When it felt its death approaching (every 500 or 1461 years), it would build a nest of aromatic wood and set it on fire, and was consumed by the flames. When it was burned, a new phoenix sprang forth from the pyre. It then embalmed the ashes of its predecessor in an egg of myrrh and flew with it to Heliopolis ("city of the sun"). There it would deposit the egg on the altar of the sun god.
In Egypt is was usually depicted as a heron, but in the classic literature as a peacock, or an eagle. The phoenix symbolizes immortality, resurrection, and life after death. In that aspect it was often placed on sarcophagi. It is associated with the Egyptian Benu, the Garuda of the Hindus, and the Chinese Feng-huang.
Judaic lore mentions that the phoenix achieved its unique status as an immortal bird because it refrained from bothering the overburdened Noah during the Flood voyage (Sanh. 108b).