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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

What to Do: Smoke the Peace Pipe

MT
At Mate Club you sit on the earth, God rests in the sky, and wild tobacco smoke from the sacred Native American pipe is the prayer that connects you to God.

The club, which opened five years ago, was initially designed as a center of cultural awareness. It sought to provide a space to host cultural seminars that would teach Russians about Native American traditions. Today, the club endeavors to continue its educational program while also offering a place for customers to simply relax and enjoy a cup of mate (pronounced "mah-tay"), a stimulating herbal beverage from South America. One drinks mate from a clay gourd.

"We offer mate as an alternative to drugs," said administrator Natalya Evina. "Unlike coffee, cigarettes or other drugs, mate is not addictive. It doesn't affect the body blindly either. Coffee has just one effect; it stimulates your system, and sometimes that isn't good for you. Mate, however, normalizes the system. It recognizes where the problem is and attacks it. For example, if you have high blood pressure, mate lowers it, and if you have low blood pressure, mate raises it."

Take off your shoes upon entering and then choose a nook in the common sitting room or steal away to one of the private rooms. A cup of mate costs 390 rubles in the common room or 490 rubles in a private room, which must be reserved at least a day in advance. The club's visitors sit on throw pillows because being as close to the earth as possible is a part of the experience. While you sip on mate you can browse the sitting room bookshelves.

If you wish to participate in a smoking ritual, you must ask to be guided through it by one of the masters.

"When someone comes in to smoke the sacred Native American pipe, I must first make certain they're serious about performing the ritual," said Bair Buyanzhargalov, a master at the club for nearly five years. "Most often people aren't ready to smoke the pipe right away because they are skeptical of the ritual's significance. In that case, I ask them to come back again when they are ready."

A pipe ritual costs 1,642 rubles and must be arranged at least a couple of days in advance. The club also organizes lectures, seminars and film screenings on topics to do with mysticism and world culture.

19/2 Ul. Lesteva, 952-0046, 954-8906, M. Shabolovskaya. Sun.-Thur. 2 p.m. to midnight, Fri.-Sat. 2 p.m.-2 a.m. 200-ruble entry fee on Sat. www.club-mate.ru.