When my hard drive crashed a while back, I lost all my bookmarks. Since I've started using the iMac, I've tried to recover everything, but one blog that I had completely forgotten until yesterday is Michael Gilleland's frequently fascinating and always informative Laudator Temporis Acti, so I've gone on a bit of a Gilleland binge.
Today Gilleland has an interesting piece on wolf-lore:
Geoponica 15.1.8 states the superstition in its most complete form:
If the wolf sees the man first, the wolf makes the man weaker and speechless...but if the wolf is seen first, it becomes weaker.
The Geoponica is a tenth-century Byzantine work on agriculture.
According to Pliny, Natural History 8.80 (tr. John Bostock and H.T. Riley):
In Italy also it is believed that there is a noxious influence in the eye of a wolf; it is supposed that it will instantly take away the voice of a man, if it is the first to see him.
SUCH a Story as the Basilisk is that of the Wolf concerning priority of vision, that a man becomes hoarse or dumb, if a Wolf have the advantage first to eye him. And this is a plain language affirmed by Pliny: In Italia ut creditur, Luporum visus est noxius, vocemque homini, quem prius contemplatur adimere [this is the Pliny quote mentioned above] ; so is it made out what is delivered by Theocritus, and after him by Virgil:
———Vox quoque Moerim
Jam fugit ipsa, Lupi Moerim videre priores.
Even voice itself now fails Moeris; wolves have seen Moeris first. -- trans. Fairclough]
The ground or occasional original hereof, was probably the amazement and sudden silence the unexpected appearance of Wolves do often put upon Travellers; not by a supposed vapour, or venomous emanation, but a vehement fear which naturally produceth obmutescence; and sometimes irrecoverable silence. Thus Birds are silent in presence of an Hawk, and Pliny saith that Dogs are mute in the shadow of an Hyæna. But thus could not the mouths of worthy Martyrs be silenced, who being exposed not onely unto the eyes, but the merciless teeth of Wolves, gave loud expressions of their faith, and their holy clamours were heard as high as Heaven.
I am especially thankful to Michael Gilleland for jogging my memory of the Pseudodoxia Epidemica and finding an edition online.