Two assumptions associated with the burgeoning field of cultural studies—the indeterminacy of meaning and the strategic play of power determining the limits of knowledge—are often prescribed as antidotes to the delusions of religion and scientific realism. We need not wholeheartedly subscribe to this epistemic relativism to acknowledge that similar assumptions could also apply to situations that are overtly framed and staged within culture so as to invite momentary participation. Despite the occasional insistence on unconditional faith and adherence, this seems especially true of religious behaviour. In demonstrating how such assumptions can be productively redescribed as focal concerns of religious participation, this paper endeavors to remove religion from some of the dichotomous sets (e.g., belief/disbelief, rationality/irrationality, obligation/freedom, agency/chance) in which it often gets entangled.
An attempt is made to summarize and synthesize new and old evidence regarding the religious heritage among peoples speaking Indo-European languages in pre-Christian and pre-Islamic Eurasia. Initial stress is put on the methodological, theoretical and ideological problems of such an undertaking. The rest of the paper discusses how the transmission of heritage was conceptualized (with examples from Vedic and Greek literature), to what extent we are able to discern the outlines of an Indo-European pantheon, the possibility of tracing the realizations of hereditary, mythical motifs in the oldest Indo-European literatures, and the prospects for a comparative Indo-European ritualistics.