Priestess of Pompeii: The Initiate’s Journey Book I

Written by Sandra Hurt
Review by Susan McDuffie

Italy, 60 BCE: A baby girl is left exposed to the elements after her mother dies giving the child life. The infant is found and adopted by a loving couple from Pompeii, who name their new daughter Rufilla. Due to her difficult birth, the baby develops seizures but grows and thrives despite this malady. During a visit to the sanctuary of the healing god, Asclepius, a priest predicts that Rufilla possesses unusual powers, including the gift of prophecy. Even as a young child, Rufilla feels intuitive sympathy with the myth of Ariadne and the labyrinth.

As she grows Rufilla participates in the coming-of-age rituals of the goddess Artemis Arktoi with other girls in her community and looks forward to marriage, but her life takes an unexpected turn when her betrothed perishes at sea. Bereft, Rufilla undertakes a different journey, traveling to Greece and experiencing the rituals of the Greek gods and goddesses who inhabit that land. Her new name, Arianna, honors the heroine of her mythos.

Hurt has created an impeccably researched vision of life in the 1st-century BC Roman Empire. Beautiful illustrations, maps, and a gorgeous book design add to the appeal of this volume. Rufilla’s journey to adulthood will resonate with every woman, and the rituals honoring the gods and goddesses of that time still shine brightly and illuminate our own psyches. The author quotes C. G. Jung as saying, “The task is to give birth to the ancient in a new time.” Hurt has succeeded in bringing those past days to life in a novel full of meaning for those who live today.