god, but instead use their position and influence over worshippers to become wealthy, get away with petty cruelty, and acquire catamites and concubines. High priestesses, who will always be either stern, serious and thin or good-looking and cheerfully helpful, will always be good.
  • Kane Series: In Bloodstone there is Gerwein, high priestess of the female-only Temple of the moon goddess Shenan. Barely thirty and very beautiful, she's also haughty, cold, and a very talented politician. And she has access to a great library, not to mention some powerful artifact. Oh, and the Temple brings up orphans to become virgin sacrifices, just in case (even though human sacrifice is officially forbidden).
  • The Reluctant King:
    • Xylar has one whose office represents the chief of their pantheon, Zevetas.
    • The theocrat of Tarxia. While the first was a puritanical fanatic who wanted to conquer everyone else, the current one appears to be a good sort (though he still heads an oppressive state).
    • Iraz has two of them, husband and wife: the latter is also the lover of the King who, in order to maintain his role, has to partake in a ritual and monthly spend a night of passion with the high priestess. If his performance is unsatisfying, the priestess warns her husband, who presents the king a sacred rope he must use to hang himself.
  • Quintaglio Ascension: Det-Yenalb is the leader of the main Quintaglio religion. He leads the campaign against Afsan, personally putting his eyes out as punishment for blasphemy.
  • Kushiel's Legacy: Daeva Gashtaham is the head priest (Aka-Magus) of Angra Mainyu's religion.
  • The Power: Allie founds a new religion whom she's the head of, based on Goddess worship.
  • Bazil Broketail: A number of minor characters are high priests or priestesses, along with a couple bishops, abbesses, etc. Lessis herself is high-ranking in the clergy of the Great Mother, though she isn't described this way. The others head up the clergy of a particular god, religious order, and/or location though, fitting this.
  • The Burning Kingdoms: Hemanth is the High Priest of Parijatdvipa and mentor to Emperor Chandra, who had encouraged him in his religious fanaticism, which includes human sacrifices.
  • Dragonvarld: Melisande is the High Priestess of the Sacred Order, or the Sisters of the Eye, an all-female clergy, who is also a seer. She succeeds the Mistress of Dragons, their goddess, after each Mistress dies and is deified in turn.
  • The Queen of Ieflaria: The different gods in Ieflaria have orders which serve them at their temples, headed by archpriests or archpriestesses.
  • A Practical Guide to Evil: After Sve Noc completes their apotheosis and becomes a true god, they create a leadership position in their previously leaderless faith, held by Catherine herself. As "First Under the Night," she has immense authority over the drow and becomes the most powerful Night-wielder of them all, but is also charged with turning the mass of warring gangs the drow have devolved into back into a functional nation, and keeping Sve Noc themselves from going mad with power. "First Under the Night" doesn't just mean first in the heirarchy; Catherine's god expects her to be out in front, finding the stumbling blocks of their new way of life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: Aeron Greyjoy seems to be the top Priest of the Drowned God faith. In the books, the Drowned Men who serve as priests in their religion actually don't have any ruling hierarchy — theoretically, all of the priests are equal and any priest can ordain another man as a priest if he is worthy. They don't have an equivalent to the High Septon in the Faith of the Seven. In practice, of course, Drowned Priests who have been serving the longest and successfully revived the most initiates in drowning ceremonies are respected much more than others, and often in every generation or so there will be one Drowned Priest that all of the others look up to for guidance. Aeron is universally respected by the others — on the level of an Old Testament style prophet — and thus he is their unofficial leader, first among equals, etc. It also probably doesn't hurt that he's a scion of the Iron Islands' ruling House of Greyjoy.
  • Gorgom in Kamen Rider BLACK is led by a triumvirate of priests, who are even called the "High Priests".
  • Merlin (2008) has had three.
    • Nimueh was the High Priestess of the Old Religion until her death at the end of season 1.
    • It was revealed later that Morgause had become the new High Priestess, and when Morgana killed her as the blood sacrifice to open the veil between worlds, she became the new High Priestess.
    • There was also Alator, a high priest of the Catha.
  • In Babylon 5 the Grey Council (in its original form) has three representatives each from the Warrior, Religious, and Worker castes respectively. Delenn is in the religious caste, making her a High Priestess. Delenn would later reform the council by reducing the Warrior and Religious representation to two each and increasing Worker representation to five, thereby taking the third option to resolve the Warrior-Religious Minbari Civil War.
  • On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Kai is the Bajoran equivalent of the Pope. Kai Opaka is wise, open-minded, and politically moderate. Unfortunately, she's soon replaced by Kai Winn, a Sinister Minister who cares about her own self-aggrandizement more than the good of Bajor.
  • Chilling Adventures of Sabrina:
    • Father Faustus Blackwood is the High Priest of the Church of Night, making him the leader of Greendale's entire witch community. His predecessor in this role was Sabrina's father Edward, who served until his death.
    • It's later established that the Church of Night is just one coven in a worldwide collective known as the Churches of Darkness, led by a Witches Council headed by an Anti-Pope.
  • The Outpost: Yavalla is the high priestess of the Blackbloods, and revered as a result. Later, she's succeeded by her daughter Wren.
  • The Mandalorian: The Armorer serves this role for her Mandalorian tribe in addition to forging their weapons and armor. She carries herself with the manner of a priestess and is the prime source of information about Mandalorian tradition and culture. Her word is so respected among the members of the Covert that she can break up a brawl simply by speaking.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: In "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" Natira is this for the Yonadans, heading their religion. She alone, plus her husband, is allowed to view the Book of the People, their holy text.
  • Pandora: The Seeker is the head of the Adaran religion. In addition, he's the head of state on Adar.
  • Foundation (2021):
    • Luminism, one of the largest religions in the Galactic Empire, is led by a figure called the Proxima. A major subplot in the back half of Season 1 is Brother Day trying to influence the election of a new Proxima, as one of the leading candidates holds a firm anti-cloning interpretation of the faith's teachings, which would undermine the genetic dynasty's rule.
    • Poly Verisof is the High Cleric of the Church of the Galactic Spirit, the religion set up by the Foundation during the 138 year Time Skip between Seasons 1 and 2. It's Played With in his case, as while he does genuinely believe in the Plan created by Hari Seldon to guide humanity through the looming dark age, he admits that the Church as a whole is a Scam Religion established only to increase the Foundation's political influence, and is disgusted by it.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In The Bible, Israel went through a period of being ruled by "Judges" like Samuel. God was actually very displeased when the Jews asked for a regular king.
    • The actual office of High Priest and its duties in Ancient Israel are described, including the vestments to be worn and the proper way of butchering a sacrifice. The office was hereditary and dominated by the line of Aaron, Moses' brother, and of the Tribe of Levi. This fell out of joint a bit after the Babylonian Exile and while the office was restored by the returnees, it was destroyed along with a large amount of the Jewish religious hierarchy during the Jewish Revolts. There hasn't been a High Priest since then. The rabbinical class to some degree took the place of the priesthood, but rabbis can't do sacrifices, one reason that modern Jews don't sacrifice anymore (the other is that there is no Temple). There are, however, many Jews who are hereditary priests—the last names Cohen, Kahn, Kahane, Kane, Katz, and others all come from the Hebrew word kohen, or priest, and signify priestly families—and they do still have some special religious duties, such as giving blessings to the congregation on holidays. There is no high priest, or kohen gadol, because the method for selecting the high priest (there were different selection methods in the first and second Temples) became defunct when the Temple was destroyed.
    • One famous example from the Book of Genesis was Melchizedek, a Canaanite priest-king who gave Abraham and Sarah some food and blessed them. He is also noted for acknowledging the Abrahamic God, although it is not clear whether Melchizedek was a monotheist or merely worshipped God as part of a larger pantheon.
    • Book of Exodus has Aaron, as mentioned above.
    • Then there's Jesus himself, who is both king of all creation, and intercedes between humans and God the Father in the manner of the high priest (including performing a rather famous sacrifice.) It was prophesied (in the Old Testament Psalm 110) that the Messiah would be "a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek". The Book of Hebrews goes into some detail on what this means.
  • In Tarot the Major Arcana include The High Priestess (II), who represents (among other things) hidden knowledge and wisdom, and the Hierophant (V), who represents concepts like relationship with the divine or education. They were originally (and indeed in some places still are) The Popess and The Pope.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, the High Priest of the Unconquered Sun angers Sol so much, he turned his face from his Exalted, and let the Usurpation happen without any intervention. Said high priest claimed that Sol backed a tax increase, without having bothered to check with him.
  • Magic: The Gathering: Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is the leader of New Phyrexia's white-aligned faction, the Machine Orthodoxy.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has several:
    • Ecclesiarch, the head of the Adeptus Ministorum, or Eccelsiarchy, the state church of the Imperium of Man. Currently Eos Ritira holds the post, a woman of a reformist bent.
    • The Fabricator-General of Mars, the leader of the Adeptus Mechanicus and senior priest of the Machine Cult.
    • Space Marine Chapters have their own Chapter cults revering the God-Emperor and their Primarch, led by the Master of Sanctity or High Chaplain.
    • Generally if the role is needed to be shown in a local story an Ecclesiarchy Cardinal will fill it leading lesser priests.
  • In Anima: Beyond Fantasy, the Holy Sacred Emperor (now Empress) is also the head of the Holy Church of Abel, even if some of its members haven't recognized her as that and have instead named a Summum Archbishop. However, (s)he leads it rather spiritually, and the Church itself is governed by said Summum Archbishop.


    Video Games 
  • Habaruku/Habalk in Breath of Fire II is the High Priest of the Church of Eva. He also masquerades as the village priest in the tiny town of Gate.
  • An Egyptian Tale have multiple priestesses of Anubis' cult as an Amazon Brigade of enemies in the second stage, which ends with a boss battle against the High Priestess.
  • Bloody Spell has the high priestess of the Legion of Void, and her legion of handmaidens, as enemies appearing rather late in the game. The HP herself is notably the stage boss.
  • Galius from Exit Fate, High Priest of Cento while also Governor of Oischin.
  • A handful of characters with this title appear at certain specific points in NetHack.
  • The Lord High Priest in Dragon Quest VIII lives in a special residence on the Holy Isle of Neos and functions as the spiritual leader of the world's major religion.
  • Dragon Age
    • The Divine is the head of the Andrastian Chantry. After a schism, there are currently two separate Chantries, each with its own Divine.
    • Before the founding of the Chantry, the Tevinter Imperium worshipped seven draconic figures known as the Old Gods. Each of the Old Gods had their own high priest, called the Sidereal Magisters. The seven Sidereal Magisters are, according to legend, responsible for corrupting the Golden City and unleashing the Blight on the world.
  • The Paranid Empire, a theocracy in the X-Universe series, is ruled by Xaar, the Priest-Emperor or more formally the Pontifex Maximus Paranidia.
  • Tyrande Whisperwind, High Priestess of the Moon and, along Malfurion Stormrage, leader of the night elves in the Warcraft universe. Doubles as a Lady of War too.
    • As of Legion in World of Warcraft after King Varian's death, Anduin Wrynn is this for the Alliance.
  • In The Sims Medieval, the Jacoban priest can become this after reaching a certain level.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, Rausten is a theocracy founded by the All Loving Heroine Latona, and whose King or Queen tends to be known as its Pontifex. During the events of the game their Crown Princess, L'Arachel, becomes a member of the cast; her uncle/Parental Substitute and the current Pontifex, Mansel the Divine Emperor, later helps out the group itself after they rescue him.
    • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, the Apostle is said to be able to speak to the Goddess Ashera, making her both Ashera's high priestess and the Empress of Begnion. The offices were accidentally separated when the current Apostle was nearly killed along (Micaiah) with her predecessor (her grandmother) and the Apostle's younger sister (Sanaki) was installed as a puppet empress. Micaiah herself would later reign over another land while Sanaki, who managed to get actual power with the help of the cast, stayed on the Begnion throne.
    • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the Church of Seiros is led by Archbishop Rhea, who turns out to be Seiros herself. Byleth becomes the new Archbishop at the end of the Silver Snow and Azure Moon routes.
  • Prelate Lucius is the chief cleric in the Otheran army in Queen at Arms. He's a kind man who tends to the wounded soldier and is a potential love interest for the player character.
  • Pontiff Sulyvhan in Dark Souls III, who rules over Irithyll and leads the Deep Church, dedicated to worshipping Aldrich. Since Aldrich himself seems content to hang out in his room and occasionally eat people (and gods) who are sacrificed to him, Sulyvhan is the guy doing most of the actual ruling.
  • Batari from Far Cry Primal is the High Priestess of the Izila sun goddess, Suxli, and the tribe's de facto leader. Born under a solar eclipse, Batari was regarded by her people to be blessed by Suxli. Sadly, this caused her to grow up with a god complex, and she refuses to allow any opposition to her superiority. And Batari's people are practitioners of Human Sacrifice...
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • After defeating the Ayleids and founding the First Cyrodiilic Empire, St. Alessia upheld her end of the Bargain with Heaven by making the religion of the Eight Divines (which worships the eight Aedra who aided her during the Alessian Revolt) into the official religion of her new Empire. This new religion was a compromise between the traditional Aldmeri pantheon (which her Cyrodiilic followers, as slaves to the Ayleids, were accustomed to) and the Nordic Pantheon of her Nord allies, who refused to accept any "Elven" gods. Thousands of years later, through several Empires, the religion of the Eight (later Nine) Divines continues to serve as a Saintly Church to much of Tamriel.
    • The Dunmeri (Dark Elf) Tribunal Temple was formed to worship the Tribunal, a trio of living flesh and blood gods. The Tribunal (Vivec, Almalexia, Sotha Sil) were the formerly mortal advisors to Lord Nerevar, the leader of the ancient (then known as Chimer) Dunmer people, who obtained godhood by tapping into the power of the Heart of a "dead" god. For thousands of years, the Tribunal lived and worked among their people. However, they still had "Archcanons" responsible for running the more practical business of leading the Temple. A few centuries prior to the events of Morrowind, the Tribunal's ancient enemy, Dagoth Ur (long presumed to be dead), returned and ambushed the Tribunal on one of their annual pilgrimages to restore their divinity at the Heart. He managed to capture two of the three tools needed to tap into the Heart, depriving the Tribunal of the ability to recharge. After this, in order to conserve power, the Tribunal was forced to withdraw from the day-to-day affairs of their people. More and more responsibility fell onto the Archcanons and other mortal leaders of the Temple, leading to significant corruption. During Morrowind itself, it is possible for the Player Character to become the new Archcanon of the Temple.
  • In Genshin Impact, sages are the highest ranking in the Sumuru Akademiya, with the grand sage presumably being the first among equals. So when Nahida calls the Traveler "the First Sage of Buer", she is declaring them as the Dendro Archon's highest-ranking subordinate. The title is just a formality as the Traveler doesn't actually stay around to take care of her rituals and customs.
  • Minion Masters: The Master Valorian is the leader of the Chapel of Light

    Visual Novels 
  • Daughter for Dessert gives the likely example of Smoking Dog in the Church of the Aquarian Revelation.

  • In Champions of Far'aus, High Priests/Priestesses of deities and/or their respective pantheons run things when the deities aren’t. Since champions of deities take orders from their deities themselves, they seem to generally hold a similar position of authority. Who takes orders from whom seems to depend on which deity & their followers you are looking at, since a deity could easily just tell their champion to do what their high priest says and vice versa. Most champions seem to default to doing what the high priest says if their deity hasn’t given them anything to do in particular though.
  • Charby the Vampirate: Malcom serves as the religious leader and authority to the Kellwood tribe of Scotodino while secretly betraying their god for a different goal.
  • Lovely Lovecraft: Atal, as in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
  • From The Order of the Stick:
    • Redcloak is the high priest of the Dark One.
    • Malack in The Empire of Blood is the high priest of Nergal.
    • Each of the Norse-inspired Northern Gods has a high priest among the dwarves, with the High Priest of Odin leading the group.
      • The vampire possessing Durkon is the high priest of Hel, thanks to being the only priest of Hel.
  • Angelo from Our Little Adventure is the high priest of 'Angelo's Kids' on account of founding the religion himself. He's also an obscenely powerful user of both arcane and divine magic who can direct-dial miracles, so the shoe fits.
  • Unsounded: Cresce is ruled by the Council of Four made up of a queen, a high general, a high priestess, and a chancellor whose job is to represent the nobles. The High priestess is an elder twin, kept in the traditions of the Grefendur religion.
  • In Girl Genius Heterodyne shows often have a High Priestess as a Stock Character who serves as Barry's Girl of the Week.

    Western Animation 
  • The Fire Sages in Avatar: The Last Airbender seem to be this, only 1) there's a roughly equal group of them and 2) they spend most of their time on an island separate from the rest of their countrymen and 3) it's unclear what the tenets of their faith are supposed to be, anyway, besides supporting the Avatar and crowning the Fire Lord.
  • In The Brothers Grunt, the Poobah presides over the Grunt Brotherhood's rites and celebrations.
  • Samurai Jack has the aptly-titled High Priestess of the Cult of Aku.
  • On The Angry Beavers, the leader of the Girl Raccoons in the episode "The Mighty Knothead."

    Real Life 
  • The Pope for Catholicism. "Pope" is actually a courtesy title for the Bishop of Rome, who is given primacy over all other Bishops, and therefore runs the Church itself. One of his styles is even Pontifex Maximus, which can be roughly translated as "high priest".
  • The Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs are nearly the exact analogue of the Pope in Orthodox Christianity, with the significant difference of there being many of them who don't answer to any higher (earthly) authority.
    • Part of the reason for the similarity between the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs and the Roman Catholic Pope is that, before the two branches of Christianity split, the Pope was considered one of the Patriarchs. In fact, the Pope still counts Patriarch of Rome as one of his titles. For its part, the Orthodox hierarchy, while disagreeing with the Pope's claim of primacy, still accords him the title of Patriarch of Rome and respects him as leader of the Latin Church, whose rites they accept as valid despite the disagreement on organization.
  • Ancient Egypt often had these; not of the entire 'religion' so much as of specific powerful cult-centers, since a particular god in ascendancy generally only had one location that was at the center of his or her worship. Since it behooved the ruler to be aligned as closely as possible with the most important of the gods and vice-versa, and since Pharaoh was a religious position, High Priest was often a highly government-affiliated job.
  • Constitutional Monarchs bear some interesting analogies to this, being in charge of ritual-of-state while their ministers actually do the business of ruling. They are not always religious in concept though they might have some religious duties. But the mystical air about them gives room for comparison. One or two monarchs actually were closer to being High Priests than rulers, like the Emperor during the Japanese shogunate period, or the Archon-Basilus in Ancient Athens.
  • The British monarchy is an interesting example in and of itself, as the reigning monarch is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, though in both the political and spiritual realms most of the actual day-to-day administration is conducted by others.
  • While there are no real "priests" in Islam, historically the Caliph was something similar to a High Priest. Because believers were originally led by the prophet Muhammad, his successor was supposed to be the highest civil and religious authority in the Islamic World. Various Muslim rulers have claimed the title over the years, the last such being the Ottoman Sultan. However, even when there was a generally-recognized caliph around, his religious authority was shared by the community of scholars and jurists.
  • The Imam of Shia Islam is a much straighter example. Much like the High Priesthood in Judaism, the imamate is hereditary, derived from the prophet through his daughter Fatima. Whomever the individual was, he is supposed to be infallible in matters of faith and religion, and to receive direct revelation from God. However, for the majority of Shia Muslims, the office of Imam is not held by a living person, while some believe he is alive, but in hiding.
  • Sikh gurus were sort of priest kings.
  • The emperors of China were the highest priests of the state religion. The emperor's religious duties, which only he could perform, included sacrificing and making a report to Heaven on the state of the Empire in the Temple of Heaven each year, and ceremonially plowing the first furrow for the planting every spring.
  • Emperor Akbar of the Mughal Dynasty made himself high priest and prophet of his own religion, Din-e-Ilahi, which syncretized elements of Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity. Interestingly enough, he was also the only priest of his religion, which forbade religious hierarchy.
  • A recurring myth in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance was of the kingdom of Priest John or Prester John, a Christian monarch said to rule a vast kingdom somewhere in the East. Among others, he was supposedly leading his armies to aid in recapturing Jerusalem, and one account identified Genghis Khan as a grandson of Prester John.
  • In pre-Christian Scandinavia, one of the suites expected of a leader - be it king, jarl, or simple chieftain - was to lead the sacrifices to the gods and arrange religious feasts. This meant some problems for the kings who converted to Christianity, as they would have to take part in the sacrifices unless the people thought they did not do their job. In one famous instance, a Christian Swedish king briefly lost the kingship to a pagan rival because he would perform sacrifices.
  • Ancient Rome has a few examples:
    • Weirdly, the consuls of The Roman Republic. Even though they were elected politicians—with one-year terms at that—consuls were ex officio augurs (interpreters of the activities of birds, a major form of divination in Rome) and had authority to set the dates of holidays. They frequently did this to their own political advantage. A fascinating—and darkly comic—example of these powers in practice came in 59 BCE when Gaius Julius Caesar (the famous one) was consul with Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus. Bibulus—who disagreed with Caesar on practically every point and had nursed a personal grudge against him for at least five years by the time they became consulsnote —kept trying to use his authority as an augur and proclaimer of holidays to interfere with Caesar's populist political agenda. Caesar, however, had a trump card...
    • That trump card being that besides being consul, Caesar was also the Pontifex Maximus, i.e. the chief priest of Rome. Several years earlier, he had been elected to this lifetime post, which was the closest thing the Roman religion of the time had to a high priest.note  On top of this, Caesar had been raised for the priesthood and had been Flamen Dialis (chief priest of the cult of Jupiter)note  for two years (admittedly he was only about 18 at the time, but he seems to have done the job correctly). Thus at every turn Caesar used this superior religious knowledge to overturn Bibulus's readings of the birds and proclamations of holidays. Since Caesar was both popular and (thanks to his long history of religious office) seen as having superior knowledge of the ways of the gods, Bibulus' attempts to thwart Caesar with religion were completely ineffectual. Bibulus was also massively humiliated by being so unpopular that his end-of-term speech got vetoed by a Tribune of the Plebs. That wasn't a good year for him.

Alternative Title(s): High Priestess, Religious Head, Priest King, The Hierophant


The Armorer

"This is The Way."

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