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High priest

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The term "high priest" usually refers either to an individual who holds the office of ruler
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

-priest, or to one who is the head of a religious caste
Caste is an elaborate and complex social system that combines elements of endogamy, occupation, culture, social class, tribal affiliation and political power. It should not be confused with race or social class, e.g. members of different castes in one society may belong to the same race, as in India...


Ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

, a high priest was the chief priest of any of the many god
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

s revered by the Egyptians.
  • High Priests of Amun
    High Priests of Amun
    The High Priest of Amun or First Prophet of Amun was the highest ranking priest in the priesthood of the Ancient Egyptian god Amun...

     The main cult of Amun was in Thebes.
  • Theban High Priests of Amun While not regarded as a dynasty, the High Priests of Amun
    High Priests of Amun
    The High Priest of Amun or First Prophet of Amun was the highest ranking priest in the priesthood of the Ancient Egyptian god Amun...

     at Thebes were nevertheless of such power and influence that they were effectively the rulers of Upper Egypt from 1080 to c.943 BC
  • High Priest of Osiris
    High Priest of Osiris
    The High Priest of Osiris served at Abydos.Some high priests were:* Nebwawy , from the time of Tuthmosis III * Heqanefer , from the time of Tuthmosis III to Amenhotep II....

    . The main cult of Osiris was in Abydos.
  • High Priest of Ptah
    High Priest of Ptah
    The High Priest of Ptah was sometimes referred to as the Greatest of the Masters of the Craftsmen . This title refers to Ptah as the patron god of the craftsmen.The office of the High Priest of Ptah was located in Memphis...

    . The main cult of Ptah was in Memphis.
  • High Priest of Re
    High Priest of Re
    The High Priest of Re, or the High Priest of Ra, was known in Egyptian as the wr-m3w which translates as Greatest of Seers. The main cult of Re, or Ra, was in ancient Heliopolis, northeast of present day Cairo. The high priests of Ra are not as well documented as the high priests of other deities...

    . The main cult of Re was in Heliopolis.
  • God's Wife of Amun
    God's Wife of Amun
    God's Wife of Amun was the highest ranking priestess of the Amun cult, an important Ancient Egyptian religious institution centered in Thebes during the Egyptian 25th and 26th dynasties...

     the highest ranking priestess of the Amun cult

Ancient Israel

The priesthood in ancient Israel
Priesthood (Ancient Israel)
The priesthood of Ancient Israel was the class of male individuals, whom, according to the Hebrew Bible, are patrilineal descendants from Aaron , who served in the Tabernacle, Solomon's Temple and Second Temple until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Their temple role included animal sacrifice...

 had a high priest who served in the Tabernacle
The Tabernacle , according to the Hebrew Torah/Old Testament, was the portable dwelling place for the divine presence from the time of the Exodus from Egypt through the conquering of the land of Canaan. Built to specifications revealed by God to Moses at Mount Sinai, it accompanied the Israelites...

 then in the First Temple and Second Temple
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

 in Jerusalem.
  • List of High Priests of Israel
  • The Samaritan High Priest
    Samaritan High Priest
    The Samaritan High Priest is the high priest of the Samaritan community in the Middle East.According to Samaritan tradition, the office has existed continuously since Aaron, the brother of Moses, and has been held by 132 people...

     is the high priest of the Samaritan
    The Samaritans are an ethnoreligious group of the Levant. Religiously, they are the adherents to Samaritanism, an Abrahamic religion closely related to Judaism...


Ancient World

  • Archiereus
    Archiereus is a Greek term for bishop, when considered as the culmination of the priesthood.It is used in the liturgical books of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Church, for those services which correspond to the pontifical services of the Roman Rite...

     title of a high priest from Ancient Greece.
  • Dastur
    A dastūr is a Zoroastrian high priest who has authority in religious matters and ranks higher than a Mobad or Herbad.In modern usage the term dastūr refers mostly to Parsi priests in India.-References:...

     is a Zoroastrian high priest
  • Hierophant
    A hierophant is a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy. The word comes from Ancient Greece, where it was constructed from the combination of ta hiera, "the holy," and phainein, "to show." In Attica it was the title of the chief priest at the...

    , the chief priest of the Eleusinian Mysteries
    Eleusinian Mysteries
    The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, these were held to be the ones of greatest importance...

  • NIN
    NIN (cuneiform)
    The Sumerian word NIN which can denote a "queen" or a "priestess".. Many goddesses are called NIN, such as DNIN.GAL "great lady", DÉ.NIN.GAL "lady of the great temple" or DEREŠ.KI.GAL, DNIN.TI....

     or EN
    EN (cuneiform)
    EN is the Sumerian cuneiform for "lord" or "priest". Originally, it seems to have been used to designate a high priest or priestess of a Sumerian city-state's patron-deity - a position that entailed political power as well. It may also have been the original title of the ruler of Uruk...

     in cuneiform script
    Cuneiform script
    Cuneiform script )) is one of the earliest known forms of written expression. Emerging in Sumer around the 30th century BC, with predecessors reaching into the late 4th millennium , cuneiform writing began as a system of pictographs...

    , a high priest or priestess of a Sumerian city-state
    A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

    's patron-deity
  • Pontifex Maximus
    Pontifex Maximus
    The Pontifex Maximus was the high priest of the College of Pontiffs in ancient Rome. This was the most important position in the ancient Roman religion, open only to patricians until 254 BC, when a plebeian first occupied this post...

     from Ancient Rome.


The New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 book of Hebrews
Epistle to the Hebrews
The Epistle to the Hebrews is one of the books in the New Testament. Its author is not known.The primary purpose of the Letter to the Hebrews is to exhort Christians to persevere in the face of persecution. The central thought of the entire Epistle is the doctrine of the Person of Christ and his...

 uses the term "high priest" sixteen times; in ten of those instances Jesus Christ is explicitly or implicitly identified as the office holder (e.g. Hebrews 3:1; 4:14; and 9:11). Some Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 (OT) texts prophesy of a priest-king (in ancient Israel, priests and royalty were distinct, with priests from the tribe of Levi and kings from the tribes of Benjamin and Judah). Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 views Jesus as fulfilling these OT prophecies, effectively replacing the former Jewish system of worship.
  • Zechariah 6:13: "Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both."
  • Psalm 110:2,4: "The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. ...The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek."

A comparison of other religions with modern Christian denominations might compare a high priest with the Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 in the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, a Patriarch
Originally a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. The system of such rule of families by senior males is called patriarchy. This is a Greek word, a compound of πατριά , "lineage, descent", esp...

 in an Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

, or a Primate in an Anglican or Episcopal
Episcopal Church
An episcopal church has bishops in its organisational structure which is calledEpiscopal polityEpiscopal Church may refer to:Anglican Communion:...

 church; but again it is traditional to refer only to Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 as the one high priest of Christianity. Episcopal bodies, except in the Anglican Communion
Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is an international association of national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with the Church of England and specifically with its principal primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury...

 and the superintended Lutheran churches
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

, may also referred to bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s as high priests, as they are believed to share in, that is: are considered earthly instruments of, the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other Latter Day Saint sects
Latter Day Saint movement
The Latter Day Saint movement is a group of independent churches tracing their origin to a Christian primitivist movement founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. in the late 1820s. Collectively, these churches have over 14 million members...

, High Priest is also among the priesthood offices in the Melchizedek priesthood
Melchizedek priesthood
The Melchizedek priesthood is the greater of the two orders of priesthood recognized in Mormonism. The others are the Aaronic priesthood and the rarely recognized Patriarchal priesthood...


Other religions

  • The 16th-century Maya priesthood
    Maya priesthood
    Until the discovery that Maya stelae depicted kings instead of high priests, the Maya priesthood and their preoccupations had been a main scholarly concern. In the course of the 1960s and over the following decades, however, dynastic research marginalized interest in the subject...

     was headed by a high priest who instructed the other priests and advised the king.
  • Kahuna Nui, presides over the temple or heiau
    A heiau is a Hawaiian temple. Many types of heiau existed, including heiau to treat the sick , offer first fruits, offer first catch, start rain, stop rain, increase the population, ensure health of the nation, achieve success in distant voyaging, reach peace, and achieve success in war . Only the...

    . Below the Kahuna Nui are various types and ranks of priests.
  • In Shinto
    or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

    , a high priest, called a Guji, is usually the highest ranking priest (Kannushi
    A , also called , is the person responsible for the maintenance of a Shinto shrine as well as for leading worship of a given kami. The characters for kannushi are sometimes also read jinshu with the same meaning....

    ) in a shrine.
  • In Ásatrú
    is a form of Germanic neopaganism which developed in the United States from the 1970s....

    , the high priest is called a goði
    A goði or gothi is the Old Norse term for a priest and chieftain. Gyðja signifies a priestess.The name appears in Wulfila's Gothic language translation of the bible as gudja for "priest", but in Old Norse it is only the feminine form gyðja that perfectly corresponds to the Gothic form...

    (or gyða) and is the leader of a small group of practitioners collectively referred to as a Kindred. The goði are collectively known as the goðar.
  • In Santería
    Santería is a syncretic religion of West African and Caribbean origin influenced by Roman Catholic Christianity, also known as Regla de Ocha, La Regla Lucumi, or Lukumi. Its liturgical language, a dialect of Yoruba, is also known as Lucumi....

    , a high priest is called a Babalao. The term comes from the supreme priest of Santería, a protege of Orula
    In the Yoruba religion, Orunmila is the Yoruba Grand Priest and custodian of Ifá. This source of knowledge is believed to have a keen understanding of the human form and of purity, praised as being often more effective than remedies; his followers and priests are known as Babalawo.- Mythical...

    . The term means wise man.
  • In Wicca
    Wicca , is a modern Pagan religious movement. Developing in England in the first half of the 20th century, Wicca was popularised in the 1950s and early 1960s by a Wiccan High Priest named Gerald Gardner, who at the time called it the "witch cult" and "witchcraft," and its adherents "the Wica."...

     a High Priest and High Priestess are able to lead a coven and initiate others.
  • In Laveyan satanism
    LaVeyan Satanism
    LaVeyan Satanism, often referred to simply as Satanism among most adherents, was founded in 1966 by Anton LaVey. Its teachings are based on individualism, self-control and "eye for an eye" morality. Drawing influences from the rituals and ceremonies of occultist Aleister Crowley and the...

    , the High Priest and High Priestess are the top of the Hierarchy.
  • In the Church of Satan
    Church of Satan
    The Church of Satan is an organization dedicated to the acceptance of the carnal self, as articulated in The Satanic Bible, written in 1969 by Anton Szandor LaVey.- History :...

     a High Priest and High Priestess stand as administrative chiefs and primary public representatives of the church. The rival First Satanic Church
    First Satanic Church
    The First Satanic Church was founded on October 31, 1999 by Karla LaVey to carry on the legacy of her father, Anton LaVey, author of The Satanic Bible.-History:...

     is led by High Priestess Karla LaVey
    Karla LaVey
    Karla Maritza LaVey was a High Priestess of the Church of Satan.-Biography:She is the daughter of Carole and Anton LaVey, former High Priestess of the Church of Satan, and current Founder of the First Satanic Church. She has two half siblings, Zeena Schreck and Satan Xerxes Carnacki LaVey...


Non-religious usages

Although the title is generally used in connection with a religious organization, some non-religious groups use it either mockingly or by tradition to reference high-ranking offices within the group. For example, in Royal Arch Masonry
Royal Arch Masonry
Royal Arch Masonry is the term used to denote the first part of the York Rite system of Masonic degrees. Royal Arch Masons meet as a Chapter, and the Chapter confers four degrees: Mark Master Mason, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason.-Chapter level:A Chapter is in many ways...

 the Excellent High Priest serves as leader of the chapter. As the title is allegorical in nature, a reference to the Kohen Gadol
Kohen Gadol
The High Priest was the chief religious official of Israelite religion and of classical Judaism from the rise of the Israelite nation until the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem...

, the position comes with no religious authority. The phrase is also often used to describe someone who is deemed to be an innovator or leader in a field of achievement. For example, an 1893 publication describes ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes
Aristophanes , son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaus, was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete...

 as having been "the high-priest of comedy"

The High Priestess
The High Priestess
The High Priestess is the second trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks. This card is used in game playing as well as in divination. In the first Tarot pack with inscriptions, the 18th-century woodcut Marseilles Tarot, this figure is crowned with the Papal tiara and labelled La...

is the second trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks.