In ancient Egypt, a high priest was the chief priest of any of the many gods revered by the Egyptians.
- While not regarded as a dynasty, the High Priest of Amun at Thebes, Egypt were nevertheless of such power and influence that they were effectively the rulers of Upper Egypt from 1080 to c. 943 BCE
- High Priest of Osiris. The main cult of Osiris was in Abydos, Egypt.
- High Priest of Ptah. The main cult of Ptah was in Memphis, Egypt.
- High Priest of Ra. The main cult of Ra was in Heliopolis (ancient Egypt).
- God's Wife of Amun the highest ranking priestess of the Amun cult.
- Archiereus, title of a high priest from ancient Greece.
- Dastur, a Zoroastrian high priest.
- Hierophant, the chief priest of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
- NIN (cuneiform) or EN (cuneiform), a high priest or priestess of a city-state's patron-deity in Sumer
- Pontifex maximus from ancient Rome.
- Pythia, high priestess of the Temple of Apollo (Delphi).
- Zhang Lu was the third generation of Celestial Masters lineage from Zhang Daoling, was a high priest and appointed as General of the Household Who Guards Civilians (鎮民中郎將) and the Administrator of Hanning (漢寧太守) by imperial government.
- Kou Qianzhi (365–448) was conferred as the high priest or "Tian Shi" by Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei, which eventually established The Northern Celestial Masters.
- The Celestial Masters was founded by Zhang Daoling in 142 CE, they have been the high priests and spiritual leaders in Zhengyi Order of Taoism until present days. The 63rd Celestial Master, Zhang En Pu eventually migrated to Taiwan in 1949.
- The 16th-century Maya priesthood was headed by a high priest who instructed the other priests and advised the king.
- Kahuna Nui, presides over the temple or heiau. Below the Kahuna Nui are various types and ranks of priests.
- In Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, the High Priest is considered to be successor to Nichiren, through the lineage of Nikko Shonin.
- In Shinto, a high priest, called a Guji, is usually the highest ranking priest (Kannushi) in a shrine.
- In Ásatrú, the high priest is called a goði (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. Some countries use the term Allsherjargoði for national multi-kindred organizations, most notably Iceland's.
- In both the Yoruba religion and a number of its various New World sects, such as Santeria, a high priest is called a Babalawo. The term means wise man, and comes from the Yoruba language of West Africa. A female holder of the title is known as an Iyanifa.
- In Wicca, High Priest and High Priestess are the roles of the man and woman who are leading a group ritual. High Priest and High Priestess are also titles sometimes conferred on the members of a Wiccan coven when they have completed their third, or fifth year of study and practice. Sometimes called Third degree, depending on path or tradition.
- The High Priest and High Priestess are the two highest positions of leadership and administration within the Church of Satan.
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 the Excellent High Priest serves as leader of the chapter. As the title is allegorical in nature, a reference to the Kohen Gadol, 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 as having been "the high-priest of comedy".
Musician Nina Simone is often referred to as the High Priestess of Soul.