I Tried It: Getting a Tarot Card Reading

One Milwaukeean gets a glimpse at what the cards reveal.

Welcome to our new series, I Tried It. Milwaukee Magazine writers are getting out an about, trying all the new things our city has to offer so you don’t have to (or so you know what to expect when you do). Before you venture out, check to see if MilMag has tried it first. Read all of our I Tried It installments here.

When it comes to the worlds of divination and the paranormal, I’m definitely not a skeptic. I check my horoscope daily (I’m a Gemini with a Scorpio rising sign), I knock on wood, and I’m open to the idea that intelligent life exists on other planets. I feel that believing in things that can’t be scientifically proven makes life a little more enjoyable.

Professional tarot card reader Jen Cintron, as pictured with a card spread. Photo credit Joe Dean.

I recently became interested in tarot cards, a deck of 78 illustrated cards with various symbols and archetypes, blending intuition with mythology and psychology, used to tap into one’s subconscious. I’d never had my cards read by a professional reader, so when a friend of mine recommended Riverwest’s Intuitive Insights Tarot, I decided to go for it. Owner Jen Cintron was studying for a master’s degree in immunology when she decided to go professional as a tarot card reader about five years ago. In total, she’s been reading cards for 18 years.

I met Cintron at a Bay View coffee shop on a wintry Sunday afternoon. We chatted for a bit before my tarot reading, and I was struck by how warm and friendly, and what a good listener she was — great qualities for a professional tarot reader to have.

Cintron placed a small cloth embellished with zodiac symbols, which she designed herself, on the table. She then pulled out eight tarot decks, all with different illustrations. When I asked how many tarot decks she has at home, she told me she has about 70.

First, Cintron gave me a brief overview of each deck (the classic Rider-Waite, the Raven’s Prophecy, etc.) before asking me to choose which one I wanted to use for the reading. I decided on an out-of-print deck with purple and green vines on the card backs. Rather than a large card spread, Cintron decided to go the “yes-or-no” question route. She asked the tarot several questions out loud for me, including one involving my freelance writing career and one about health and fitness. She shuffled the deck, then had me cut it with my left hand, spread it out and choose five cards per question.

The Fountain Tarot Deck, by Jonathan Saiz, Jason Gruhl, and Andi Todaro, published by Roost Books. Submitted photo.

The revelations weren’t earth shattering, but they were helpful. Air and water cards, which symbolize communication, relationships and intuition, came up in my career question. Eerily enough, the Eight of Water card (or Eight of Cups card, in some decks) popped up twice, upside down. Cintron explained to me the card indicates leaving one’s comfort zone, be it a friendship, relationship, or embarking on a career change. Regarding my writing career, she encouraged me to pursue new leads, network more and seek out assignments writing about new and unfamiliar subjects.

The answer to my health and lifestyle question was a bit more pessimistic. The Ace of Earth card upside down, along with the Seven of Fire cards, symbolized a slow change and an uphill battle. In so many words, I need to make significant diet changes — including replacing my coffee shop pastries with less carb-laden treats.

“It’s all up to you,” said Cintron.

After the tarot reading, she asked me if I’d like to try a bit of mediumship (contacting the dead) by casting charms. I agreed. Cintron, who has been collecting charms for several years, now has over 350. She asked me to shuffle the charms around with my left hand, then selected about a half dozen, which turned out to be symbolic of my late uncle trying to contact me. Spooky.

I asked Cintron if querents (people getting tarot cards read) ever get angry if the outcome is less than rosy. She said yes, but added that people often contact her again to tell her the reading turned out to be accurate.

Often, Cintron added, people have a misconception about tarot readers. “People are likely to think I’m a scammer, or crazy,” she said. “But I’ve seen with my own eyes how the cards match up.”

She credits her methodical approach to tarot card reading in part to her scientific background.

“There must be a method to the madness. Otherwise, it’s just madness,” she said.

Cynical people may call tarot card reading and divination mumbo-jumbo. But I left our meeting empowered to make positive lifestyle changes — and wondering how the heck that Eight of Water card came up twice. In a deck of 78 cards, those are pretty powerful odds.