Archons, Bishops, or ArchPriests - Need Advice

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Ronoc100

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Hi Everyone,

I'm well into my 3rd draft from my novel and I'm struggling to nail down the titles for a religious caste in a post-apocalyptic world. Some things about the religious caste, they worship the elements in a way (fire, earth, wind, etc.), and are structured similar to the Catholic clergy (e.g., lowly priests up to a pope-type figure), live very long compared to others castes, and they have parental feel to them, or that's what they try to exude, almost acting as mothers/fathers.

To be more specific, it is one class within the hierarchy of this religious caste I'm struggling with. There are only 5 people within this class (so they are very high up - so like cardinal bishops). I currently call them Archons, as they are addressed formally as Matriarch/Patriarchs (similar to the orthodox church).

While I like the idea of formally addressing them as Matriarch/Patriarch, I'm leaning now currently leaning towards having their titles be Bishops or ArchBishops rather than Archons, which having each bishop having special interests of elemental nature. So, for example, since there are 5 positions, each bishops would be called by a color that is associated with an element. For example, Red Bishop would worship the fire element and be interested in trade/industry related to the fire element (foundries, etc.). But what poses are problem is that their are 5 positions and only 4 elements (I know I could fit a 5th element in there - perhaps ether, but I don't want to, that would change the story), so trying to find a color/title for that last bishop may be problematic.

Also, they have no evident magical powers, or do not use them openly, though there are rumors that some of them are sorcerers. So I think changing them to Bishops with an elemental feel (e.g., Red Bishop) might give it more of supernatural feel which I like.

I apologize if I'm getting to deep into it, but thought I should give some reference. So any thought; bishops, archons, archpriests? Any other advice.

Thanks!
 

waylander

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If this post-apocalytic world is not Earth then I would resist calling them bishops - the derivation of the word is from Ancient Greek.
 

Kjbartolotta

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Archons always sounds badass to me because of my obsession with gnosticism, it's also a term that's got that SFF flavor. I have no issue with bishops, which is a pretty familiar term but still sounds cool into this context. Archpriests, not feeling it.

Other good potential terms: Hierophant. Archmandrite. Presbyter. Mystagouge. Oracle. Sybil. Perfecti.
 

AwP_writer

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Prelate is a good word roughly equivalent to Bishop, but less commonly heard and with less preconceptions.
I would probably go white, silver, gold, or black for the fifth one.
 

Ronoc100

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Yeah. I'm really interested in the gnostic material myself. My novel relies on it alot with some zen-like themes mixed in so probly just keep the Archons as is. Though I still might add a prefix like Red Archon or black archon to add another layer to those characters...gonna have to think on that one....I like your others suggestions too. Right now, the head of this religion is simply called the Apostle, but I might change that up too
 

Ronoc100

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Prelates. That's good too. Some good options for sure
 

Roxxsmom

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If this post-apocalytic world is not Earth then I would resist calling them bishops - the derivation of the word is from Ancient Greek.

I don't know if that's specifically an issue. After all, we're writing our stories in English, and every word is in the language is derived from somewhere on planet Earth.

But some words are more tightly tied with a particular place, cultural reference, legend, god, or institution that is unique to a time and place in history, though, such as words like "spartan" or "herculean," or even "stoic." I do tend to avoid those in alternative worlds, but I probably also miss some, and some words (like laconic) are just so good and apt without great alternatives.

It is definitely an issue of taste, though, and of one's knowledge base about the origins of certain words. I struggled for a long time whether we should use the word "earth" to refer to dirt or soil in a fantasy world, since the world is not called "Earth," but then I read that the term "earth" for dirt actually pre-dates the application of the word for the entire planet. In fact, the concept of naming an entire planet something other than "the world" or "the land" is actually fairly recent.

To answer the OP, I've had a tough time finding good go-to words for clerical hierarchies that are not modeled directly after Catholicism or some other real-world religion and elicit a particular historical setting and culture. Sometimes it works to make up titles that relate to a given role within the religion. For instance, I used "adjudicator" for priests whose role was judgement or application of law within their society.

In your case, if your story takes place in a future earth, and you are using the Catholic hierarchy as a model in a western-derived society, Bishop might work fine. I think it really depends on the feel you are shooting for culturally. Archon conjures up a Greek image, but if your culture and society have that vibe to them, it works really well.
 
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