The Great Hierophant, sometimes called the Great Hierophant of Balance, was the spiritual and political leader of the people of Serpent Isle during the era of the Ophidians. The Order Hierophant and the Chaos Hierophant are sometimes refered to as "Great Hierophant", though it was not their official title.
After the death of Mondain and the chaos that ocurred in the Lands of Danger and Despair, the Great Earth Serpent approached the human survivors of the isle to teach them the philosophy of Balance. The Great Earth Serpent somehow contacted an unnamed human who would become the first Great Hierophant. This human visited Sunrise Isle, and on the top of the mountain on the isle, the Great Earth Serpent explained the Way of Balance. The Serpent also told the future Great Hierophant to build the three Grand Shrines of Balance, Order and Chaos, and the Serpent Gates.
This first Great Hierophant explained the Ophidian Virtues of Balance, Order and Chaos to the rest of the people, who decided to follow their path. The whole society of the Ophidians was created after this, with the Great Hierophant being the central figure of their civilization. The Ophidians divided their society in the followers of Order, under the Order Hierophant, and the followers of Chaos, under the Chaos Hierophant. Only a few were chosen and able to follow the path of Balance and lived with the Great Hierophant. All the people, however, revered and followed the teachings of the Great Hierophant.
Sheshevra was the Hierophant who commissioned the first two Temples of the Forces, the Temple of Tolerance and the Temple of Ethicality. Sheshevra was particularly remarkable for his Harmony. Sessessej was the Hierophant that comissioned the last two Temples of the Forces, the Temple of Emotion and the Temple of Logic. He was particularly remarkable for his Rationality. At least one other Hierophant existed between Sheshevra and Sessessej, who comissioned the Temple of Enthusiasm and the Temple of Discipline, though his name is not known. It can be inferred that this unnamed Hierophant must have been particlarly remarkable for his Dedication (see Ophidian Virtues).
The last Ophidian to hold the rank of Great Hierophant was Ssithnos. Ssithnos was the Great Hierophant at the time of the rise of Exodus in Ultima III, when the Great Earth Serpent was abducted from the Void into Sosaria. Ssinthos was weakened by the abduction, and the imbalance that it created led to the polarization of the forces of Order and Chaos. Ssinthos was murdered under confusing circumnstances, and this sparked the War of Imbalance that destroyed the Ophidian society.
Right before his death, Ssithnos wrote a letter titled Principles of Balance, trying to preserve the philosophy of the Ophidians for the future, and to ask for help in repairing the imbalance. This letter was also copied in the book Beyond the Serpent Pillars by Erstam, who found the scroll years later.
The Great Hierophant served both as a spiritual leader and a political figure for the Ophidians. Though it is not clear how much authority he actually had, he was revered by all the Ophidians, and his teachings were highly respected.
Only the Great Hierophant could perform ceremonies at the Grand Shrine of Balance. The Order and Chaos Hierophants helped him during those ceremonies. Rich jewelry and shining armour were worn at that time. To enter into the Grand Shrine of Balance the Great Hierophant had to wear the Artifacts of the Serpent, which included a staff, crown, armour, necklace, ring and earrings.
The most important ceremony was the opening of the Wall of Lights at the Shrine of Balance, which is an entrance to the Ethereal Void. Only the Great Hierophant was allowed to open the Wall, due to the dangers involved. The Wall was opened in order to contact the three Serpents and to converse with them. The procedure for opening the Wall is complicated, and the Great Hierophant needed the Artifacts of the Serpent in order to complete it. To be able to understand the Serpents, the Great Hierophant had to wear the Earrings of the Serpent. The Great Hierophant also needed the blackrock Serpents of Order, Chaos, and of Balance in order to open the Wall.
When a Great Hierophant died, he was buried in the Isle of Crypts. Before the burial, several preparations were done. Three days had to pass before the body was blessed, and then it was dressed in holy clothes and decorated with flowers. The body was displayed in the Shrine of Balance, where people could see it and leave small tokens to show their gratitude. However, they had to be quiet; there could be no wailing inside the shrine. A state of mourning of seven days was ordered for the whole isle, and every temple and shrine would be open day and night, so people could gather there to share their grief..
- Elissa. Ethereal Software Transcript. Ultima VII Part Two: The Silver Seed. "Ssithnos".
- Great Earth Serpent. Ethereal Software Transcript. Ultima VII Part Two.
- Svenjaja. My Life and My Beliefs (Ultima VII Part Two - in-game).
- Jaljashram. Report on the Shasrajah (Ultima VII Part Two - in-game).
- Shavazoss, acolyte of Balance. The Voice (Ultima VII Part Two - in-game).
- Isstanar. Ethereal Software Transcript. Ultima VII Part Two: The Silver Seed. "War of Imbalance".
- Zavajorish. The Great Hierophants, Part 1 (Ultima VII Part Two - in-game).
- Zavajorish. The Great Hierophants, Part 2 (Ultima VII Part Two - in-game).
- Javallaja. Funeral Ceremonies (Ultima VII Part Two - in-game).