In the countryside, far from the security of city walls, the people often feel they need all the help they can get. As a result some strange and ancient traditions survive to this day. The art of making a spirit beacon is one such tradition, and most country hamlets will have one.
There seems to be no standard method for constructing a beacon. The basic item can be almost anything (a standing stone, a tree, an earthenware statue, a woven carpet, etc), nor is the physical size important (anything from a few inches to several feet tall seems to work just as well). In truth much of what is seen is really only decoration anyway, although the locals may not recognise this fact and will often, if asked, vehemently deny it.
Similarly there is no commonly accepted name for these items and each hamlet or village seems to use a different title based on such things as how the item is constructed or where its’ power is believed to originate.
Despite all the variations all spirit beacons share several common design features, which is hardly surprising since they all perform the same basic function (see Magical Properties below).
First there is always an inscription carved, woven, painted, or otherwise indelibly inscribed onto the item. This inscription can be written in any language from some arcane runic script or virtually indecipherable pictograms to the normal everyday written language, but its’ meaning is always the same. This is a spell designed to produce a kind of low powered magical beacon on the spirit plane. In some of the more religious areas the spell is often worded as a prayer to a favoured deity, although this is not strictly necessary.
Something indicative or representative of the type of spirit the beacon is intended to attract is normally incorporated into the design (a corn dolly for grain spirits, a lump of coal for spirits of hearth and home, etc). This is required to "fine tune" the beacon, making it specific to the type of spirit required. In theory, several such items can be included, allowing the beacon to attract several different types of useful spirit.
There must also be a small quantity of dragons’ blood which, being inherently magical, powers the beacon. Of course, since there are no more dragons (or none that anybody knows about) dragons’ blood is rare indeed, however crystallised blood may still occasionally be found in the places where dragons once roamed, and this is perfectly adequate for the task (and much safer to obtain than fresh blood).
Finally there is something that identifies the village or community who created the beacon. This is essential, for without it the spirits attracted to the beacon might not be friendly to the community. It is this that leads to the many variations of form these items take.
Spirit beacons are most often used by small country villages to attract the more useful types of minor spirit (household/hearth spirits, grain spirits, healing spirits, etc). The village shaman is than responsible for negotiating deals between these spirits and the villagers (refer to Folk Magic for more information on this).
A spirit beacon, as its’ name suggests, creates a beacon on the spirit plane designed to attract one of more specific kinds of spirit and guide them down to the mundane plane. In theory a beacon can be attuned to almost any kind of spirit. Note that it does not provide any means of either controlling or trapping the spirits it attracts.