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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, April 18, 2014

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In Living

The New Year is a good time for a card reading, perhaps.

Local singer explores the science of tarot


Jen Cintrón is not the stereotypical tarot card reader. Sure, she has incense and candles and the usual New Age-ish baubles, but she is also extremely down-to-earth with a strong background in science.

"Those who know me may be shocked that I would decide to offer these services, as my past might suggest that I wouldn't buy into mystical oracular jibber-jabber," says Cintron.

The 30-year-old Riverwest resident got a bachelor's in biomedical sciences and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a minor in chemistry. She also took an extra semester of calculus "just because it was fun."

Cintrón scored very well on the MCAT and considered medical school, but went to graduate school for immunology instead. Although she easily finished all of the lab and course work, she ultimately decided it was not the right path for her.

"I found myself unable to write the thesis. I was blocking myself, because deep down, I knew that science wasn't the path for me," says Cintrón.

While figuring out what to do next, Cintrón fought and won thyroid cancer and eventually realized her true passion was music, storytelling and poetry.

"That was the beginning of my awakening," she says.

Today Cintrón is the lead singer of gypsy jazz band 4th Street Elevator and sits in with Anna Brinck & The End of the World. She will perform with Anna Brinck on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 8 p.m. and with the 4th Street Elevator at Caroline's Jazz Club on Friday, Jan. 24 at 9:30 p.m.

After years of casually reading the cards, Cintrón decided to take her knowledge to a new level.

"I am very scientific but when I decided I was going to commit to tarot, I really got into all of it. I suspended my disbelief. I trusted it. And the more I did, the better I got," she says. "I know there is not scientific proof of any of this, but I feel it. And so, I go with it."

When she was 18, Cintrón's mother bought her a deck of tarot cards at Borders Books in San Juan, Puerto Rico and she has studied the craft ever since. Born in Puerto Rico, Cintrón says she was a very spiritual child whose family had a history of having "heightened intuition."

"Two of my aunts are clairvoyant and mediums, one of them can see your past and your future in your hand," she says. "People would come to my grandmother with colicky babies, sprained joints or muscles – even a cow with mastitis once – and she would massage some penetrating ointment, then make the sign of the cross over the affected area repeatedly while praying under her breath."

Her grandmother, who never asked for money but would take any gifts offered, soon earned the name "Mano Santa" (holy hands) in the neighborhood because of her healing abilities.

Cintrón, who moved to Illinois when she was 17 to attend college, is continuing the family tradition. Recently, she started a business called Intuitive Insights Tarot and gives readings (15-minute or 30-minute readings) from her Riverwest-based apartment. She also travels to clients' homes and / or private parties.

"Tarot can help with a lot of aspects of one's life," she says. It's not, for her anyway, a tool for telling the future even though people often want her to use it as such.

"The cards take a snapshot of the situation at the moment. They reveal options. They help people focus on what they might need to focus in the current time. It is not a tool for predictions," she says. "I don't believe in predestinations. I believe in free will. We make our own destiny through decisions. Sure, there are things beyond our control, but for the most part we make things happen."

Consulting with oracles has been a part of humanity since the beginning of time from tea leaf reading to casting runes to reading cards. It has also been misunderstood, at times, particularly because there is a devil card in the tarot deck.

The tarot devil, however, is not a card celebrating Satan, but instead suggests overindulgence and the need for a person to let go of something that's blocking or trapping them in unhealthy patterns or places.

Cintrón understands peoples' fears, however, because when she was a little girl, before she knew anything about tarot, she, too, thought the cards were a part of "witchcraft," as she was told at her school. "I was a little afraid," she says.

Today, Cintrón reads her cards everyday – she carries a deck in her purse and also consults apps on her smart phone. Tarot cards have become an important part of living her life authentically and she wants nothing more than to share this gift and pursuit with others.

"I'm not saying I'll be right 100 percent of the time. I'm only human after all, and we all have our off days. But the worst that can happen is that you'll get a different perspective to think about your life, and sometimes just this shift in point of view could make the difference between being confused and knowing what to do next," she says.

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