Free rotational aerophones such as the bullroarer, which consists of a wooden slat whirled around on the end of a string, and which emits a loud pulsating roar, have been used in many ancient and traditional societies for ceremonial purposes. This article presents an experimental and theoretical investigation of this instrument. The aerodynamics of rotational behavior is elucidated, and relates slat rotation frequency to slat width and velocity through the air. Analysis shows that sound production is due to generation of an oscillating-rotating dipole across the slat, the role of the vortices shed by the slat being relatively minor. Apparent discrepancies between the behavior of a bullroarer slat and a slat mounted on an axle in a wind tunnel are shown to be due to viscous friction in the bearings of the wind-tunnel experiment. © 2002 Acoustical Society of America.