The Tarot is consulted by performing readings, which may be general in nature or may address a specific question or area of the querent's life. The simplest form of reading is the selection and interpretation of a single card, but a greater number of cards is usually employed to allow a fuller exploration of the subject. Interpreting the cards according to their basic meanings and associations alone is a rather disjointed and unsatisfying approach. For this reason, the cards are selected and arranged according to a predetermined pattern called a spread, in which each card is interpreted not only with respect to its innate meaning, but also according to its position in the spread.
Spreads offer many more refinements to interpretation than positional considerations alone. For example, each card can be related to other cards in the reading to clarify particular points and bring an additional richness to the interpretation. In some spreads, certain positions have strong links with others, and cards in these corresponding positions are interpreted with reference to each other. Spreads allow us to look at things such as synthesis, majorities, resonance, dissonance and combinations.
There are many spreads, from the simple to the confusingly complex, but all strive to provide a framework on which the meanings of the cards involved can be placed and worked into an insightful whole. Each spread is designed for a particular type of reading. Some are well-suited to general readings where no particular question is being asked, others work best when a specific question is being explored.