“Definition of THEURGY
: the art or technique of compelling or persuading a god or beneficent or supernatural power to do or refrain from doing something “
-from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary
While many traditional polytheists don’t engage in processes of witchcraft with the assertion that it is hubris to think one can assert their will over the gods and nature which is under the dominion of the gods, many make a distinction in favor of theurgy through which by certain items and/or actions attached to gods that one might be able to bring the favor of the gods to benefit your cause. The distinction here is preferred that it is trying to persuade the pleasure of the gods into being favorable towards you rather than asserting your will over nature. While opinions may vary whether or not magic(k) is acceptable, I just wanted to take a moment to talk about the power of theurgy.
I would say that many people do some manner of theurgy whether they realize it or not. Choosing out specific stones or materials within nature that the gods find favorable as gifts to the gods, or to where yourself in order to carry the favor of the gods with you (this would include jewelry possessing images of the gods themselves) would fall in the line of theurgy. It is by making use of that which the gods have provided in nature, that they themselves find pleasing in order to benefit yourself or household with favor. I would say the kethiskos is a good example too of theurgy in a manner of speak in which the god, Zeus Kteosis, himself is represented in the form of a jar which is filled with that which is consumed from the household pantry (grains, honey, olive oil etc). Even icons of the gods that you have and established shrines to the gods which you adorn in ways to honor the gods can be its own subtle form of theurgy to attract the favor of the god(dess) in question to your household. There are many things that I have on my shrines that are designed to attract a certain manifestation of the god(dess) whose benevolence I wish to be directed towards my home. Such would be the purpose of the round hematite sphere I offered to Apollon. While hematite is not traditionally associated with him, the qualities that the hematite possess for dispelling evil/harm, purifying etc are in line with particular aspects of the god that is an important part of how I wish Apollon’s presence to manifest in my house. This would be like the historic practice, I imagine, of erecting a black stone for Apollon Agyieus as a protective icon of the god.
Because the gods have given these things to aid us, there are many things that we have on hand in order to assist us that often is included under the heading of magic(k) but which is directly theurgy. This would be the use of certain sacred herbs and aromas for certain desired affects. The Pythia chewing the laurel leaf, the charm of the laurel branch hung over the doorways or placed over those being purified is particular to the cult of Apollon. Even the offerings given by victors in games or war are reminiscent of this exchange in which holy items (bowls, shields, spears, and tripods) are notably offered to Apollon. Not because Apollon needs them, but rather that said item is pleasing to the god as part of his domain, and the victor promised to provide upon his victory with the hope of future victories.
In a discussion with other ladies who serve Apollon the subject came up about the appropriateness of magic(k) in the service of Apollon. Generally the consensus was that theurgy dealing with the arts that are within Apollon’s domain are those which are best accessible to the favor of the god that one who serves him would best employ. Charms and talismans invoking the favor of the god for matters of healing, prophecy aids, purification etc are thins that the god readily provides and makes accessible for use. And sometimes with the variance of location and what is available, the gods reveal new things that can be used as well. We have found some really surprising doxa correlating among us regarding certain plants, scents, and stones that we have found pleasing to Apollon in accordance to our own experiences.
Really in the end theurgy has a lot to do with what you learn during the cultivation of ones relationship with their gods and is a natural offshoot. It is a gift to us from them.
In the end of relationship of theurgy to magic(k), is that while theurgy can be found within practices of magic(k), theurgy itself is not dependent on following a system of magic(k). It needs no spells or incantations, no focus of will or power. Just merely a gift to the gods given in sincerity.