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The First Rule Of Sub Rosa? Confessions Made Under The Rose Stay Under the Rose | On Becoming A Rose of Tralee

Sub Rosa_Confessions Under The Rose Stay Under The Rose

“She was lovely and fair as the rose of the summer, yet ’twas not her beauty alone that won me;

Oh no, ’twas the truth in her eyes ever dawning,that made me love Mary, the Rose of Tralee”

 – Edward Mordaunt Spencer / William Pembroke Mulchinock

As I imagine the scraping sound of a quill and the bleeding of heart and ink onto parchment, I wonder what truth it was that could have inspired William Pemproke Mulchinock to write his famous Irish ballad.

What truth or secret was it that lay behind Mary’s eyes and immortalised her as the Rose of Tralee?

With the first round of the Rose of Tralee festival coming up, I have thought a lot about this question and enjoyed some time researching the properties and the symbolic meanings of roses. [as you do]

I also realised that I nearly fell into the trap of a thought process that contemporary society is hard-wiring us to have.

Originally from exotic China, the rose’s seed has – over centuries – been scattered to the four winds and her bloom now calls the world her home. Lovingly planted in the gardens of Africa, Asia, and Europe, or tenderly gifted between friends and lovers, she has come to symbolise love, and the beauty of (nature’s) creation.

Whoever has walked among the roses as they burst forth in spring knows that their scent is as enticing as the Siren’s song. Roots expanding deep into nutritious soil, their soft and coloured faces ever stretching into the sky, it is understandable how they could become one of the most popular and commercialised plants today.

Extraordinary and banal at the same time.

During my research endeavours, I came across another intriguing aspect of the rose. Based on an ancient story, and established by Roman practices, roses became the custodians of secrets. Whenever a ceiling was decorated with roses, it meant that what was spoken or done underneath their soft petals – sub rosa, as it is called in Latin – would remain there and confidential. *Using the Latin expression here nearly makes the effort of having learned Latin for my English degree worth it…

It is under these roses that I want to make a confession to you.

I have wanted to apply for the Rose of Tralee Festival for many years now, yet I never felt that I had anything of significance to share. This year was different.

When I saw that applications where open for 2016, the idea of applying felt exciting. Right. The time for me had come!

Even though I am still only beginning on my journey, this time around I feel that I have something to say, something to stand for; a message bigger than myself that I want to share with the world.

However, as soon as I started reading the short biographies of the other, already selected Roses, I could feel the initial joy and excitement leak out of my body. One negative and self-doubting thought at a time, I shrank into myself and was overwhelmed by the accomplishments of the women I was reading about.

All of them serve their communities with love and dedication and are in the middle of living awe inspiring, full lives.

Want to know my evil thoughts?

As I read their biographies, all I could think was:

Who am I to be part of this? Who am I to go up against these women?

And that is exactly the problem.  What I was going through in that moment – as if on autopilot – was something that is too common in our contemporary way of living. We are so used to “going up against” each other that we often end up in a toxic cycle of comparison and competition.

Even though it took me a while to get out of my negative thought pattern [and I had to use one of my refocusing techniques], I quickly realised one thing:

I am tired of placing myself in competition with others, particularly with other women.

I don’t want to allow this festival to be a competitive experience. I refuse to go up against the women that I am deeply looking forward to meeting. Instead, I want to allow every second to unfurl in its unique possibilities.

For me, The Rose of Tralee is about allowing the experience to move and nourish me, like a dew drop waters the plant it seeps into. I know I will be a changed person just because we all came together and shared the secret of our individual truths.

I am not going to attend this festival in order to compete until there is only one woman left standing – this is not The Hunger Games.

Instead, I want to dedicate my presence to celebrating the women who are on this shared journey with me, and the one woman who is ready to represent us all. The one Rose who, for this moment in time, can represent the global Irish community at its best, and translate our collected message into a language that can be heard and understood by many.

And, even thought there are over 100 different species of roses – their core message and symbolism has always been the same: Love.

I wonder if that was the truth in Mary’s eyes ever dawning, ever evolving, ever becoming?

With love, and looking forward to this experience,



The Good Enough Creative

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The First Rule Of Sub Rosa? Confessions Made Under The Rose Stay Under the Rose | On Becoming A Rose of Tralee">

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