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Agnus-castus

A shrub of the Vitex tribe, called agnos (chaste) by the Greeks, because the Athenian ladies, at the feast of Ceres, used to strew their couches with vitex leaves, as a palladium of chastity. The monks, mistaking agnos (chaste) for agnus (a lamb), but knowing the use made of the plant, added castus to explain its character, making it chaste-lamb. (For another similar blunder, see I.H.S.)

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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