Namaste HDF community!
Above all else, I'm emotionally drawn to the Goddess, particularly in the form of Parvati. That's the main reason I became interested in Indian religion in the first place. My mind also feels drawn to Lord Shiva, and the idea that Shiva represents the inactive, transcendent aspect of God and his consort represents God's immanent, material aspect fits quite well with theological ideas I've had for a long time.
However, I'm reluctant to fully embrace the Tantras and the Agamas, at least at this present moment. I won't go into all the reasons why. But suffice it to say, I'm more like a Vaishnava in my religious outlook. I'm mostly socially and culturally conservative, I'm somewhat turned off by esotericism, and I prefer bhakti and personal, emotional devotion to rituals and practices designed to give me spiritual or occult "powers."
Yet...Vishnu and his avatars have not captured my heart and mind the way Parvati and Shiva have. None of the consorts of Vishnu or his avatars produce in me the distinct feeling of childlike love for the Mother the way Parvati does. Shiva seems to me to be a better representation of the transcendent, unmanifest Divine than Vishnu.
It seems like all of the surviving Shaiva and Shakta sects place a lot of emphasis on the Agamas/Tantras (which I presently do not have much interest in) and little emphasis on the Puranas (which I presently have much interest in)—even those that praise Shiva and the Goddess.
Didn't Shiva and Shakti devotion exist in the Puranic period before most of the Tantras were written? If I could be anything, I would be a non-tantric, Puranic-style Shiva/Parvati bhakta. I know it would be possible to be that......anything's possible, of course......but I'm afraid that I won't meet many other people like that. At least, there don't seem be many organized groups in that vein. And I long for a sense of community with devotees of a similar mindset.
I'm not sure if I would fit in with the Smartas either. While I like that they value the Puranas, I'm not interested in only worshipping Shiva and Parvati as my "favorite" deities...they're more than just my personal favorites; I view them as the best ways to imagine God and to produce devotion.
Like I said, I know it's perfectly possible for me to follow the path I have in mind. I guess I just don't want to walk the path alone....are there any organized groups/sub-sects/schools of Shaivas and/or Shaktas who have an outlook similar to mine, that still survive today?