This article first appeared on Mooncircles. It is reprinted here with permission of the author.

As sun and moon converge in Virgo each year, summer's fruits are gathered in, vacations end and the new school year begins. It's a time of abundance and anticipation but also of critical self-examination as we look back to see how well we have tended our fields or our talents and how well prepared we are for the challenges ahead. In Virgo we celebrate self-reliance and competency, the joy of craftsmanship and the value and dignity of labor. We clean closets, shed outworn habits, garner our resources and renew our commitment to our chosen work. Virgo, the maid of the harvest is also the scholar ready for the new term. Spiritually and mentally, she is focused, dedicated and self-possessed.

This year's Virgo new moon falls late in the sign, only eight days prior to the "hinge" of the zodiacal year, the Sun's entry into Libra at the autumnal equinox. Virgo concludes the first half of the astrological cycle which corresponds to the childhood and youth of the individual. Between Aries and Virgo we are concerned with our own growth and development; from Libra through Pisces we take our place in community life and find our connection with higher realities, both mental and spiritual. In Virgo we perfect the basic skills, disciplines and self-reflective capacities needed to prepare for the second half of the cycle.

The Virgoan impulse receives extra dynamism this new moon from Mars which is in the same degree with the sun and moon, and from Jupiter a few degrees later in the sign. Pluto meanwhile squares sun, moon and Mars, while Saturn sextiles them. All the concerns of Virgo should be intensified with this combination of aspects, and care should be taken to manage their effects. Virgo is a feminine sign in which masculine planets can have a bull-in-the-china-shop effect if not properly understood and directed. Spiritually and psychologically, the virgin is one who belongs to herself and is pure and undivided within. A virgin in this sense is not necessarily celibate; rather, she controls her own sexuality, giving herself freely to the one of her choice. She is not the possession of a man or of a social order that treats her as a breeding machine or relies on her subordination to make males feel powerful and important. She knows her own worth and capabilities and can stand on her own feet.

The Virgin is that in each of us, male or female, which is authentic and true to itself. Spiritually it is the soul's freedom to respond to the divine in a conscious, individual way rather than being herded along by collective piety. The effect of Mars in Virgo can be to threaten this inner authenticity and self-possession - or to assert and defend it against all enemies. Similarly, Jupiter can overpower Virgo with masculine norms and values, or it can help to articulate and champion Virgo's own ideals.

Jupiter is now nearing the end of its year-long transit through Virgo. While the sun circles the zodiac once in a year, Jupiter (the "second sun") takes twelve years to make the same journey, spending approximately one year in each sign. Like the god Zeus, lord of the Olympian pantheon, this majestic planet is known astrologically as the governor of all things under the Sun, the one who sees them in their cosmic context and can thus rule on what is important, true and just. Jupiter's transits bring to awareness the specific virtues and spiritual truths each sign represents. In Virgo it lifts up the spiritual value of daily work, the importance of proper technique and procedure, diet, health and hygiene, and such virtues as self-sufficiency, promptness, order, and thrift. It teaches us that all actions (and inactions) have consequences and that we are responsible for what we do and for what we leave undone.

The pitfalls of Jupiter in Virgo arise from the tension between the planet's spiritual expansiveness and theoretical breadth of vision and the sign's practical orientation and narrow focus. Among these can be overwork, worry (especially over health and job-related matters), puritanical moralizing, hypercritical attitudes, excessive analysis, overvaluing of technique and adaptation, and inordinate attention to detail. While Jupiter is at home in the heights of heaven and the world of theory, Virgo dwells on the earth plane and insists on the facts.

The transition to Libra should be palpable. After completing the exact conjunction with Mars just after the new moon, the sun will conjoin Jupiter in the last degree of Virgo on September 21, hours before the equinox on the 22nd when it enters Libra. Jupiter will cross over into Libra on the 24th and Mars on the 26th.

Jupiter rules the Ascendant of the United States natal chart, so its transits through signs can have a considerable effect on the national mood. The Presidential election campaign seems to be stalled in overblown and often poisonous criticisms regarding matters that are peripheral to the national agenda. We went to war against Iraq under over-confident Jupiter in Leo; with Jupiter in Virgo the consequences are being reckoned with and the premises for the war reexamined. Perhaps as Jupiter (along with Sun and Mars) moves into Libra, sign of balance, partnership and peacemaking, we will begin to find way forward in partnership with other nations.

Savor this last big blast of Virgo and use its fierce critical energy to good purpose. Organize your sock drawer, back up your hard drive, replenish your supplies, clean out your briefcase, press your uniform, sharpen your sword, get your eyes checked, your oil changed, your batteries charged, your garden weeded, your overdue paperwork turned in. With unfinished business cleared away, rededicate yourself to your ideals and be ready to move out and join with others in creating a better world.

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