In the city-state of Samos lived a young maiden named Astron. She spent most of her days skipping through town, her hair tied into two braids, dressed in unusual clothes with a small bird following close behind. The lords and peasants of Samos knew Astron fondly, and they loved her for her wisdom and talents. Astron was a storyteller who told the tales of gods through song and dance. In the autumn and winter evenings, people from all around Greece would travel across the ocean to the island of Samos to experience Astron’s stories out in the grassy fields.
At Astron’s first show of the winter season, more people than ever had arrived in Samos. This caught the attention of the Gods, especially one in particular, Hera. Samos worshipped Hera as their matron and devoted their love and affection towards her. Curious at what was happening, Hera disguised herself as a royal and went to go see the show. Hundreds of people sat around a small wooden platform, waiting for when the storyteller would arrive. Hera listened to the chatter around her, trying to see what all the excitement was about.
“My brother told me that he thinks the storyteller is a goddess in disguise,” whispered a maiden to her companion.
“I would surely believe it to be true,” her friend replied. As they continued their conversation about the storyteller, Hera grew more jealous.
Are they soon going to worship her instead of me? She thought bitterly, I’ve never even heard of her, what makes this maiden so worthy to be considered a goddess?
A starling fluttered onto the wooden stage and the crowd slowly grew silent. A figure dressed in flowy robes and scarves walked down a small aisle and stepped onto the platform. The storyteller, Astron, looked around at the crowd, bowed her head, and then began her dance. As her bare feet twirled around the stage, she sang of wars between the gods, love stories that went wrong, and the achievements of Hera. The disguised goddess felt humbled by the story, but was still unsure about Astron. People swayed with the harmony of the storyteller’s voice, eyes darting between her and the bird that flew beside her, following their every move.
The show lasted an hour. Astron ended her performance with a wave to the crowd and a bow. The locals who had come to her show many times before knew that this was the signal to say that the show was over. Peasants started to leave in large groups, and the only ones that remained behind were the royals, including Hera. Astron stepped off the stage as her bird landed on her shoulder. She walked over to the royals and greeted them all with a smile. Hera examined her closely, trying to pick out her imperfections, but it was difficult to do so. Hera liked Astron, she was gifted with storytelling and beauty, but she also hated her. Astron stole the attention from Hera, and the goddess was determined to put an end to it.
“Let us feast at the castle,” the lord of Samos declared. He waved to a group of carriages at the edge of the fields, motioning for them to come over. Astron climbed into a carriage with the lord of Samos and his wife. Hera went into a different carriage. In a few minutes, they all arrived at the castle and filed inside. Awaiting them was a beautifully decorated feast with wine and rich foods. Everybody settled into their seats, Astron placed between the Samos royals, Hera sitting right across from her.
“Welcome back, Astron,” the lord’s wife greeted as everybody filled their plates, “how have you been?”
The storyteller sipped her wine and answered in turn, ΅I am alright, my lady. Though as much as I love Samos, I long for exploring the land across the ocean. I’ve been on this island my whole life, and I would much enjoy seeing other parts of Greece.”
Hera listened intently while also eyeing the starling perched on the back of her chair. She wanted revenge on Astron for stealing her spotlight, and she was slowly coming up with the perfect way to do it.
The feast continued on for the rest of the night, filled with chatter, laughter, and music. Towards the end of the night, Hera was just about to leave when she asked Astron a question.
“Dear storyteller,” she began, offering the maiden a sly smile, “when will your next performance be?”
Astron returned the smile and responded, “Next week, under the moonlight of the full moon.”
“Expect me to be there,” Hera said, standing up from her chair, “have a good rest of your evening.”
And with those words, the disguised goddess swept herself from the castle and was gone in the blink of an eye.
Seven days later, the biggest crowd Astron had ever seen was sat around her small wooden platform. Hera spread the message about Astron through the winds, wanting everyone to experience Astron’s best show yet.
When the familiar starling settled onto the stage, the crowd’s voices hushed and the storyteller stepped onto the platform. She dipped her head to the crowd, then began another tale. All eyes were on her as Hera waited for the right moment.
The climax of the story grew near as Astron sang about Zeus and his magnificent doings. The storyteller spun in a circle, stepped up to the edge of the stage, the bird fluttering around her, and rose a hand in the air and belted out:
“With his mighty lightning bolt, he struck the Earth down!”
Hera seized the opportunity, flicking her wrist, and Astron burst into a swarm of birds.
The crowd screamed and shriek, staggering to their feet and scrambling to escape the giant flock. The birds flew straight up into the air, inches away from each other, but still in sync. People stopped to stare.
The hundreds of birds flew together across the sunset sky, diving back and forth, creating illusional shapes in the sky. The song of the starlings and the beat of their wings captivated the crowd, watching as the starlings told their own unique story together. A whisper of astonishment and amazement passed along through the group of people. Hera nodded to herself, she got the revenge she wanted, but didn’t let Astron’s talent go to waste. The starlings danced around in the sky until the sun dipped below the horizon.
Finally, the birds made their final movement, flying away from Samos together. They flew across the ocean and around the world to perform their remarkable phenomena, further known as murmurations.