Superstitions of Early Illinois Settlers

Zodiac graphic linking the zodiac symbols to different body partsThe early settlers in Illinois had many superstitions and home remedies that seem odd today, including several superstitions based on the zodiac signs. While most people are familiar with the zodiac, we use today, what sets the settlers’ use of it apart is their application of it to the body. It was common for early settlers to assign zodiac signs to different parts of the body.

They used these signs to predict what the corn will look like, when to spay pigs and have a good outcome, and what would happen if a calf was weaned during a particular sign. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, it appears the zodiacs rotated every two to three days, as opposed to the monthly rotation we are used to. A full list of the superstitions can be found below with a list of which zodiac is linked with which body part. For more information on the superstitions of early Illinois settlers, see the book Plants & other home remedies, signs, & superstitions of early Illinois settlers in the Archives!

Zodiac Superstitions

  • Plant corn in the sign of the Virgo; ears will stand up straight and husk tight at tip
  • Wean babies and castrate pigs when the sign is in the thigh (Sagittarius), not in the vital parts
  • Plant corn in the sign of the Flower Woman (Virgo)
  • Spay pigs when the sign is in thighs (Sagittarius) and going down
  • Potatoes planted when the sign is in toes (Pisces) will grow toes or prongs
  • To produce well, plant when the sign is in the twins (Gemini)
  • For flowers, the sign should be in the Virgo
  • Calf weaned when sign is in the heart (Leo) will die. If weaned when sign is in head (Aries) it will grieve until sign passes through the feet (Pisces). Best time to wean is when the sign is in knees (Capricorn), then it will not have so long to mourn
  • Weaning babies when sign is in head (Aries) or heart (Leo) makes weaning much harder
  • Wean all stock when sign of the zodiac is in the legs (Capricorn) or feet (Pisces)
  • If during planting corn, the sign of the zodiac of Flower Woman comes in, stop until the Flower Woman has had her fling
  • If a tree is hacked or wounded in June when the sign is in heart (Leo), it will die

- Cassie Ward
  Archives Practicum Student