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.
Following the death of Mondain and the upheaval resulting, the people of what was formerly the Sosarian Lands of Danger and Despair were approached by the Great Earth Serpent and instructed in the philosophy of Balance. The first Great Hierophant, whose name is unknown, attained their position after visiting the mountain on Sunrise Isle, where the Earth Serpent revealed to them the Way of Balance and instructed them to build the three Grand Shrines of Balance, Order, and Chaos as well as the Serpent Gates.
This first Hierophant taught the people of the land the virtues of Balance, Order, and Chaos, and the resultant Ophidian civilization was organized in relation to these systems, with the Great Hierophant serving as the primary ruling power within their society. While a small number of acolytes followed the path of Balance, living in the Great Hierophant's company, most Ophidians dedicated their lives either to the principle of Order or to the principle of Chaos, and a Hierophant of Order and Hierophant of Chaos each ruled respectively over these factions.
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 commissioned 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 circumstances, 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..
- According to Elissa, there were four times in the history of the Ophidians in which the orders of the Great Hierophant were defied such that the intervention of the Champion of Balance was necessary. In all of these cases, the transgressors were among those who lived outside of the principles of Order and Chaos.
- 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).
- Elissa. Paul Carr's Ultima Transcripts. Ultima VII Part Two. "Champion of Balance".